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“Dusk… and Her Embrace”, the second official Cradle Of Filth album, was significant from moving the band out of its death/thrash metal roots, and squarely into symphonic – and gothic metal territory. Where the previous outing at least attempted to infuse its metal with a Hammer Horror atmosphere, “Dusk… and Her Embrace”, befitting of the Victorian-vampyric concept that its center, romantic above all else. Despite the album’s convincing visuals and superficialities “Dusk…and Her Embrace” has no lineage with, or connection to black metal. First and foremost it is an extreme metal album, one with links mostly in death -, thrash – and traditional metal styles.

“Dusk… and Her Embrace” is a loose concept album about vampyrism. The lyrics were inspired by the literature of Sheridan Le Fanu, in particular the “Carmilla” novel (which served as an inspiration to everybody from Jess Franco Manera to Ann Rice). The subtitle ‘Litanies of Damnation, Death and the Darkly Erotic’ concisely summarizes the lyrical content of the album. The lyrics retain part of the anti-Christian sentiment but the focus squarely lies on the erotica, vampirism and romance from this point forward. It was the recording debut of second guitarist John Piras (Gian Pyres) and the one but last record to feature vocal contributions from early backing singer Danielle Cneajna Cottington. "Dusk... and Her Embrace" was the last Cradle Of Filth album before Davey's overt usage of British humor and self-aware puns, linguistic and otherwise.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4ZLzpVdF5g

One of the greatest improvements that the band experienced was the sheer flow of the material. “Dusk… and Her Embrace” breaks free from the conventional playing that characterized “The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh”. Here the super bass licks, played by Robin Eaglestone, follow the keyboards instead of doubling the guitars. Stuart Anstis, who debuted on the “V Empire” EP, infuses the band with a healthy amount of traditional metal riffing. Last but certainly not least had drummer Nick Barker come into his own, and “Dusk… and Her Embrace” is his finest moment with the band. Frontman Dani Davey wrote some of his most verbose lyrics while integrating a wide array of vocal styles, including his standard shrieks, grunts, whispers and narration.

‘Humana Inspired to Nightmare’ and ‘Malice Through the Looking Glass’ were written entirely by the new members. ‘Beauty Slept In Sodom’ was originaly called ‘Beauty Sleeps In Sodom’. ‘Funeral in Carpathia’ and ‘Haunted Shores’ are the only truly fast tracks of the album. ‘Heaven Torn Asunder’ is the most straight-up anti-religious whereas ‘Beauty Slept In Sodom’ is the Christian creation parable of Genesis set to prose of vampirism and erotica. ‘Haunted Shores’ is about the Arthurian legend, and functions as a tribute to their home country England. It includes guest narration by British legend Conrad Lant (Cronos) from UK proto-black metal institution Venom.

In an odd turn of events history seemed to repeat itself. As before external factors put the record in jeopardy, and Davey had to overcome legal and personnel hurdles in order to regain control over the authenticity of his product. The album had a troubled two-year production history with the formative work being laid down by previous guitarist duo Paul Allender and Ryan. The original version of “Dusk… and Her Embrace” was recorded in 1995 with most of the “Principle Of Evil Made Flesh” line-up. Ongoing legal proceedings with Cacophonous Records subsequently schismed the band in two opposing camps leaving the record in legal limbo. Paul and Benjamin Ryan along with Paul Allender meanwhile formed The Blood Divine.

As Davey’s half (consisting of himself, Nicholas Barker, and Robin Eaglestone) was embroided in said litigations it was decided to produce the “V Empire” EP as a means to wrangle the "Dusk... and Her Embrace" album recordings out of its existing, and yet to be fulfilled, contract with Cacophonous Records. After winning the court case against its former contractor the original recordings of “Dusk… and Her Embrace” were used by Davey’s part of the band as leverage to negotiate a new and hopefully better recording deal between them and interested labels. Chief among those involved in the bidding war surrounding Cradle Of Filth were British label imprints Earache Records and Music For Nations.

Upon inking a mutual satisfactory agreement with new label home Music For Nations the original “Dusk… and Her Embrace” recordings were relegated to the band vaults where they have remained ever since. As the new members put their spin on what the prior line-up had written the necessary preparations were made to re-record “Dusk… and Her Embrace” a second time. With part of the original content used in the quickly put together “V Empire” EP the band wrote new material to accomodate the remainder of the initially scheduled material. Once the deal with Music For Nations was in place the band re-recorded the freshly rewritten - and newly composed tracks in 1996.

During the second recording sessions a cover of Slayer classic ‘Hell Awaits’, a re-recording of the preceding EP’s ‘Nocturnal Supremacy’ and the instrumental ‘Carmilla’s Masque’ were laid down along with material intended for the album. These featured on the Japanese print of the album exclusively. The complete “Dusk… and Her Embrace” album session would thus include 14 tracks: 9 originals that appear on the final version of the record, plus the duo of ‘Queen Of Winter, Throned’ and ‘Nocturnal Supremacy’ (as they appeared on the preceding “V Empire” EP), along with the two instrumentals ‘She Mourns A Lenghtening Shadow’ and ‘Carmilla’s Masque’ along with the earlier mentioned Slayer cover ‘Hell Awaits’.

After two sessions at Academy Studios the band decided to change locations. “Dusk… and Her Embrace” was recorded at DEP International Studios in Birmingham with Kit Woolven (most famous for his work with Irish classic rock act Thin Lizzy) producing along with Mike Exeter and Dan Sprigg engineering. With a classic rock and pop producer behind the console the production changed accordingly. “Dusk… and Her Embrace” is blessed with a smooth, bassy production that is crystal clear but warm and organic sounding. The cover photography by Simon Marsden is stylistically similar to that of Nigel Wingrove of the preceding two records. The record contains shots of the succubi models Luna, Michelle, Rochelle, and Susie. The CD and LP use different shots for the dinner table band shot, with the model being topless for the vinyl edition.

It goes without saying that the originally intended incarnation of the album is radically different from what it would eventually become in its existing form. The current version of the album is far stronger, mostly due to a complete lack of filler material, than how the album was originally intended. Whether the original recordings of "Dusk... and Her Embrace" will ever see the light of day remains yet to be seen. The album sold in excess of 100,000 copies in Europe alone, and was extensively bootlegged on the East-European market with various labels releasing cassette versions of the album. The Polish 1997 print by Metal Mind Productions even includes the Japanese bonus tracks. It goes without saying that it is rightly a classic piece of European extreme metal, regardless of its troubled conception.

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Formed in 1991 by brothers Paul and Benjamin Ryan along with vocalist Dani Davey in Suffolk, England as a third-tier death metal act Cradle Of Filth is one of the greatest success stories since Iron Maiden. No other band tends to be as polarizing or as cross-marketable as these Brits. The trio spent 1992-93 releasing a swath of demo recordings to no avail until they decided to start integrating symfo – and gothic elements into their basic death metal sound. “The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh” was the last record of the post-“Goetia” line-up. A highly atmospheric death/thrash metal record with a vampyric Hammer Horror concept - it was a mere dress rehearsal for its troubled but widely acclaimed “Dusk… and Her Embrace” album, arguably their finest moment.

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“The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh” was the first official release for the band, but its second chronologically after the illfated “Goetia” sessions for the doomed Tombstone Records. These sessions featured a different rhythm section with bass guitarist Jonathan Pritchard (Jon Kennedy), and drummer Darren Garden – the former would resurface as the frontman in the very similar sounding Hecate Enthroned while the latter would disappear from the scene altogether. At this juncture from the previous session vocalist Dani Davey, an aspiring journalist, and co-founding siblings Paul (guitars) and Benjamin Ryan (keyboards) remained. The record was the debut of the band’s new rhythm section comprising of Robin Eaglestone (bass guitar) and Nicholas Barker (drums). Cacophonous Records originally wanted Cradle Of Filth to cut an EP’s worth of material as an introduction but the band decided to record a full album for the label instead.

The album contains a choral intro and a trio of instrumental interludes to establish a downtrodden gothic atmosphere and to emphasize the darkly romantic lyrics. Of these ‘Darkness Our Bride (Jugular Wedding)’ is the only truly mandatory for the experience. ‘The Black Goddess Rises’ first appeared in an early form on the 1993 “Total Fucking Darkness” demo tape, but is expanded and reworked here. It now includes longer lyrics that integrate all the lyrics to ‘Fraternally Yours, 666’ , an organ outro that appeared on the same demo recording. ‘Of Mist and Midnight Skies’ lifted its organ intro in its entirety from the beginning of Johan Sebastian Bach’s ‘Toccata and Fugue in d minor’. The organ melody itself is known in popular culture for its relation to the Dracula character and vampirism in general, making it an ideal moodsetting piece for the song. Further strenghtening the Dracula ties is the fact that ‘A Dream Of Wolves In the Snow’, narrated by Darren White from Anathema, opens with a line from the 1897 Bram Stoker novel that served as a source of inspiration for much of the album.

As the record came after the aborted “Goetia” sessions it is only natural to see a lot of the material intended for that album resurface here. ‘The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh’, ‘To Eve the Art Of Witchcraft’, ‘The Black Goddess Rises’ and ‘Of Mist and Midnight Skies’ all appeared in their original form on the scrapped “Goetia” session but were duly re-recorded in superior form on this album. The “Goetia” song ‘Spattered In Faeces’ was taken apart, and had its respective strong parts repurposed within two new songs. The keyboard melody and its corresponding chords/riffs were fused into ‘A Dream Of Wolves In the Snow’. The keyboard – and harp melody that first appeared in said song were used for the conclusion to closing track ‘Summer Dying Fast’.

Compared to its subsequent output “The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh” is subdued on many fronts. Davey’s vocal cadences squarely remain in the lower region, and his rasp is more ghoulish than shrieking, although that also happens. Often classified as black metal for easy categorization but it is a misnomer for this debut that effectively shortsells it in many ways. The writing and riffing is on the death metal spectrum of the genre. Much of the synthesizer work functions purely as an atmospheric enhancement. Likewise is Nick Barker’s drumming derived more from thrash – and early death metal than the work of its Scandinavian forebears. Barker’s style hadn’t fully developed yet, and as such he consider it as one of his lesser works. On “The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh” he sounds more like a less fill-heavy Mike Smith circa “Breeding the Spawn”. Robin Eaglestone’s prominent bass licks already hint at the flowing style he would showcase on “Dusk…and Her Embrace”. Dani Davey’s vocals here sound as a raspier, strangled variation of the grunt that Kam Lee wielded on Massacre lone call to fame “From Beyond”.

1COF145DSA45DAS4Like their British contemporaries Bal-Sagoth, Cradle Of Filth was categorized as black metal due to a few minor stylistic overlaps, its vampyric imagery and Satanic rhetoric. That the band forced its breakthrough during the symfo black metal explosion (led foremost by Norwegian band Emperor) didn’t help matters either. One of Cradle Of Filth’s biggest innovations, genrewise, was combining primal death/thrash metal with opulent gothic orchestration and female vocals. Helping immensely in selling said innovation was the band’s vampyric/erotic concept that mainly draws from the old Hammer Horror movie atmosphere more than any of the later albums. Providing the female vocals are the duo of German-born spiritualist Andrea Meyer (who doubled as the band’s Satanic advisor at the time) and Danielle Cneajna Cottington. Like its orchestration these were subdued and supplemental.

Although presenting itself as a black metal band in terms of imagery Cradle Of Filth’s relation to the genre is tenuous at best and nonexistent at worst. Davey’s lyrics and the record’s general sense of misanthropy suit either genre. The lyrics, the most confrontational and overly anti-religious in its early catalog, read as something you’d expect of Morbid Angel (“Blessed Are the Sick”, “Covenant”) or Jeff Gruslin era Vital Remains. They are eloquent, verbose and poetic in equal measure – although there are no overt mentions of Satan in name. Most of it is conveyed through suggestion. The album is bookended by two instances wherein the band’s Satanic rhetoric is, albeit in a subtle manner, revealed. ‘Darkness Our Bride (Jugular Wedding)’ consists of a single invocation: ‘agios o(s) Satanas’ (‘O Holy Satan’ in Greek) and ‘Imperium Tenebrarum’ (which was simply dubbed ‘War!’ on some of the album’s various international versions) is a reworking of the ‘Invokation to Baphomet’ from “The Black Book Of Satan”, one of the four tomes that make up the Satanic Bible, and the one to promote hedonism. The latter was narrated by Frater Nihil (Neil Harding, CEO of Cacophonous Records and allegedly a head priest of The Order of the Absu.)

“The Principle Of Evl Made Flesh” was recorded at Academy Studios with Robert Magoolagan producing, and was mastered at The Exchange by Nilesh Patel. For the most part is the record has a fairly standard production for the time. Academy Studio was famous for producing the early work of UK romantic doom metal band My Dying Bride. This led to some concern on part of My Dying Bride that Cradle Of Filth would imitate its famed keyboard sound. The limited funding of the production shines through in the lack of rich tones, the absence of much textural depth, the basic drum sound and the occasionally hokey sounding keyboards and organs. The cover photography by Nigel Wingrove was commissioned specifically to mimic the front cover of the “Bloody Kisses” album by American goth rockers Type O Negative. The album was released through UK label imprint Cacophonous Records, that licensed the record to Morbid Noizzz Production for a tape release in Poland. The band decided to terminate its contract with Cacophonous Records after they found their promotion for “The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh” unsatisfactory. This resulted in a lawsuit and an EP that would shape the band’s future output.