To me, this British black metal bunch reached their creative peak when they made “Damnation and a Day” in 2003. That album was a brilliant concept album that told a story about a war between Satan and God. Once you reach your creative peak, and it is impossible to out-do yourself, the most you can hope for is something that is equally as creative.
The philosophy behind 2004’s “Nymphetamine” is that it is “a lot easier to swallow than `Damnation and a Day.’” This is an album without a concept behind it; an album that you can listen to it without worrying about following a story or understanding the lyrics. “Damnation” sort of put a dividing line between fans (some thought it was “cheesy” and “boring”). So, making a follow-up album that is relatively simple and “easy to swallow” is a smart move, in my opinion.
That’s not to say that this album isn’t creative, because it is. It’s just not AS creative. For an example of “Nymphetamine”’s creativity, I suggest you proceed directly to the two title cuts. (These two tracks fuse melody and prettiness into the brutality and ugliness.)
But, aside from the lyrics, “Nymphetamine” isn’t very far removed from “DaaD.” It actually almost picks up where they left off in 2003. Both albums are full to the brim with opaque riffs, brutal blast beat drum patterns, and blood-curdling shrieks. Furthermore, like its predecessor, “Nymphetamine” has Satanic chants (what sounds like “eeyah, eeyah, ktulu, katagen”) and instrumental interludes. Therefore, I don’t see how anyone can call this album “a return to form.” Calling it that is sort of insulting “Damnation and a Day.” I mean, come on! It’s not like Cradle ventured into mainstream, nu-metal territory and are just now getting back to their brutal, black metal roots.
“Gilded C***” is a scorching opener. It sums up the album’s entire sound in one song (the fast, driving double bass and fast, dark, chugging riffs make this song fairly typical.) Some good drum work by Adrian here, but I suppose that’s not out of the ordinary, either.
“Absinthe with Faust” is a good speed/momentum gainer. It begins slowly with a piano, but Dani is wheezing and grasping for air by the end. The heavy guitar riffs (which chug and throb) help make this song a highlight.
“Nymphetamine (Overdose)” is the epic title track, and a personal favorite. The beginning and end of this song is just like any other Cradle of Filth song, but things get interesting at around the three-minute-mark. A piano (or something that sounds like a piano) makes an appearance, followed by harmonic female vocals. Then a deep, devilish sounding voice comes on, and the male and female voices take turns singing. The female vocals make this song pretty, but the devilish growl of the male voice makes this song equally ugly.
“Painting White Flowers” is a short but pretty instrumental which gives the listener a little bit of an oasis. But the band plunge back into brutal music on the very next track, “Medusa and Hemlock.” The power-chords combine perfectly with the rapid-fire drumming to create an explosive give-and-take onslaught
The beginning of “Filthy Little Secret” sort of sounds like a Nine Inch Nails song. The piano begins the song and remains throughout the beginning, even when the guitarists play machine gun riffs.
“Nymphetamine” is the type of album that I could recommend to any type of fan. Diehards should love it, obviously, but it is also a good place to start if you’re new to the band (because it’s not complex or confusing, like the concept albums-thus, this album shouldn’t be a huge shock to the first time listener.)
The bottom line you should know about “Nymphetamine” is that it isn’t as smart or creative as “Damnation and a Day”…but it isn’t supposed to be (Cradle of Filth didn’t try to out smart themselves with this album.) What they DID try to do (successfully) is make an easy to absorb, “what you see is what you get” album that pleases all of their fans and rocks as hard as anything they have ever done.
But what should this band do next? Since I believe they’ve already reached their creative peak, they could become one of those bands that simply recycle old albums. Or they could become a nu-metal band, or a band that turns into self-parody. If Cradle of Filth are a great band (not just a good band or an average band), they will evolve somehow (while still remaining true to their black metal roots). They should also set their standards high, and try to reach another creative peak (even if they try, but fail). It’s as the saying goes: “Aim for the sky. Even if you miss, you’ll be among the stars.”