For some people black metal is an acquired taste. That was definitely the case for me. It took me years to both give it a chance and come to appreciate it for the rich and complex genre of music that it is. Black metal musicians are some of the most talented musicians out there, and the scene has a lot of history and a distinctive ethos. Like many other metal fans I needed a gateway; something to make it palatable before I could come to appreciate black metal in its purest form. That gateway was Cradle of Filth.
Cradle of Filth started in Suffolk, England in 1991. This was an important year for black metal. Not only did Cradle of Filth start that year, but it was also the year that some of the genre’s most influential acts began to form: Emperor, Satyricon and Burzum to name a few. The first wave of black metal hit in the early 80’s, but Cradle of Filth along with the aforementioned bands played a major part in the revolution of both the music, and the scene.
For the first part of Cradle of Filth’s career, they were strictly a black metal band. They recorded black metal in its traditional form, and their first two albums ‘The Principle of Evil Made Flesh’ and ‘Dusk…and Her Embrace’ are considered by many fans and critics to be among some of the most noteworthy, and essential black metal albums of the 90’s. But like most great bands, Cradle of Filth weren’t satisfied with confining themselves to one style, and began to experiment with different sounds. This band has steadily evolved over the course of their musical journey.
Now, let’s take a look at the album that, for many fans including myself, provided a gateway into the dark and sinister world of black metal. That album is ‘Thornography’.
‘Thornography’ was released on October 17, 2006 via Roadrunner with Dani Filth on vocals, Paul Allender on guitar, Charles Hedger on guitar, Adrian Erlandsson on drums, Sara “Jezebel” Deva on backing vocals, and was produced by Rob Caggiano. This album also features guest appearances by Ville Valo formerly of HIM and British singer Dirty Harry. ‘Thornography’ also features various session musicians. This was a monumental release that required an elite team of talented musicians to put together. ‘Thornography’ is one of those albums that had a polarizing effect on the metal community. Fans of their early work were scratching their heads, and having doubts about the band’s direction while others were appreciating their ability to release an album with quality production and a sound that was easy to wrap their heads around. What ‘Thornography’ did was bring black metal to the mainstream. Metal needs these albums from time to time, and this album accomplished a lot for black metal.
Musically, ‘Thornography’ has a gothic/black metal sound with thrashy riffs and dark, mood setting symphonic elements. Dani steps up his game as far as his vocal range. He proves what a tremendous talent he is with vocal sounds ranging from a fiendish growl, wailing like a banshee from hell, to melodic singing in choruses throughout the album. Sarah also provides backing vocals that are a perfect compliment to Dani, and add some nice depth to the album. The guitars have a nice heavy tone, the bass lines are masterful and are showcased periodically throughout the album, and the drum work is impeccable.
‘Thornography’ is absolutely captivating from start to finish, and every track on the album is great, but I’ll give you my opinion on what I believe are the standout tracks on the album. “Dirge Inferno” is, in my opinion, the heaviest track on the album. It has intense whipping black metal guitar stylings which give way to pounding, thunderous groove. “I Am the Thorn” is also heavy and definitely the thrashiest song on the album with a catchy chorus that features some interesting vocal effects. “Cemetery and Sundown” begins in an almost whimsical fashion with Dani and Sarah’s singing, but the melody in this song is infectious, and this track ends in a most awesome manner with some vicious riffs that will leave you in awe. Finally, there’s “Under Huntress Moon”. This track is epic. Amazing composition, heavy, elegant, and Dani and Sarah deliver a beautiful tandem vocal performance.
This is not only my favorite black metal album, it is one of my favorite albums period. ‘Thornography’ is 64:44 of music at its finest. Check out this masterpiece right here.