Cradle of Filth: Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder

Sex, Satan, murder. Yep, it's another Cradle of Filth album.

Cradle of Filth

Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder

Label: Roadrunner
US Release Date: 2008-10-28
UK Release Date: 2008-10-21

After playing a pivotal role in popularizing extreme metal in the late-1990s by ingeniously co-opting the aesthetics of goth metal and Norwegian black metal and transforming it into something completely different and over the top, Cradle of Filth has struggled with inconsistency ever since their 1996 breakthrough Dusk…and Her Embrace. It's not as if the English band has been resting on its laurels; anything but, in fact, as they've been churning out a heavily hyped new album every two years like clockwork, but for all the overblown arrangements and extravagant conceptual ideas by diminutive frontman/impresario/corpsepainted carnival barker Dani Filth, being prolific seems to have come at the expense of putting out a quality product. While Cradle of Filth continues to be as popular as ever, their studio output has been decidedly up and down, especially in recent years, 2003's symphonic opus Damnation and a Day ambitious but horribly, horribly bloated, 2004's Nymphetamine a welcome return to form, and 2006's follow-up Thornography subsequently taking another step back.

With Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder, all the ingredients are there for a very good Cradle of Filth album. Always fascinated with the idea of the concept albums, having covered everything from Clive Barker, to John Milton, to Countess Bathory, Dani Filth takes on the story of notorious French serial killer Gilles de Rais on his band's eighth record, and the tale fits this band like a bloody glove. You've got a French nobleman who fights alongside (and is presumably in love with) Joan of Arc, delves into sorcery after her execution, proceeds to sexually abuse and murder of dozens, perhaps hundreds of children, and is eventually arrested, tried, and hung. Filth, a master of macabre imagery and savage wit, is the perfect person to deliver an opera based on the exploits of one of the most infamous sadists in history, so you can't blame fans for getting their hopes up.

What we're stuck with, though, is yet another Cradle of Filth album that drags on for more than 70 minutes, and although Filth's lyrics and flamboyantly eccentric vocal performance are as deliciously demented as ever, the actual musical arrangements don't reach anywhere near the level they're supposed to. Written by guitarist Paul Allender and keyboardist Mark Newby-Robson, there's plenty of flash, loads of musical pyrotechnics, and all proficiently performed and recorded, but all too often, actual hooks are nonexistent.

When the songs do work, though, the results are extraordinary. "Shat Out of Hell" is the prototypical Cradle of Filth opener, bursting out of the gate with it's straightforward black metal approach of rapid-fire blast beats and melodic, tremolo picking by Allender, Filth leading the charge with his bizarre voice, spitting out his clever lyrics in a dry rasp, a troll-like growl, and his piercing, hawk-like screeches. Filth has always proven very adept at creating some of the finest male-female duets you'll ever come across in goth metal, and the gorgeous, unapologetically maudlin "The Death of Love" is no exception, as he trades lines with silken-voiced singer Carolyn Gretton (singing as de Rais and Jeanne d'Arc respectively), making for the band's catchiest song since "Nymphetamine". After the grim "The 13th Caesar", we're thinking that this could very well be the best Cradle album we've heard in a very long time, but it's not long before that momentum is quickly snuffed, as the bulk of Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder downshifts, coasting for close to an hour.

We do get the odd moment that wakes us from our stupor, as "Honey and Sulphur" is predictable fare but still an effectively moody track, while the lavish, nine-minute epic "Darkness Incarnate" contains some of Allender's most memorable riffing. Sadly, that's about as good as Allender gets, as he and Newby Robson continually, and annoyingly, revert back to pedestrian playing and uninspired melodies. As for Filth, he does everything he can to engage the listener, his lyrics simultaneously goofy and grisly, clearly relishing lines like, "Demons in his semen / That clung about the throats / Of children dragged from cellars to his rooms," but too often the arrangements fail to hold up their end. Filth needs better songwriting partners, plain and simple.

Over the last decade, Cradle of Filth's career trajectory has run parallel with that of Norway's similarly cartoonish Dimmu Borgir, but while Dimmu Borgir has taking their time carefully and calculatedly crafting consistently enjoyable extreme albums, Cradle of Filth's output over the same time has focused more on quantity over quality. While we do get a moment of inspiration or two, the band's inconsistencies continue to dog them. Sure, the fans will continue to lap it up, but for how much longer?


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.