A quaint curiosity in the early Cradle Of Filth catalog is what most truthfully describes “V Empire”. Confused and confusing it was a harbinger of things to come. Owning its existence as the result of a courtcase decided in the band’s favor, it was an unplanned release that was disowned by its creators shortly after release. This hastily put together ditty served as an omen for much of the band’s career from this point onward. It’s a jumbled mess assembled from various odds and ends, both old and new. Marred by re-recording of formative works and needless padding – it is indicative of the many faults and errors in judgment that would come to define the band’s prolific but wholly inconsistent and often checkered output.
“V Empire” was a hastily conceived EP in order to fulfill contractual obligations to its former label as the principal members were involved in legal proceedings and litigations behind the scenes. Put together from leftovers and quickly written new songs it is surprising that the EP sounds as coherent as it does, even if slightly so. Spawned by circumstance rather than careful planning it is the architectural template from which all later Cradle Of Filth EPs would draw influence in terms of structure, song format and overall pacing. As a transitional piece between the band’s earlier death/thrash metal oriented direction and the lush romantic symfo/gothic avenue they would explore to a fuller degree on the album to follow “V Empire” is at least mildly successfull in what it sets out to do.
Frontman Dani Davey along with rhythm section Robin Eaglestone (bass guitar) and Nicholas Barker (drums) remain from the previous album line-up. “V Empire” was the recording debut for new guitarist Stuart Anstis who recorded all the rhyhtm – and lead guitar parts for the EP. One of the stipulations in the Cacophonous Records agreement was that the release had to feature two guitarists in order to have some form of continuity with the debut. To maintain said illusion the Jared Demeter character was created until the band could hire a suitable second guitarist. Bryan Hipp (later of Florida death metal band Diabolic) was one of the most well-known musicians to bring the Jared Demeter character to life in the live arena. Newly acquired keyboardist Greg Moffitt (Damien Gregori) and backing singer Sarah Jane Ferridge (Sarah Jezebel Deva) are given their introduction. Previous vocalist Danielle Cneajna Cottington was relegated to additional vocals as Ferridge took centerstage, while the band ended its affiliation with studio singer and Satanic advisor Andrea Meyer for hitherto undisclosed reasons.
‘Ebony Dressed For Sunset’ obviously was meant as an atmospheric intro piece but was reworked, haphazardly at that, into the filmsiest excuse for a song. ‘The Forest Whispers My Name’ retains its basic structure but is reworked in parts, and the embellishments serve to prove how powerful the track was in its original form. Deva’s new vocal parts fail to enhance what Andrea Meyer had arranged previously – in fact they tend to add ballast and pompousness where none was needed, or called for.
‘Queen Of Winter, Throned’, which opens with a variation on the popular Curt Siodmak verse from the 1941 Universal horror classic “The Wolfman”, retakes both the melody and the vocal line from the preceding album’s ‘A Dream Of Wolves in the Snow’. A song that itself was put together from the strongest parts of ‘Spattered In Faeces’ from the earlier prematurely aborted “Goetia” sessions. The track’s conclusion introduces rather hokey sounding organs and plinking hapsicord melodies that are only saved by Jezebel Deva’s lush backing vocals. ‘Nocturnal Supremacy’ is a song dating back to the “The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh” days that gets a much overdue reworking here. The chord progressions and riff schematics have Allender/Ryan characteristics written all over them, while Anstis gets to add his flowing traditional metal melodies over what the earlier guitarists had crafted.
‘She Mourns A Lenghtening Shadow’ effectively foreshadows the heavily orchestrated gothic direction the band would take on the following album. That it stands out (for all the wrong reasons) proves that it was written and intended for the “Dusk… and Her Embrace” sessions instead of arriving prematurely on this slapdash EP, one blighted by lunkheaded conflicting creative decisions. ‘The Rape and Ruin Of Angels (Hossanas In Extremis)’ is a confused cut that starts with a blistering Norsecore section that would make Parland-era Dark Funeral proud only to progress into a “Principle” style bridge, all while having the symfo/gothic overtones that would come to define the following record. In fact after the strong opening the track loses steam the further it progresses as if the band had no idea where they intended to go with it.
The song material present on “V Empire” usually is both admirably strong and inexcuseably amateur often within the same song. Even though all songs flow seamlessly into another there is no stylistic cohesion between any of them. That exactly ‘The Forest Whispers My Name’ was re-recorded speaks volumes of the importance of the Allender-Ryan axis early in the band’s career as it appeared originally on the band’s demos. Given the inconsistent songwriting and incongruent pacing of this EP ‘Queen Of Winter, Throned’ is the sole highlight. As this EP was hastily thrown together it is surprising to even have this strong a track present.
As before the recordings were done at Academy Studios with Robert Magoolagan and Keith Appleton overseeing the production. Once again the album was mastered at The Exchange by Nilesh Patel. The production on “V Empire” is a lot clearer and crunchier on all fronts, but also loses part of the grittiness of the debut. The improved but unbalanced production reflects the haphazard nature of the EP. The cover - and inlay photography by British erotic photographer Nigel Wingrove is nothing short of amazing. The band’s lush erotica is in full bloom as the female form, often in various stages of undress, adorns the booklet. Every part of the record has lush shots from the usual Redemption divas Gabrielle, Luna, Scarlet, Vida, and headmistress Eileen Daly.
Historically the EP is interesting in that two of its most beloved tracks (‘Queen Of Winter, Throned’ and ‘Nocturnal Supremacy’) were initially meant to be part of the band’s second album “Dusk… and Her Embrace”. Likewise does the instrumental ‘She Mourns A Lenghtening Shadow’ feel more at home at that album than any release prior or after. The production notes indicate recordings in 1995 and 1996 giving credence to the idea that both cuts were culled from the original (and subsequently buried) “Dusk… and Her Embrace” recordings, while the remainder of the EP was written to accomodate. “V Empire” was the last Cradle Of Filth effort for Cacophonous Records before they moved on to bigger opportunities.