It’s hard to think that this is the first time in their 26 year history and after twelve albums that Dani Filth has released two official albums with the same line-up. This is something I never really took notice of until now as it was usually just a single member changing and therefore the changes in style and sound were never drastic owing to sufficient members remaining to keep them moving in a general direction. That said, they did change their sound several times during their career, going from death metal through various black metal sub-genres to the Victorian themed fury of ‘Cryptoriana’.

“Exquisite Torments Await” is the short but intense opening to the album with its rather eerie gothic horror vibe and haunting female vocals by Lindsay Schoolcraft to go with the orchestral arrangements on her keyboard.

Seemingly slower starting, “Heartbreak And Séance” rather rapidly has Martin Škaroupa kicking up a frenzy as Dani’s familiar high pitched shriek joins Richard Shaw and Ashok’s screaming guitars as the song picks up its pace. The song then varies its pace while Martin’s kick drums keep the constant onslaught through the gentler guitar and keyboard reprieves then matching the blasting cymbals when things are fast. The choral chants work really well to add a lighter touch to Dani’s more guttural vocals, as does Lindsay’s soothing voice.

The twangy Arabian stringed instrument is quickly torn asunder on “Achingly Beautiful” as the searing lead takes a hold and determines the rhythm guitar’s driving riffs. The fast stop to tinkering piano gently builds up again as Dani paints a picture with his lyrics coloured by the racing lead and cacophonous symphony.

Very black metal triplets on the guitars are soon swamped by a powerful drum battery then rather grandiose orchestral and choral accompaniment on “Wester Vespertine”, which includes an exquisite spoken verse by Lindsay, but it’s her wonderful singing voice that really adds a note to song. The guitar lead is also spectacular without being needlessly drawn out.

The numerous movements in “Seductiveness Of Decay” merge together exceedingly well and flow into one another with a subtle ease that belies the rapid changes in pace and timing signatures. The song really puts Dani through his paces as he ranges his vocals from guttural roars to timid whispers to hell raising screams.

Not only is “Vengeful Spirit” a rather fast song, it’s also quite upbeat and with Liv Kristine’s unmistakable voice singing at a slower pace it adds another dimension to the song that would be lost without the two distinct paces running through the song. The insane speed of the lead is definitely something to be impressed by too.

The first single to be release for the album was “You Will Know The Lion By His Claw”, and it’s still as fast and vicious listening to it now as it was when I first heard it. Daniel Firth’s bass gives the required bottom end under the blasting cymbals and clicky kick drums as Dani’s blistering high pitched vocals race to the end of the song.

“Death And The Maiden” is probably the fullest sounding song on the album with its layers of sound and continuously increasing momentum both in velocity and heaviness, thereby giving the album a perfect ending without diminishing the mood.

I can safely say there isn’t a dud track on this album and the fact that there are no songs on here purely for atmospheric purposes adds to the overall ferocity of the album.

In the promo pack there’s plenty mentioned about the Annihilator track “Alison Hell” which is not on the version I have. Guess I’ll need to get the Digipak for that and “The Night At Catafalque Manor”.

(9/10 Marco Gaminara)