Pros-I consider this album my favorite by Cradle of Filth. The scope of this album is just incredible. These musicians seemlessly transfer the concept of Countess Bathory to music. I am still fascinated by the perspective taken by writer Dani Filth. The way he examines Bathory as a human acting on innate animalistic tendencies, instead of just demeaning her to "monster" status as is shown so frequently by the media; is just an impressive feat of the human mind.
-The lyrics on this album are just beautiful and at the highest quality. Cradle of Filth's vocabulary is very large, to say the least.
-The recording quality is pretty great, albeit a few flaws. Still, I feel the occasionally muddiness in the mix adds to the atmopshere.
-The arrangements are all beautiful.
-Dani Filth's vocals are unique to this genre of music, and make this album even more appealing than it already is.
Cons-As mentioned earlier, this album is relatively muddy (especially the drum track).
-The female vocals have been described as sounding like the vocalist who spoke them "had her head in the toilet." I find this unfortunate because Dani Filth's vocals are so clear, despite being screamed a majority of the time.
-"Beneath the Howling Stars", while not a filler or "bad" song by any means; is just kind of out of place in a way. Not to mention most songs about wolfs in metal are just getting annoying.
Okay, I am a bit biased towards this album, as it is one of
my favorite concept albums of all time. The albums "concept" is
loosely based on the life of Elizabeth Bathory (The "Blood Countess"
Let me say that the album's title Cruelty and the Beast is just an interesting play (potentially) on the film "Beauty and the Beast." What is most interesting about this album lyrically and conceptually is that the band does not set out with a "Bathory was a purely evil woman" mindset that many media sources tend to go with. Instead, they view her as a woman acting animalistically, yet also sometimes in a more feminine, "why am I doing this" sort of way.
The production quality of this album is decent. It all sounds good, however it has long been debated as to whether or not the drums sound "good" or "muddy." To me, either way, they sound good for the atmosphere being created. To add, the drumming is great (from Hellhammer of Mayhem/Dimmu Borgir fame). The other instruments/vocals are also good. The guitar is probably the weakest sounding in terms of tone, however it does still get the job done. The synths are purely beautiful as usual, as are the moments of other instrumentation such as violins and pianos. Dani Filths voice is at its peak on this album, ushering in his trademark whispers, black metal esque rasps, and deep growls.
Lyrically speaking, I can not stress enough the sheer brilliance of this band. In a way, all of the lyrics should be read straight through while listening to the album. I found it best that way.
As far as the compositions are concerned, they are also top quality. "Once Upon Atrocity" opens the album with Cradle of Filth's traditional instrumental, and leads directly into "Thirteen Autumns and a Widow" which is a brilliant album opener really. Next, "Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids" which has been a staple of the band's live set since they released this album for good reason. The song is very melodic and the screaming over quickening double bass drum blast beats brings the song to a beautiful, yet somewhat harsh ending. If any attention should be brought to a specific song or set of songs, that focus should be brought onto the final three. After listening to this album on repeat for about a month, I came to the conclusion that the final three songs could have been combined into one epic masterpiece. "Bathory Aria" (clocking in at eleven minutes long!), "Portrait of a Dead Countess" (a beautiful interlude), and "Lustmord and Wargasm" (the amazing album ender filled with beautiful violins at a high tempo playing with lighting fast guitars and blast beats) are these three songs. They quite frankly blow most music out of the water. They are about as perfect as perfect can be. The primary reason I feel these songs should be condensed into one "super song" is because they seamlessly transfer from one to the next.
In ClosingCradle of Filth's old material was just perfect. I sometimes find it difficult to grasp the idea that they will likely never create another album to the standards of Cruelty and the Beast. I highly recommend this album, even to the most elite black metal music lover. This is one of the few albums where the symphonic elements do not feel forced, or clash with the high pace of the distortion guitar and blast beat infused metal. In fact, they completely add to the atmosphere. So many bands these days have synths in their mix exclusively for the purpose of having synths and being considered a "symphonic" band. Fortunately, on this album Cradle of Filth avoided this trap.
If you are interested in buying this album, I highly suggest looking into buying the Cradle of Filth boxset through Amazon.com. When I bought this album, I was able to get it and three other Cradle of Filth albums for the price of one! It is a great deal for a music lover looking to expand their collection and musical tastes.