Cradle of Filth - _Bitter Suites to Succubi_
(AbraCadaver, 2001)
by: Matthias Noll (7.5 out of 10)
Have you too experienced this painful point in time when a band you love suddenly starts to lose the genius, the spark, the power to send shivers down your spine and/or simply crush you with their music? Even though I'm aware that CoF lost many of our readers after _Vempire_ or even as early as after _The Principle of Evil Made Flesh_, in my case it was _Midian_ when things started to get a bit stale -- and once exciting music suddenly became predictable, with far too many foreseeable patterns and structures. What on _Dusk and Her Embrace_ and _Cruelty and the Beast_ appeared to be a labyrinth in which you could easily get lost has developed into a roundabout with four accurately signposted exits. Even if I would rate _Midian_ 8 out of 10, in CoF's case that's close to disappointing for me. As you can see from my rating, _Bitter Suites to Succubi_ has not really managed to summon the magic from the past again. Initially only meant to be an EP and the band's first album on their own label AbraCadaver, _BStS_ will probably be their farewell to the upper regions of the underground in which they still reside -- as you may have already heard, they just got signed by Sony Music. _BStS_ features 50 something minutes of music. Four new songs, a Sisters of Mercy cover, three reworked tracks from _The Principle of Evil Made Flesh_ and two more-pointless-than-ever intro/outro instrumentals. This mixture makes it impossible to see _BStS_ as a unit rather than a bunch of tracks thrown together. It's got album length, album price but has no album flow. Soundwise things are good: aggressive guitars, natural but a bit hollow-sounding drums, and in general _BStS_ leaves a rawer and less slick impression than _Midian_. It appears that especially Dani's vocals have not received much overdubbing. His voice sounds refreshingly live and the vocal parts are not perfect, especially when his voice breaks during the impossibly high notes, adding a very genuine touch to the performance. Some other band members' efforts are a bit less impressive this time around -- especially ex-My Dying Bride keyboardist / violin player Martin Powell, who is a bit on the average side of things here. A band of CoF's calibre could surely benefit from someone who contributes something out of the ordinary. What I hear on _BStS_ isn't any better than what most of the competition, down to some second tier outfits, is able to come up with. What's also a bit surprising is that Adrian Erlandson's drumming -- which is of course well performed -- is a bit unspectacular, lacking signature and not really on par with Nick Barker's performances with CoF and especially on the latest Dimmu Borgir record. All three re-recorded songs from _TPoEMF_ sound good, are played faster and unsurprisingly much tighter. Decide for yourself whether you prefer the unpolished tracks from the past or manage to enjoy these well performed versions. While "The Principle of Evil Made Flesh" and "Summer Dying Fast" are very close to the original versions, "The Black Goddess Rises II" has been changed somewhat in comparison to the version on the debut, with a very thrashy section getting included. The four new tracks are good to very good, but standard CoF fare; and while I spotted some unusual riffs and ideas on _Midian_ (maybe Paul Allender's influence?), there's nothing really surprising to be found in the new material. The Sisters of Mercy cover "No Time to Cry" is okay-ish, but among the weaker cover versions CoF have done so far. Even though it underlines the influence goth bands like Sisters of Mercy had and have on some of the UK death/doom/black metal bands, it's nothing to write home about. To sum it up, despite my gripes, this is a decent, still far from commercial-sounding record, and a worthy purchase for fans. I for one am a bit worried, because I get the impression that a "CoF songwriting machine" is more and more replacing new ideas and originality with output based on formulas, and the fact that Robin Eaglestone has now left the band shows that the line-up is still far from stable.

[Quentin Kalis: "_BStS_ is probably CoF's most accessible album to date, with the gothic elements more prominent here than in possibly any previous CoF release. The guitars have a heavier, more commercial sound, the drumming is proficient though not quite up to the standard set by Nick Barker, and while Dani's charateristic high-pitched banshee shrieks are absent on this release, his singing still alternates between ear-piercing screams and low growls. Despite a ghastly cover of "No Time to Cry" -- originally by Sisters of Mercy -- this album represents their best work since _Cruelty and the Beast_."]

(article published 12/8/2001)

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