The Manticore and Other Horrors is a fantastic return to form that gives the band its credibility back, and certifies that Cradle of Filth deserve to be classed as a British extreme metal institution.
Cradle of Filth has always polarized opinions with its palatable brand of symphonic heavy metal. But such fiery polarization has faded dramatically since 2004's Nymphetamine, as each overfed concept album that has followed has been greeted by a wave of disinterest -- a clear consequence of the band losing that spark of youthful devilry and malice that made the Lovecraftian dread implicit in Cradle of Filth's early work so interesting.
That is why when it was announced that Cradle of Filth would be releasing its "Tenth Commandment in Metal", forgiveness could be granted to those who dismiss The Manticore and Other Horrors as just another nail in an already well secured coffin. However, those who consider doing so would be mistaken, as Cradle of Filth's 10th LP is the most vital record released by the band in almost a decade. Like the dastardly Nymphetamine, The Manticore and Other Horrors dispenses with the use of elaborate concepts, and instead favours a "bestiary" of tales sourced from myth and legend, erotic and horror-based literature and even some creatures of its own creation. In conjunction with this streamlined approach to overarching themes, the song-writing and performance contains a palpable air of urgency and ripples with a determined energy; unmistakable as soon as the instrumental opener "The Unveiling of O" resides to reveal "The Abhorrent" -- a blistering mix of black metal progressions and mid-paced, thrash riffs synonymous with the band's '90s heyday.
The beady-eyed focus of the core trio of vocalist/lyricist Dani Filth, long time riff-servant Paul Allender and drummer Marthus -- who has provided the blast'n'groove since 2008's Gilles de Rais inspired, Godspeed On The Devil's Thunder -- is intent on going straight for the jugular, instead of concocting grand compositions that lose potency by leaning heavily on the symphonic elements of the band's sound. And as a result, Allender and Filth are on surprisingly vicious form: Allender's insistent tremolo picking and duelling riffs push aside the choir and moody church organ that begins "Illicitus", while Filth spins despicable tales through his multitude of voices, most effectively during the blackened death metal of "Manticore", and sides up to contrast with the female vocals on "Pallid Reflection" and "Succumb to This".
Some may cry out for more female vocals throughout, as Cradle of Filth has always managed to balance its masculine and feminine aspects to great success, but it's clear the band has pared back such contributions to stress the more ravenous tracks such as "Siding with the Titans" and "For Your Vulgar Delectation". The Manticore and Other Horrors is not all bluster and bludgeon however, and when the band parade the barbarous hooks of "Frost on Her Pillow", the rapidly paced sci-fi and symphony of "Huge Onyx Wings Behind Despair" and "Sinfonia" — a gothic instrumental that closes the album — the interplay between these song and the more threatening entries makes for a truly rewarding listen. Over the past decade, Cradle of Filth's bite has been blunted by its overt theatricality and fondness to play up to its "campness" (that revolting Cliff Richards cover springs to mind), not to forget some rather limp and safe song-writing, but The Manticore and Other Horrors is a scathing return to form that gives the band its credibility back, and certifies that Cradle of Filth deserve to be classed as a British extreme metal institution.