Late October. There is no better time of year to listen to Cradle of Filth. For some, late October is the only time of year to listen to Cradle of Filth. A fact to which I can personally attest, although “Existence is Futile” may well end up being the first Cradle of Filth album that opens my ears after Halloween.
For me, Cradle of Filth has always seemed too hokey to take seriously. Something about the polished, almost dapper corpse paint Dani Filth usually wears. Mix that with the frequency with which the man tosses off his trademark banshee wail, the generally cheap sounding and overproduced keyboards, and all too often hastily written lyrics, and It’s too theatrical to be anything but acceptably spooky at very specific times and places. Like costume parties and haunted houses… or Rob Zombie movies.
That’s not to say I’ve ever found anything to hate about Cradle of Filth either. “Dusk & Her Embrace” is a great record through and through, at times because of these aforementioned faults, as is “Thornography,” but still nothing my soul has ever ached to hear too badly if I wasn’t also being kept comfortable by a hoodie.
One irony here is that, as I write this, I am wearing a hoodie. Another is Halloween is less than five days away. But what I’m trying to say here is that “Existence is Futile” will probably keep me talking for quite a long time. While there is a macabre (fuck, I hate that word) element present right away, the strength of the songwriting on tunes like “Existential Terror” or “Black Smoke Curling from the Lips of War” take the horror out of the show for long enough to escape the shackles that have kept Cradle of Filth nailed to the dungeon walls of genre specificity.
“Discourse Between a Man and His Soul” is another great example. The production shines on this whole record, no doubt about that, and this tune is probably the one I’d point to right away as excellent from every angle. It’s not as heavy as “Sisters of the Mist,” which is fucking spectactular, but there is a range of emotion present on “Discourse Between…” that cannot be denied. Scott Atkins (Benediction, Onslaught, Vader), who has produced Cradle of Filth since 2010, deserves to be praised here.
I am not a big enough Cradle of Filth fan to rate “Existence Is Futile” as much better or worse than any of their other records. I mean, I’ve already admitted that until recently the band made me think of Halloween exclusively. Nothing wrong with that, I don’t think, but it doesn’t make me a good source if that’s the kind of comparison you’re looking for. And there isn’t anything wrong with seeking that type of critique, especially if you’ve invested twenty five years into listening to them. It is the kind of comparison that warrants discussion… just not with me.
As a stand alone Symphonic Black Metal album, “Existence Is Futile” sets Cradle of Filth up alongside the likes of Carach Angren and The Bishop of Hexen. That may not be much of a stretch for some, but that isn’t something I’d have said about Cradle of Filth before hearing this record.