Cradle of Filth: Midnight in the Labyrinth (LE)

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Cradle of Filth: Midnight in the Labyrinth (LE)
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Cradle of Filth: Midnight in the Labyrinth
Gothic Metal, Symphonic Black Metal
Peaceville Records
April 21st, 2012
Release length: 1:18:34
Limited edition: 2:23:07
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Lately, it seems as if Cradle of Filth has not stopped churning out material since signing with Peaceville Records. Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa was a phenomenal album released in 2010 that really tied the group’s modern sound together, while the 2011 companion EP Evermore Darkly wound up being a generic compilation of b-sides that could have stayed on the cutting room floor, but are nice to have for the devoted fan. Now, we find the next full-length from the group, which is more of a compilation of previous songs reworked for Midnight in the Labyrinth, an album dedicated to photographer and ghost hunter Sir Simon Marsden who passed away this year [2012]. However, the material was apparently being recorded for roughly three years, and met with many pitfalls to keep it from being completed. But, does this dark reimagining of past fan favorites live up to the originals?

Midnight in the Labyrith (or Songs for the Recently Dead and Arisen), the full title for this release, finds the band utilizing another crisp production. It does work with the darker tones, but really there’s not much to say about it. The album has a full classical orchestra behind it, all conducted and arranged by Ralph Woodward, as well as various choir vocals in tenor, alto, bass, and soprano levels, though these are largely background elements to try to make the material sound a little more grandious. Sarah Jezebel Deva also returns to offer some female voices, and the male leads are spoken, as well as whispered intensely by Dani Filth, both offering more of a narrative approach to the release. This helps to tie the songs together in more of a conceptual manner.

Unfortunately, this does not work out all the time. It’s not due to the performances in the orchestration, but simply due to the fact that aside a subtle foundation, many of the songs that come off drawn out, a repetitive due to their speed. True it’s meant to come off as a nightmarish recording, and the vibe of an underground world of restless souls enslaved for eternal damnation within an unholy labyrinth does come through really well. Each track does sound reminiscent of the original, but how much varies. Only a few actually really stand out. Midnight in the Labyrinth is just one slow paced composition after another, though a few exceptions exist, with varied choir vocals thrown in. There are some repetitive voices that seem to say “Een! Ah!” and a few other words I could not make out, obviously in another language, over and over again. Unfortunately this becomes really annoying the deeper you get into the release. The female vocals and spoken narratives often feel restrained due to the push in atmosphere and pace of the material, which really holds it back as more emphasis there, and even in the male raspy, whispered dialogue would have been nice, especially when it comes to the purring that seems to appear at times. This is clearly just a less-moist gargling similar to what you find on other songs, just not as enthusiastic or menacing.

But, of all the songs, “Dusk and Her Embrace” is the one that stands out the best. It actually has a much louder sound that carries the epic tone of the music well, and is instantly recognizable to the original. There also seems to be extra emphasis in the male vocals throughout, the additional female choirs and singing sounds a lot more suiting, and the howling wolves really make you feel as though you are in a graveyard, perhaps being hunted by something or someone. It’s unfortunate that other hits don’t quite fare as well. “Summer Dying Fast” offers similar louder, and even faster material that is just fantastic. The additional keyboards really hook the listener at those points, and the atmosphere feels pretty rich and true to the original composition, as well as a bit on the glorious side compared to the far more dismal foundations that line this release. “Goetia (Invoking the Unclean),” however, really takes the dark Gothic foundation and runs with it for thirteen plus minutes, acting as a superb conclusion to the album that doesn’t seem to really fit in with the rest, but carries a truly horrifying performance that is burdening and aurally sinister. The vocals that are what you would commonly expect from someone being slowly crushed, as well as the whispered demonic-like speech between two or more beings, really tie this into a truly Hellish experience, but in a good, enjoyable manner.

The limited edition pressing of Midnight in the Labyrinth is an on-line Nuclear Blast offer only, supposedly to coincide with international Record Store Appreciation Day. This comes in a hardcover digibook format, and contains a bonus disc of only instrumental orchestral tracks. But first, let’s look at the packaging. The case itself is actually quite nice, and both discs are placed in plastic holders, one on each side. The accompanying booklet with all the information and the narrations is stapled in dead center. Inside, Dani Filth explains the concept of this release, and the battle behind getting it recorded. He also mentions the reasoning for the two-disc version being to show how similar Metal and Classical compositions really are. This brief explanation does give insight into the atmosphere, allowing you to understand the recording a bit more, though I’m not certain if this appears strictly in this pressing, or if an edited explanation appears in the standard one. However, for as nice as it all is, it has it’s faults. No more than twenty four hours after being open the booklet is already coming loose, and the biggest problem to be had is the plastic centers holding the CDs in place have a rather sharp point in their middles (at least in my copy) which left huge dents in the artwork, as well as began scraping and tearing away at the front and back of the booklet.

The bonus disc, however, actually sounds a lot better compared to the main disc. “The Rape and Ruin of Angels (Hosannas in Extremis)” kicks things off with an envigorating and rather epic start that doesn’t bother with an introduction like the original. The audio here sounds a little louder on this and other songs as well, which causes those spoken choir words in another language to feel more at home to the tone being woven. There also seems to be a bit of a difference between the songs offered on disc one, as well as those on disc two in the fact that the latter really seem more vibrant and better fitting the source material, compared to the darker, ominous, and creepy environments worked out on the other. Even the track lengths are different, though really only by seconds. Sadly, this also does not include “Goetia (Invoking the Unclean),” though technically speaking you could just carry the song over and it would be about the same experience. Unfortunately, the dismal and nightmarish atmosphere simply doesn’t exist here like it does on the main recording, leaving this edition more of a “pick your poison” kind of deal, but one well worth experiencing if possible.

Midnight in the Labyrinth isn’t really that bad an album, but the music here just isn’t the most engaging. Sadly, when you compare this to the limited edition version, it seems the band’s direct input over the orchestrations ends up hurting a bit. It does, however, seem to really pull together a stronger atmosphere for the standard pressing, so it’s a bit of a win/lose situation, though the second disc is a lot more enjoyable from any way you look at it, capturing the spirit and haunting tones of the original creations from the group’s history. If you’re interested in picking up this latest Cradle of Filth offering, it’s well worth it to track down the hardcover digibook version over the single release, as both offer up completely different listening experiences, each with their own set of pros and cons. In the booklet, it’s mentioned that this is the soundtrack to a Gothic Horror film that has not yet been made, and looking back it makes sense if you picture it that way. But, honestly, it probably would sound better as the score for a film then just a solitary full-length album.

Disc One:
01. A Gothic Romance (Red Roses for the Devil’s Whore) – 8:39
02. The Forest Whispers My Name – 5:42
03. The Twisted Nails of Faith – 7:05
04. The Rape and Ruin of Angels (Hosanna in Extremis) – 8:19
05. Funeral in Carpathia – 8:51
06. Summer Dying Fast – 5:21
07. Thirteen Autumns and a Widow – 7:14
08. Dusk and hetr Embrace – 6:31
09. Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids – 7:47
10. Goetia (Invoking the Unclean) – 13:05

Disc Two (Limited Edition only):
01. The Rape and Ruin of Angels (Hosannas in Extremis) – 8:16
02. Dusk and Her Embrace – 6:29
03. Summer Dying Fast – 5:21
04. The twisted Nails of Faith – 7:06
05. Funeral in Carpathia – 8:38
06. The Forest Whispers My Name – 5:33
07. Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids – 7:25
08. A Gothic Romance (Red Roses for the Devil’s Whore) – 8:36
09. Thirteen Autumns and a Widow – 7:13

Overall Score: 6.5/10

Limited Edition Score: 7.5/10



Physical review copy of this release provided by personal funds.