Released: 2014, Mordgrimm Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Be forewarned. This is not the new Cradle of Filth album – indeed it is anything but. Instead, Total Fucking Darkness mines the earliest depths of the band's history, re-presenting Cradle's third demo along with a track from what was supposed to their first album – the ill-fated Goetia that was actually recorded before Darkness but lost when the band's label went out of business - an old unreleased track and some rehearsal material from back in the day. So don't expect crystalline sound, a grand orchestral sheen or the type of pomp and circumstance Cradle became noted – or infamous – for in the time since.
First recorded in 1993, and remastered here under the auspices of Cradle frontman Dani Filth and former guitarist Paul Ryan, who played on the original recording, Total Fucking Darkness offers hints of the grandiosity and ambition the band were able to realize down the road as recording budgets grew and their musical skill caught up with their technical aspirations. The gothic window dressing and theatricality would come later.
The material here is rough-hewn and raw-boned – especially the guitars and drums – even with the remastering. But some of the classical flair is there in Ben Ryan's keyboard opulence, as is the songwriting complexity on “The Black Goddess Rises” - which appeared on Cradle's first album, The Principle of Evil Made Flesh, in 1994 - the epic “Unbridled At Dusk” and the rather awesome, formerly unreleased “Devil Mayfair (Advocatus Diaboli)” that continues to this day.
Filth's vocals had yet to fully develop their signature caterwaul, and stick mostly to a barfy, barky death metal growl on Darkness, making his transformation as a “singer” by 1996's V Empire and Dusk And Her Embrace rather dramatic. And if “Spattered In Faeces,” the lone surviving track from Goetia, is any indication, it's perhaps not such a bad thing that the album never saw the light of day. It's sound is just as muddy and crude as the demo material on Darkness and might not have made near the impression that Principle did, even with its own sonic deficiencies.
For Cradle Of Filth archivists, Total Fucking Darkness – especially in its two-disc vinyl form – makes for a fine way to round out one's collection. For the curious, it is perhaps worth a listen to hear just how much the band's sound developed – or overdeveloped, as the case sometimes has been - and what it was like at its crude beginnings. But if you're looking for anything more than that, best wait for Cradle's next genuine album, probably next year.