Now 20 years old, Dusk… And Her Embrace is widely acknowledged to be Cradle Of Filth’s masterpiece, the game-changer that hoisted the band from amateur scenester status to well-deserved, worldwide infamy. Sharp songwriting and sparkling production – plus the support and resources of label Music For Nations – helped the Suffolk sextet’s second full-length achieve full-blooded realisation of their distinctive, and hugely influential, aesthetic.
Their venomous thrashing fury, dark humour, kitsch decadence and gothic horror atmospherics were immersed in an accessible, jet-black sonic elegance – courtesy of Thin Lizzy/Magnum producer Kit Woolven – far in advance of their 1994 debut, The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh, which itself had sounded daringly polished among the raw, ugly under-production of most contemporary black metal releases.
But there was an earlier version of Dusk…, recorded for Cacophonous in 1995, which remained mouldering in the vault after legal hassles and lineup upheavals that saw half the musicians leave the band shortly after the recording. And although The Original Sin is a fascinating glimpse into the development of a classic album, it’s also clear why Cradle weren’t happy with the recording in the first place. It’s weird hearing sumptuous, genre-
defining tunes like Nocturnal Supremacy and A Gothic Romance rendered with such a thin, murky sound, and although this version has a more ‘true’ black metallic heart, it doesn’t match up to the blistering imperial extremities of the same year’s Vempire EP, which was similarly indebted to the Norwegian influence.
Compared to the album we’ve lived with and loved all these years, these arrangements sound rather cluttered and ragged, melodic nuances buried, solos spaffed out in risibly haphazard fashion, keyboards sounding unthreateningly cheap (although drummer Nick Barker and bassist Robin Eaglestone – arguably the band’s definitive rhythm section – nail it throughout). Even the vocals seem perfunctory at times, Dani almost playing down the emphatic delivery and flamboyant melodrama that mark him out as a great frontman. Occasionally the more visceral underground vibe works a treat; the clattering blitzkrieg of Heaven Torn Asunder and Beauty Slept In Sodom come alive in these reduced circumstances with balls-out bravado and youthful spunk, although the latter song’s guest vocal from Grim Reaper frontman Steve Grimmet turns out to be a brief, indistinct spoken-word mid-section, not a patch on the snarling oration by Venom legend Cronos on The Haunted Shores Of Avalon. This recording is undoubtedly an intriguing ‘missing link’ in the Cradle canon, depicting the tempestuous last gasp of the original lineup – a band reaching for the stars and ending up in the gutter. But these songs hadn’t yet happened upon their optimum execution, so The Original Sin largely serves to remind us how much thought, passion, money and hard work is needed to turn promising material into a killer record.
DANI FILTH – Vocals
What was your reason for releasing this version?
“The rerelease of Total Fucking Darkness was the catalyst. Those demos were available everywhere, but this was unheard. It’s a very important part of Cradle’s history so having put thse demos out for public scrutiny, it made sense, when you’ve got this dusty copy of Dusk… doing nothing, to make that available.”
What was the source for the atmosphere on ...Dusk?
“Ben Ryan had this keyboard that was like the Millennium Falcon. You had to kick it to get it to work, but it had the most amazing sounds. We never managed to get that authentic BBC-style horror sound, but we didn’t need anything better because it was so good and it shaped the sound of the record.”