Reviewed: January 2022
Released: 2021, Nuclear Blast Records
Reviewer: Kira Levine
With a title that seems to reference the phrase “resistance is futile”, Cradle Of Filth have seemed to have somewhat shied away from their (un)usual realm of vampirism etc. to venture into the world of existentialism for their thirteenth album. This detour from their preferred topics is timed well to coincide with almost two years of recent hellish events on earth.
After several years of a steady line-up, singing keyboardist Lindsay Schoolcraft parted ways with the extreme metallers in Febuary 2020. Existence Is Futile marks the arrival of her replacement Anabelle Iratni (also of Devilment), who handles the orchestrations and plays the lyre in addition to the keyboards and providing female vocals.
Channelling Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch’s 15th-16th century triptych The Garden Of Earthly Delights, Latvian digital artist Arthur Berzinsh was commissioned to create Existence Is Futile‘s cover art, his third time in a row illustrating album artwork for the band.
Thirty seconds in, instrumental intro “The Fate of the World on Our Shoulders” is recognisable as a Cradle Of Filth piece, and the soaring vocals in its closing moments from new recruit Anabelle ensure that their mark is cemented even before the frontman’s shrieks are heard. “Existential Terror” welcomes shredding and Dani Filth’s screaming into the mix, dabbling with speed along the way to create an exciting six-minute aural journey.
“Necromantic Fantasies” dives into deeper symphonic black metal waters, but not without taking other musical styles with it. The two vocalist’s voices blend extremely well here, creating a beauty and the beast-like situation, and this is heightened when they are heard simultaneously.
Song by the song, the record has been improving so far, and by “Crawling King Chaos”, it’s clear to see why it had been chosen as the first single. All musicians and vocalist are on fire here, namely Ms. Iratni, who demonstrates exactly why she had been selected to become COF’s resident siren. The song elicits an irresistible urge to move, as demonstrated by the moshers when it was premiered (live) at Bloodstock 2021. “Here Comes a Candle… (Infernal Lullaby)” provides a breather, taking a less dramatic approach than the earlier lyric-less song. Musically, “Black Smoke Curling from the Lips of War” bears a resemblance to many of the songs on Cryptoriana: The Seductiveness Of Decay (2017) and Hammer Of The Witches (2015). However, the vocal performances from Dani and (especially) Anabelle add a level of intrigue to the sixth offering.
“Discourse Between a Man and His Soul” is a slower, yet still heavy number that veers into ballad-territory with its sorrowful riffs, lachrymose lyrics and varied vocals that convey the feelings of a tortured individual. The first set of vocals heard on “The Dying of the Embers” (courtesy of Iratni) give the song an instant “Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids” vibe, despite the 23-year gap between the two songs. Highly unpredictable, yet undeniably Filthy, this is the fiercest battle between orchestral and metal elements on the last half of the LP. “Ashen Mortality” adds some wordless symphonic suspense between tracks eight and ten. The lyre playing adds a constant thread of ominousness throughout most of the song, with the chorals, keys and other instruments taking the reins in the latter part of the composition.
Even with its gothically romantic title, “How Many Tears to Nurture a Rose?” boasts a lot of nifty guitar work that steals the show and displays Cradle’s love of NWOBHM. All in all, very fun track that embraces their heavier influences.
Musically, “Suffer Our Dominion” is not as remarkable as its predecessors on Existence Is Futile, however it more than makes up for this lyrically. The commanding voice of Doug Bradley – famously known for his appearance in the Hellraiser movie franchise as the Lead Cenobite – can be heard, albeit in a less remarkable fashion than the multiple prior occasions he has collaborated with Dani Filth and co. beforehand. 2008’s Godspeed On The Devil’s Thunder is a horror fanatic’s dream come true, with almost all of its songs featuring the actor’s voice. At the opposite end of the spectrum is millennium release Midian, and although he only narrates three (“Death Magick for Adepts”, “Her Ghost in the Fog” and “Tortured Soul Asylum”) the tracks are spread out across the release, one of them appearing in the first half. Sadly, this time around, the actor’s contribution seems to have been squeezed onto the end of Existence Of Futile. Bradley has a fine storytelling voice, so is is a shame that listeners will only hear it eleven tracks in.
The rhythm section (Firth and Škaroupka) ensure that “Us, Dark, Invincible” is a headbang-worthy closer for the standard version, with some twist and turns in the last couple of minutes creating further intrigue.
Both bonus tracks – “Sisters Of The Mist” (also featuring Doug Bradley) and “Unleash The Hellion” – are original songs, which has not been the case since album eleven, as their last record featured a rendition of Annihilator’s “Alison Hell”. As a band who have previously covered the likes of Iron Maiden and even Heaven 17, it’s clear their sources of inspiration are quite varied. Perhaps the lack of cover songs is a bold statement that the sextet are beyond comfortable with their current incarnation, and any future covers will be made out of pure choice, rather than extra exposure after 30 years in the game. Cradle Of Filth have managed to create an album that explicitly deals with less fictional themes and more philosophical ideas, without forgoing their theatrical approach that existing fans know and love them for.
Dani Filth – vocals
Richard Shaw – guitar
Ashok – guitar
Daniel Firth – bass
Martin ‘Marthus’ Škaroupka – drums
Anabelle – keyboards, lyre, orchestration & female vocals
1. The Fate of the World on Our Shoulders
2. Existential Terror
3. Necromantic Fantasies
4. Crawling King Chaos
5. Here Comes a Candle… (Infernal Lullaby)
6. Black Smoke Curling from the Lips of War
7. Discourse Between a Man and His Soul
8. The Dying of the Embers
9. Ashen Mortality
10. How Many Tears to Nurture a Rose?
11. Suffer Our Dominion
12. Us, Dark, Invincible