I think my ears are bleeding, but for once, that’s a good thing. The reason? For the past hour, I’ve been listening to the British sextet Cradle of Filth’s third album, ‘Dusk and Her Embrace.’ It’s frightening, loud, sensual and darkly melodic: ie a masterpiece of the genre. I wanna make one thing clear: if you’re looking for easy listening, look elsewhere. If you’re a fan of Marilyn Manson or Nine Inch Nails and think you’re ‘hardcore’ enough for this, well, you better tie yourself down. This may be considered pop by the so called ‘black metal’ genre, but for anyone else, it’s anything but. Anyway, enough blathering, time for the meat, and suffice to say there is a lot of it. Vocalist/Lyricist Dani uses words like gangsters use bullets. Each song is quite lyrically intense, but the semantics are gorgeous (when they can be understood: thank heaven..err, hell for a lyric booklet) and contain lots of mythical, biblical, philosophical and historical references. These lyrics are emitted by one of the greatest vocalists in the business. Dani can go from an extremely high-pitched scream down to a low growl in a split second. His demon-like rantings have to be murder on the vocal chords, but they sound delightfully unpleasant. Famale vocals are spattered in here and there, when there’s dialouge by female entities. That too adds a dimension to the songs. The instruments are great as well. The rhythm section booms and commands, while the guitarists play freeze-tag at high speed. The keyboards add an operatic quality to the whole thing. The arrangements are interesting, as always. There are lightning-fast rhythm and melody changes, sudden drops in tone, tempo and volume, and swirling masses of seemingly dischordant sound all coming together into one entity. It’s tough to pin any track down to a simple tune, which is a good thing here, and these songs come off very sophisticated. It’s hard to avoid comparison to the band’s follow-up, ‘Cruelty and the Beast,’ since I heard that first, and I’d have to say that ‘Cruelty’ is much easier to access and more ornate, but ‘Dusk’ is definitely more intense and raw, and an excellent listen…..if you’re not scared of the dark.