Cradle Of Filth – Existence Is Futile – Album Review

Artist: Cradle Of Filth

Album Title: Existence Is Futile

Label: Nuclear Blast

Date of Release: 22 October 2021

My relationship with Cradle Of Filth has been well-documented on this website over the years, so I don’t propose to delve into it once again. Suffice to say that I have remained a fan of varying degrees regardless of the prevailing wind of popular opinion. Suffolk’s most famous extreme metal export have always divided opinion and for many, it has become ‘cool’ to proclaim a dislike for the band. Whether it is because of their musical direction, the comments of their outspoken frontman, Dani Filth, the never ending stream of merchandise that saturates the market, or something else, the utterance of the band name will usually provoke a reaction one way or the other.

Admittedly, there was a period between the release of ‘Midian’ in 2000 and ‘Hammer Of The Witches’ in 2015 where my interest seriously waned. In that decade and a half, no fewer than six records were released, each failing to ignite the same levels of enthusiasm in me than the likes of ‘Dusk…And Her Embrace’ or any of the first four albums did, and still do. Add the ‘Vempire’ EP to the list and there’s no denying the quality of the music to emanate from, in Dani’s own words, ‘the arse-end of nowhere’ at the beginning of their career.

Happily, ‘Hammer Of The Witches’ and 2017’s ‘Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness Of Decay’ have seen Cradle Of Filth very much on an upward trajectory, plundering a re-discovered rich vein of form. Even more pleasing, is the fact that the needle still seems to be buried deep in this same vein, as album number thirteen, ‘Existence Is Futile’ is another cracking release, and one that makes it all the more difficult for the haters to maintain their stance. Whilst I’ve not read any reviews yet, I have seen the odd comment on social media that suggests there’s a grudging acceptance from some quarters that this new album cannot be ignored. And they would be right. But why? Allow me to explain.

I’ll freely admit that perhaps I was a little generous with my scores for the last two records. They are both undoubtedly very good, but they have not visited my playlists as frequently as maybe I thought at the time when I was reviewing them. As such, I have given ‘Existence Is Futile’ more time to marinate, so that I don’t make the same mistake again with a band that remains very important to me, if nothing else for reasons of teenage nostalgia. But, having given this record that extra time, I do not think any less of it, and I’m still spinning it regularly, enjoying the majority of what it has to deliver. It isn’t perfect and it doesn’t quite dethrone ‘Dusk…’ or ‘Cruelty…’, but by heavens is it a great album.

After the utterly ubiquitous dark, orchestral and cinematic instrumental, we’re hit with ‘Existential Terror’. But there’s no terror to this experience, existential or otherwise; it’s an early gauntlet that’s thrown down with style and a well-placed arrogance, that has never been far away from Cradle’s armoury. It thunders out of the speakers in a flurry of double-pedal drumming from Martin ‘Marthus’ Skaroupka, muscular riffing from the six-string duo of Ashok and Richard Shaw, and laced with bold keys courtesy of newcomer Annabelle, and orchestration where choral vocals dominate. From there, Dani spits his diatribes to an electric soundtrack behind him, full of energy, dripping with Gothic malevolence, and inspired performances all around, including the pulsing bass of Daniel Firth when the song slows occasionally. To my mind, the dual guitar harmonies, the riffing, and the intense rhythms means that this is as addictive and as close as they’ve come to the magic of ‘Cruelty…’ for many a year.

‘Necromantic Fantasies’ is classic Cradle, featuring angelic female vocals, irresistible dual guitar melodies, and a more pronounced Gothic tinge. Again, the performances of the musicians are all outstanding; listening to this track, which has significantly grown on me from humble beginnings, you get the feeling that finally, this is a unit that is fully in sync and in top form. I love the flamboyant guitar work, including a killer solo or two, both melodic and vaguely discordant, but perfectly executed. It’s all enhanced by a brilliant production, that allows clarity and punch, allowing the music to fully shine.

If you’re looking for something a little more extreme, then tracks like ‘Crawling King Chaos’ should quench your thirst. There’s a greater emphasis on more ‘traditional’ black metal ingredients here, with warp speed blastbeats, fast-picked riffing, and a generally more frantic pace. And yet it remains memorable and catchy thanks to some well-placed subtle melody.

Another favourite cut on ‘Existence Is Futile’ include ‘Black Smoke Curling From The Lips Of War’ which makes great use of more angelic female vocals and opulent Gothic overtones within a song that, on one hand feels more akin to the ‘Dusk…’ era, whilst in the next breath feels fresh and interesting thanks to an occasional veering towards death metal, not to mention a touch of thrash and trad metal too.

Cradle Of Filth have always been very adept at penning some glorious slower, more melodic pieces over their lengthening career, and this record is no different. The superbly-titled ‘Discourse Between A Man And His Soul’ is both elegant and catchy as hell, blessed with beautiful twin guitar work and rich synths, as well as maudlin tinkling piano notes. Then there’s the equally marvellous ‘How Many Tears To Nurture A Rose’, a relatively short song that rips out of the speakers at a ferocious pace, but which then introduces a stunning chorus, an irresistible blend of catchy lead guitar melodies and a galloping tempo that would have Iron Maiden purring.

It isn’t all perfect, however. The intro to ‘The Dying Of The Embers’ reintroduces a toe-curling female spoken-word segment. It’s nothing new to the Cradle palette, and it might have worked better if it wasn’t for the fact that every word is dramatically over-pronounced, as if to beat us over the head with the fact that this is an English band. The entire song is a little underwhelming too; not bad, it just gets a little lost amongst better songs.

I’m also not 100% sold on ‘Suffer Our Dominion’. Hearing Cradle Of Filth abandon their sinister but romantic Gothic lyrics in favour of a song about climate change is strange. I’m not for one minute suggesting that they shouldn’t have done it, because it’s clearly a vitally important subject. It just feels a little out of place, even if the song itself is a good one.

The final minutes of the closing song, ‘Us, Dark, Invincible’ are a fitting end to a very strong album. The main body of the track is strong enough, with some frenetic riffing and a catchy chorus of sorts. But the final act eclipses it; slow, malevolent, and incredibly beautiful, it is a dramatic, melodic crescendo that underlines the song writing prowess of the band when they get it spot on.

And, for the vast majority of ‘Existence Is Futile’, Cradle Of Filth do get things spot on. For much of 2021, I have shared the sentiment of the album’s title, feeling that life indeed can be extremely futile. Thankfully, I have worked hard to change my mindset, and my efforts have been assisted by the music that I love and cherish. As it turns out, Cradle Of Filth are one of those bands that I still cherish, especially when they are in such glorious form. No longer do I think that my existence is futile – how could I with music like this to listen to? The band may proclaim that ‘Existence Is Futile’ but somewhat ironically, this album has helped prove to many of us that this is very much not the case at all.

The Score of Much Metal: 94%

Further reviews from 2021:

W.E.B. – Colosseum

Navian – Cosmos

NorthTale – Eternal Flame

Obscura – A Valediction

Nightland – The Great Nothing

MØL – Diorama

Be’lakor – Coherence

Hollow – Tower

Doedsvangr – Serpents Ov Old

Athemon – Athemon

Eclipse – Wired

Swallow The Sun – Moonflowers

Dream Theater – A View From The Top Of The World

Nestor – Kids In A Ghost Town

Beast In Black – Dark Connection

Thulcandra – A Dying Wish

Omnium Gatherum – Origin

Insomnium – Argent Moon EP

Kryptan – Kryptan EP

Archspire – Bleed The Future

Awake By Design – Unfaded EP

Cradle Of Filth – Existence Is Futile

Seven Spires – Gods Of Debauchery

Sleep Token – This Place Will Become Your Tomb

Necrofier – Prophecies Of Eternal Darkness

Ex Deo – The Thirteen Years Of Nero

Carcass – Torn Arteries

Aeon Zen – Transversal

Enslaved – Caravans To The Outer Worlds

A Dying Planet – When The Skies Are Grey

Leprous – Aphelion

Night Crowned – Hädanfärd

Brainstorm – Wall Of Skulls

At The Gates – The Nightmare Of Being

Rivers Of Nihil – The Work

Fractal Universe – The Impassable Horizon

Darkthrone – Eternal Hails

Thy Catafalque – Vadak

Terra Odium – Ne Plus Ultra

Hiraes – Solitary

Eye Of Purgatory – The Lighthouse

Crowne – Kings In The North

Desaster – Churches Without Saints

Helloween – Helloween

Fear Factory – Aggression Continuum

Wooden Veins – In Finitude

Plaguestorm – Purifying Fire

Drift Into Black – Patterns Of Light

Alluvial – Sarcoma

White Moth Black Butterfly – The Cost Of Dreaming – Album Review

Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen

Bloodbound – Creatures From The Dark Realm

Nahaya – Vital Alchemy

Frost* – Day And Age

Obsolete Theory – Downfall

Vola – Witness

Acolyte – Entropy

Dordeduh – Har

Subterranean Masquerade – Mountain Fever

Seth – La Morsure Du Christ

The Circle – Metamorphosis

Nordjevel – Fenriir

Vreid – Wild North West

Temtris – Ritual Warfare

Astrakhan – A Slow Ride Towards Death

Akiavel – Vae Victis

Gojira – Fortitude

Hideous Divinity – LV-426

Benthos – II

Evile – Hell Unleashed

Ninkharsag – The Dread March Of Solemn Gods

Bodom After Midnight – Paint The Sky With Blood

Morrigu – In Turbulence

Mother Of All – Age Of The Solipsist

Throne – Pestilent Dawn

Sweet Oblivion (Geoff Tate) – Relentless

Exanimis – Marionnettiste

Dvne – Etemen Ænka

Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined

Arion – Vultures Die Alone

Maestitium – Tale Of The Endless

Wode – Burn In Many Mirrors

Everdawn – Cleopatra

Unflesh – Inhumation

Mourning Dawn – Dead End Euphoria

Wheel – Resident Human

Wythersake – Antiquity

Odd Dimension – The Blue Dawn

Metalite – A Virtual World

Cryptosis – Bionic Swarm

Ghosts Of Atlantis – 3.6.2.4

Memoriam – To The End

Aversed – Impermanent

Secret Sphere – Lifeblood

Enforced – Kill Grid

Liquid Tension Experiment – LTE3

Turbulence – Frontal

Iotunn – Access All Worlds

Warrior Path – The Mad King

Stortregn – Impermanence

Mariana’s Rest – Fata Morgana

Orden Ogan – Final Days

Witherfall – Curse Of Autumn

Plague Weaver – Ascendant Blasphemy

Ephemerald – Between The Glimpses Of Hope

Paranorm – Empyrean

Einherjer – North Star

Epica – Omega

Humanity’s Last Breath – Välde

Simulacrum – Genesis

Forhist – Forhist

Evergrey – Escape Of The Phoenix

Empyrium – Über den Sternen

Moonspell – Hermitage

Infernalizer – The Ugly Truth

Temperance – Melodies Of Green And Blue EP

Malice Divine – Malice Divine

Revulsion – Revulsion

Demon King – The Final Tyranny EP

Dragony – Viribus Unitis

Soen – Imperial

Angelus Apatrida – Angelus Apatrida

Oceana – The Pattern

Therion – Leviathan

Tribulation – Where The Gloom Becomes Sound

Asphyx – Necroceros

W.E.T. – Retransmission

Labyrinth – Welcome To The Absurd Circus

TDW – The Days The Clock Stopped

Need – Norchestrion: A Song For The End

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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