REVIEW: CRADLE OF FILTH, GODSPEED ON THE DEVIL’S THUNDER
Thankfully breaking the cycle of less-than-clever album title puns, Godspeed on the Devil’s Thunder is Dani Filth and the gang’s attempt at making yet another concept album about a medieval noble serial killer a decade after the release of their Elizabeth Bathory story, Cruelty and the Beast. With the subtitle The Life and Crimes of Gilles de Rais (guess I spoke to soon about the punning), the band crudely attempts to provide the biography for a nobleman turned sexual deviant turned Satanist turned blah blah blah. While de Rais sounds like he was a real piece of work, this album is pretty scary, too: Godspeed is a frighteningly long album that sounds disturbingly outdated with a shocking absence of dynamics in the concept.
I’ll start with the latter criticism, because I feel it’s important to underline what is a bigger problem than Cradle of Filth; too many metal bands are writing concept albums and too many of them do not understand what that means. If a conventional album is a collection of songs that can stand independent of each other, a concept album presupposes that each track acts as a part of a continuing exploration of a theme or narrative. The whole release is more important than its individual pieces and this is usually emphasized through seamless track transitions, recurring music or other dynamics. When executed thoughtfully, a concept album can lend immense artistic credibility to an act, however the lure of this sort of legitimacy leads to a lot failures, too.
Godspeed suffers from a double failure of being a poorly executed concept album from a band that is long past its modest peak. All too many of the thirteen tracks are completely interchangeable and without intelligible lyrics (even the clean and choral singing), so there’s no sense of progression. Being seemingly aware of the inadequacy of their music to convey the story, they made the brutal decision to hire the guy who played Pinhead in Hellraiser to provide narration as Gille de Rais. This occurs ad nauseum in an intro track, an outro track and at the end of almost every goddamn track, grinding the album to a halt and always with a keyboard accompaniment.
Oh, and the keyboards! While this is fairly extreme album (read: blast beats) that nods towards the band’s earlier material, they’ve seemingly kept the same keyboard rig since the mid 90s. The orchestration is painful to listen to. Predictable orchestra hits and one finger noodling melodies combine with disgusting synthesized strings and a piano setting that sounds anything but grand. The compositions during the aforementioned narrative interludes would be embarrassing in a student film soundtrack and instead of adding subtle ambiance it becomes nothing more than a distracting cliché.
Cradle of Filth is otherwise as cheesy as they ever were: that mixture of suburban Halloween horror, Dani’s many cheesy vocal varieties, all combine with those fucking keyboards and the narration to give you enough mozzarella to make a pizza. Unfortunately for them, the world has moved on and it all seems so incredibly dated now. These days, there are better keyboards, broader concept albums, sharper chorus hooks and (get this) RIFFS!
While “Midnight Shadows…” breaks from the repetitive song arrangements to add some of the drama this band was able to pull off in old classics like “Her Ghost in the Fog” and “Cruelty brought thee Orchids”, finding this gem in the middle of over an hour of uninspired crap isn’t worth the effort. I guess Halloween was a lot scarier when you were a kid, anyway.
(1 ½ horns out of five)