Album Review: Existence is Futile by Cradle of Filth (Nuclear Blast Records)

Suffolk’s black metal giants, Cradle of Filth, return with their latest offering, Existence is Futile, their 13th studio album, due for release on the 22nd of October via Nuclear Blast.

Cradle of Filth have evolved a lot, as you would expect from a band with 30 years behind them. They have their detractors, as you would also expect from a band who dared reach a level of popularity. Line up changes, tweaks to their sound – yet for me, I have always found myself invested in them fully. Yes, there are albums where the quality doesn’t hit the heady heights of The Principle of Evil Made Flesh or the immense Midian but Cradle have a special magic about them and Dani Filth is, in my opinion, one of the greatest lyricists of our time.

Modern times, say the last 5 years, Cradle have had a bit of a rebirth. A mostly settled line up saw the reinvigorated band pull off some of the best music of their whole careers starting with 2015’s Hammer of the Witches, followed by 2017’s Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay and now, maybe (hopefully) 2021’s Existence is Futile.

This latest album does see one more change to the line up with Lindsay Schoolcraft amicably moving on from the band, replaced with Anabelle Iratni on keys and vocals. Otherwise it’s the same collective with Martin Škaroupka on drums, Daniel Firth on bass, Richard Shaw and Marek Šmerda on guitars and of course, Dani Filth on lead vocals.

Cradle of Filth Existence is Futile Lineup

Speaking about the new album, Dani states:

The album is about existentialism, existential dread and fear of the unknown. The concept wasn’t created by the pandemic. We’d written it all before that began, but the pandemic is the tip of the cotton-bud as far as the way the world’s going, you know? I guess the title, »Existence Is Futile«, does sound a little morbid. But again, it’s more about recognising that and saying that everything is permitted because nothing really matters, which mimics Aleister Crowley’s maxim. We all know we’re going to die, so we might as well indulge life while we have it. The final track on the album – ‘Us, Dark, Invincible’ – really emphasises that. Also, the artwork for this record was created by the Latvian visionary Arthur Berzinsh, who also dressed the last two albums, and that is exceedingly beautiful yet apocalyptic too.”

Existence is Futile comes with 12 tracks on it proper and 2 bonus tracks. So far in advance of the album we have had two singles released from the 12. The absolute corker Crawling King Chaos which has a chorus riff to die for and the hard hitting banger, Necromantic Fantasies. They are track 3 and 4 on the album so we get underway with an intro called The Fate of the World On Our Shoulders. It’s a 90 second scene setter bringing the gothic tones and operatic vocals that leads straight into the real opener, Existential Terror. And what a way to open an album. This song is fire.

The verse riffs are stompy as fuck and you have to head bang along. The drums are phenomenal and the backing keys really elevate the track while Dani sounds absolute on point. The slow down and vocal change up keeps things fresh and exhilarating while the lead guitar that follows coupled with what sounds like the chime of a church bell is a wicked addition. Its a proper track this, all the best bits of Cradle rolledinto a dark and heavy track that should please fans old and new.

Black Smoke Curling from the Lips of War is preceded by a scene setting instrumental called Here Comes a Candle (Infernal Lullaby) which plays a creepy almost nursery rhyme style gothic melody. It starts building in an orchestral backing near it’s end, ready to jump into Black Smoke Curling from the Lips of War. It is more of an intermission really, but still gets you in the mood if you somehow weren’t after the immense start to this album.

Black Smoke is a vicious track, starting expansively with a catchy rhythm, a drop down into the female vocals, it suddenly explodes into a raging, spitting beast of a track. The male/female vocal harmonies are plentiful here and the little drops into the stop start drumming is brilliant. Its a twisting puzzle of  a track that is really hypnotic to listen to and the lead guitars really steal the show. Cradle of Filth are really pulling out all their tricks here and creating music that is so obviously them yet so intensely new.

Discourse Between a Man and His Soul has a slower, almost poetry like start with beautifully dark piano melody and a deeper vocal tone. The guitars are seriously sexy on a track that is somehow absolutely beautiful while being morose and dark. The Dying of the Embers has that Cradle intro that is so familiar and yet still so exciting as passionate female spoken word leads us in. The music starts building and then, bang, in comes Dani’s vocals to kick the track off. Fiery drums and vicious vocals hit hard, almost at war with the much slower cleans to create a nice off beat sound on a track that sticks more to the catchy side with occasional blasts of intense heaviness.

Ashen Mortality is another musical intermission with a similar style to the previous ones before we head into one of my favourites so far, How Many Tears to Nurture a Rose. Cradle clearly have many new ideas and tricks up their sleeve and the intro to this song is jaw dropping. The guitars are sublime, the galloping drums, the catchy, sing along chorus, changes in pace, harmonised vocals – this has everything. The song flows so well and just kept me excited and into it all the way through and I dreaded it ending. But end it did with the only positive of that being yay, more Cradle.

Suffer Our Dominion has a dark and gloomy feel to it, the atmospherics are on point and after a spoken word intro from Cradle and horror favourite, Doug Bradley (Pinhead in Hellraiser) we move away from the slow stomp into a more old school sounding Cradle with speedy vocals and blistering rhythm. It slows down a bit for a more melodic chorus before exploding back into life to rip us a new one. It is another favourite on an album that just keeps delivering and it is awesome and inspiring to see a band of Cradle’s style addressing environmental concerns in their way.

The last song proper on Existence is Futile, before bonus tracks is Us, Dark, Invincible and what a way to close out an album, basically by just being awesome. The riffs and lead guitars are on fire here in a heavy and fast assault. Well placed symphonic elements enhance the darkness while Dani spits venom. The chorus is probably a little flatter than the rest of the album overall with the repeating of the title but a minor complaint on a wonderful track that keeps the excitement up with a nice orchestral slow down. The song returns from that in a slower, darker style with some lovely female vocals and a vicious roar from Dani.

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The first of the two bonus tracks is Sisters of the Mist and sees Doug Bradley return to close out the Her Ghost in the Fog trilogy that started back on Midian. It has a feel of their older stuff as well to be fair and, bonus track or not, it is just another absolutely cracking Cradle of Filth song. Bonus tracks can be hit and miss but don’t avoid this one. Unleash the Hellion closes Existence is Futile and is another decent track. I’m not too sure why this one is a bonus track to be honest. It sounds like it could sit nicely on the album as one of it’s songs. Its strong and sounds like modern Cradle.

It jumps between assaulting aggression and catchier riffage. Plenty of transitions, the right amount of symphony and expert drum blasts all combine nicely with a particularly pleasing slow down. Pleasing mainly due to the build back up with layered instruments and deep growled vocals that keep on ascending.

Still, a bonus track it is and I guess it is a nice bonus to get after this phenomenal album comes to a close. 13 albums in, 30 years of existence and Cradle of Filth sound as creative and exciting as they ever have. Existence is Futile is a remarkable body of work. It flows brilliantly and basically just moves from immense track to immense track. There isn’t a bad song, hell, there isn’t an okay or average song on this album. Songs like Suffer Our Dominion and How Many Tears to Nurture a Rose are up their with some of their best ever work and minor missteps like the slightly flatter chorus in Us, Dark, Invincible are barely noticeable being surrounded by such quality on all sides.

Existence is Futile, but you can certainly make it a lot less futile for a period by buying and listening to this album.

Existence is Futile can be pre-ordered in multiple different formats, styles and sets from Nuclear Blast, here or from the band, here.

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Existence is Futile by Cradle of Filth (Nuclear Blast Records)
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