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CRADLE OF FILTH Existence Is Futile

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Monday, October 25, 2021 @ 12:14 AM

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Existence Is Futile

Nuclear Blast Records

CRADLE OF FILTH has never been known for topicality or delving much into reality over its tumultuous 30-year career, favoring instead gothic horror/romantic tropes, miscreant mischievousness and general “fantasticality” – for lack of a better term – with Dusk And Her Embrace, Midian, etc. And when it has gone the nonfiction route, it was to chronicle of the centuries ago exploits of “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory on Cruelty And The Beast or French nobleman and child murderer Gilles De Rais with Godspeed On The Devil’s Thunder in suitably garish detail.

But if there was ever a time for the band to really, well, “get real,” now would certainly be it as climate change, pandemics, over-consumption on an epic scale and myriad other horrors conspire to potentially send humanity into a death spiral. And with Existence Is Futile, the multinational symphonic black metal horde’s 13th album, CRADLE delivers a suitably apocalyptic view of where things are headed.

And while it is often done in the more figurative sense, tracks like “Suffer Our Dominion” or “The Dying Of The Embers” offer surprisingly literal observations of mankind fomenting its own demise. “Sorrowed Holocene/ Blackened back to clean/ Like Man has never been here,” frontman Dani Filth howls on “Embers”, which reads like an epitaph to our current geological epoch and far more closely echoes CATTLE DECAPITATION than Lord Byron or John Milton. Even more matter of fact is the recitation Doug Bradley – aka “Pinhead” from the Hellraiser franchise - delivers to open “Dominion”: “Soon, half of all species will be lost to climate change and ecological collapse due to human activity, Thus we either reduce our race voluntarily, Or nature will do it for us, And she will be fucking brutal!”

However, the dour, perhaps prescient tidings doesn’t mean the band has also stripped down its traditionally grandiose approach to embolden or accentuate the message. There is no grandstanding here, as Filth weaves his extinction-level caterwaul into a storyline built around, as he describes it, “existential terror, the threat of everything, the end of the world.” And CRADLE’s symphonic flair is on full display here, with new keyboardist/female vocalist/orchestrator Anabelle Iratni establishing herself right away after taking over for Lindsay Schoolcraft.

The rest of the lineup remains unchanged, as it has since 2014 when guitarists Marek “Ashok” Šmerda and Richard Shaw came onboard, which is something of an aberration for a band where change has been fairly constant. And since that time, CRADLE OF FILTH has been a pretty good roll, with 2015’s Hammer of The Witches and 2017’s Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay being some of its best work back to back since the Dusk to Midian era.

Existence Is Futile continues that trend, with the band displaying some of its most varied material while nicely tying things together with the narrative thread and theatrical treatments in a comparatively tidy package – 12 tracks, including an intro and two segues, in 57 minutes. Songs run the gamut from the tastefully opulent (“Existential Terror”, “Discourse Between A Man And His Soul” and its lush guitar harmonies or the frantic finale “Us, Dark, Invincible” and its monumental choruses) to the brazenly catchy (“Necromantic Fantasies”, the viciously hooky “The Dying Of The Embers” and the power metally “How Many Tears To Nurture A Rose?”) to, as Bradley puts it, the “fucking brutal” (“Crawling King Chaos”, “Suffer Our Dominion” and “Black Smoke Curling From The Lips Of War” with Filth and Iratni’s vocal back and forth).

Bonus editions see the return of Bradley for “Sisters Of The Mist”, this time sounding more like Pinhead - “we have such sights to show you” - and less like a profane David Attenborough on his monologues. A second added track, “Unleash The Hellion”, does just that, albeit with a familiar ring recalling several vintage CRADLE tracks along the way. Both add another layer of icing to an already pretty sweet cake.

Existence Is Futile provides a welcome new spin to the tried and true CRADLE OF FILTH formula. The ecologically minded theme, draped in its existential dread, rings true here. And with the band able to deliver the message with its usual panache it doesn’t come across as heavy-handed or ham-fisted. Indeed, the end of the world never sounded so good.

4.0 Out Of 5.0

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