I noticed something many years ago when I first got a copy of Beneath The Remains on vinyl and I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to share it here. The back cover of the LP boasts a handsome photo of the young chaps on the beach, perhaps the very same beach Igor spends so much time talking about on the Under Siege video. Anyway, check out Max’s awesome “VISION” trousers that are in no way ever awesome:
Cooler than fuck, yes, but obviously enough to wind someone up the wrong way. Check out the same photo from the later remastered pressing from 1997:
Transformed, via the wonders of image manipulation, into a tasteful pair of black jeans. At least Igor’s giant Nike trainers were left well alone.
I was flipping through a book of Boris Vallejo paintings earlier today and discovered this piece, “In The Underworld”, from 1978:
I tell ya, someday I’m going to go into that shop and buy ALL those fantasy art books. Anyway, this is bound to look familiar to fans of hairy Brazilian metal gods Sepultura’s first EP, the fantastically-titled Bestial Devastation:
I’ve said this many times but it bears repeating that my favourite part of this cover is the Grim Reaper casually leaving the church in the bottom left corner. Looks like he’s just off to another day’s work, his lunchbox obscured in silhouette.
Anyway, the obscurely-credited ‘Sergio’ is at last outed: ’tis to Boris Vallejo this credit belongs!
It’s amazing how we take for granted things that arrived to us fully formed, most obviously in the case of music. I’ve never been able to write music because I can’t get my head around the actual creation process, and how once all the assembly is done the product’ll be handed to someone else to listen to and they’ll never know what went into making it, even if it was easy’r ‘n’ pie. “Why doth he ramble so, mother?” Shut up you little prick, I’m gettin’ there. Occasionally, bonus tracks on albums will feature demo versions of songs you’ve loved for years. Oftentimes, the differences are as subtle as more reverb changing the temperature of a song (like if Scott Burns had produced and mixed Sepultura’s Arise), and in more drastic instances the whole soul of the track is altered (like in the much speedier early version of “Tom Sawyer” we saw in Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage). The recently-remastered demo tape that preceded Rage Against The Machine’s first album presents songs that are almost fully formed, with the eventual additions or subtractions ultimately minimal things. Still, the idea, right, is that no matter what you think of a song, at one point in time there existed another version of it that was either a lot better or a lot worse, more often in the latter’s camp. That’s what this is. “Zero Signal”, from Fear Factory’s Demanufacture, is my favourite metal song of all time. It has been, pretty much, since 1996, when I discovered it on the Mortal Kombat soundtrack CD. This goes beyond nostalgia, too, because I’m too critical not to overanalyse what I really think about the things I like, and “Zero Signal” holds up. For years, I accepted that this track just existed, as a thing on a disc that was always there and always would be. That it ever struggled on its way to sonic perfection was a notion I was not equipped to entertain, not for even a moment. When Hatefiles was released in 2003, my appreciation for the song deepened upon hearing the original submitted mix on that godawful compilation album. What you’re listening for is the bizarre choice of vocals that signer Burton C. Bell employs on the verses, that he’s not used before or since and which sounds like a cross between whatever it is you call what metal singers do all the time and actual singing. I don’t understand it, I don’t like it, and if it were solid I’d push it back with fire:
It’s nearly enough to convince me it’s a joke, but it’s not a joke, I know it in my heart. To think, what could have been. Sometimes I wake up at night and just shudder.
Well, I’ll begin with an Official Opinion Retraction: I do not, not one bit, hate Cradle Of Filth’s debut album The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh: not any more. While there are at least four COF albums I like MORE than it, I offer this blog as compensation to the possible (probable?) celestial entity, the living version of the album whose ego I’ve bruised somewhere down the line. Olive branch, chin up, etc.
I’m not going back to edit this once I’m finished it (a new approach), and I’m going to say now that part of what I want to do is link to specific points in Youtube videos (seeing as this is a piece about specific moments on an album, after all), so as you read it, you’ll essentially find out whether I was successful or not in real time.
And if you want to consider this a caveat, go for it: they were once a bloody great band, a band with something to offer and a sense that they were really, really trying. In the 1990s I’d have been an ambassador for Cradle, as much as I was about ten years ago, but these days they’re the very sort of band I’d hasten to avoid, to distance myself from: I don’t like what they’ve become, and I’m at least a little embarrassed to say “I love Cradle Of Filth” because it could be misconstrued that I like the band that uses that name in 2011, of which two members remain from the album in question here.
1: The “Cradle Of Filth” sound: I’ve observed recently that a lot of the biggest bands in metal didn’t start out as they meant to go on – Metallica’s debut’s like Motorhead in disguise; Rush’s Rush owes a heavy debt to Led Zep; Rammstein is Ministry and Oomph!’s twisted teutonic lovechild. Once every so often you get a Rage Against The Machine, a Type O Negative: a Cradle Of Filth. People used to get in some amount of tizzies about the term ‘black metal’ being used to describe the Filth: I have no time for genre tags when it involves actually thinking about it. Obituary’s Slowly We Rot, Cannibal Corpse’s Eaten Back To Life and Napalm Death’s Harmony Corruption all share a common sound and ethic, despite their disparate origins, and are each “easily” death metal (particularly Burns Death Metal, a blog on which is ever gestating). Black metal’s a trickier one, but as it stood in its infancy in the early 1990s it’s mostly accepted as referring to a sound established by Darkthrone’s A Blaze In The Northern Sky (being the sound of rusty, crusty punk riffs set to messily executed breakneck speeds underneath hoarse 80-a-day rasps) and expanded by Mayhem’s infamously-contextualised De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (which added heaps upon heaps of atmosphere to the music and more than a little controversy to the public image side of things). The term itself was coined by Venom but that band’s work bears little relation to what it would come to mean.
What I’m getting at is that corpse-paint aside (that’s the typically adorned panda face paint for any newcomers), Cradle Of Filth owes little by way of obvious inspiration sonically (and here’s the money shot): Cradle Of Filth sounds like Cradle Of Filth. Dani’s dependably impenetrable vocals shift ‘twixt a mockably charming English drawl and a screeching that in my one example of plagiarism accusation would not exist had Massacre’s pre-From Beyond demos not spread so relentlessly throughout the delightfully infected tape-trading scene in the late 1980s. Beyond that, there’s little else that invites “hey, that sounds like…” comparison: the keyboards sit somewhere between tongue-in-cheek and regrettably earnest: the guitars and bass have unique identities and would continue to evolve over the next couple LPs: the drums… god, the drums. Nick Barker makes a name for himself, right off the bat (a saying I have no actual understanding of beyond my acceptance that “it’s probably a baseball thing”) with some well-beyond debut-album grade skins pounding and the earliest examples of his very own style of blasting that moved away from Napalm’s pioneering Mick Harris’ style (still my favourite) and would eventually become itself influential.
An example of the Cradle sound would be any of the passages on the album where the guitar cuts out to allow the bass and keys to hang out on their own for a while before storming back in, or several breakdown sections that allow Nick the opportunity to knock out, say, four or five different fills in a short period. It’s hard to describe too well, and I’ve said enough on the subject anyway, so let’s get to point the second.
2: The first of a couple of specific moments, and an atypically hard-edged, almost rigid little section: in stark contrast to that last flood of info, this is actually quite unlike Cradle Of Filth, but in a welcome way, not a “Danse Macabre” way. As it turns out, I CAN link to specific parts of songs, but not while also embedding the video, so head on over to Youtube (you’re listening for the slightly slower section before the scream bursts forth and the pace races past you faster ‘n’ you can fathom.)
3: The instrumentals: Cradle albums are traditionally divided by instrumental tracks…well, hold on a second, they didn’t actually record their first full-band instrumental until 2006’s appalling Thornography (though the song itself is the best from that album). Specifically, we’re talking keyboard interludes, and Principle’s are a delight, the particular highlights being the subtle, distant and daresay graceful “One Final Graven Kiss” (which gives way to a trio of blistering metal tracks) and…
4: “In Secret Love We Drown”, which is plenty beautiful. I mean, it’s really, really pretty, despite its apparent lack of actual music. It’s more like a bathing ghost than a song. Please don’t let that glibness devalue my meaning.
5: K, what you’re listening for here is a total dead stop in the song and a brief high pitched guitar part that descends into the sweetest three chord metal riff ever recorded and a very unexpected OH from Anathema’s Darren White. Enjoy (for once, I’m confident you actually might): “Of Mist And Midnight Skies”
6: The production: as an erstwhile production snob, I reckon I’ve now flipped around somewhat: I quite admire, now, great music that shines through the sort of production that stems from being young, hungry and ready to get your music heard as quickly as possible. If anything, I don’t like the uniform sound for modern metal: clean, yes, but like I said it’s uniform, devoid of personality. Some of the best albums of all time use production like an extra band member: notable examples include Sepultura’s Chaos A.D. (hugely distinctive, courtesy of Andy Wallace) and the familiar feel of the afore- and oft-mentioned Scott Burns works. Principle boasts what I’ve always called the Academy Studios Sound, which is perhaps a little unfair as many albums have been produced at Academy (and even by this record’s producer, Mags) that sound varied, massive and emotive, but that this LP shares its tones with Bal Sagoth’s debut and My Dying Bride’s Turn Loose The Swans earned their shared recording circumstances a collective. Deal with it, you albums! So, point forthcoming, I quite like the production in a sort of nostalgic way. It’s like I can picture it all coming together for that trio of British Metal Stalwarts in the early 1990s, all in the same place with the same equipment, sounding the same for a while before moving on to bigger and better things (including at least six of my favourite albums from all involved).
7: There’s no bullshit. From 1998’s Cruelty And The Beast onwards, there’s at least one section of every album that I’d skip, and one that I’ll cringe at. Principle’s not perfect, but it’s lean and fat free and just about totally devoid of pretension and piffle.
8: Without trying to sound elitist, three of its songs were re-recorded in a Romero-esque play to make a little money off of them (like with Big George’s first film Night Of The Living Dead, Cradle have earned no royalties from their debut) and not one of them can hold a candle to the original versions. Another (“The Forest Whispers My Name”) popped up again on the follow-up, Vempire, but THAT version (and its containing disc) are beyond criticism.
9: It has a perfect closer with a perfect closing moment, as “Summer Dying Fast”’s plucked strings fade out over a pleasantly bobbing bass line (again, no guitars) that calls to mind with no difficulty at all a lovely sunset. Typically, I’ve no awareness of the lyrics coupled with the preceding section, but to me it’s a music of perfect happiness and a brave way to close a metal album.
10: Intro aside, it opens with one of the best riffs ever. Face punched.
No joke, I dreamt last night about writing this post and titling it ‘consolidate me’ (to the tune of Rush’s “Animate”, so that’s what’s happened. Story goes, I’m always annoyed about the glut, the deluge (couldn’t decide which I liked more) of songs and even entire albums on my iTunes and PS3 that I never listened to, never INTENDED to listen to or even actively disliked. It shouldn’t bother me: Dominic has countless duplicates on his computer, not to mention gigabytes of music that friends have put on his hard drive that he too never listens to, nor intends to. Some day I’ll get a wee fiddle at his iTunes as well, but that’s a big task, and I’m only just finished with my own.
This is not the first time I’ve done this, but it’s a little closer to being the last. IN 2008 or so my computer was riddled with multiple copies of many songs and it took some doing to get that sorted. I had a similar situation this time with original files being located in altogether different sections of my hard drive which wouldn’t copy directly into the supposedly self-organising iTunes Music folder, but that was the last of my worries: first I had to polish things up.
I began by checking which songs were lacking an entry in any of the following: Year, title, artist, album and genre. To be honest, there weren’t a lot, but enough to merit doing it, plus it was extremely easy to do. Secondly I changed the years for albums that were either notably remixed in a certain year (so Pearl Jam’s Ten and Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine remixes moved from 2009/2010 to their original years) and for live albums I changed it to the year of recording from the year of release (so Sepultura’s Under A Pale Grey Sky moved from 2003 to 1997). This is something I wanted to do for a long time, particularly as I have a ludicrous memory for figures and on PS3 the easiest way to arrange music is by year. It seems more logical to me to have a live document from 1981 sit alongside the album it was released in promotion of in that same year.
With that petty ordeal out of the way, I turned my attention to The Cull. I’ve had a pop at pruning my iTunes folder before but never in such a brutal, merciless manner before. One thing worth mentioning is that pressing the delete button over a selected song only deletes the song from iTunes, but the little fucker remains hidden in your HDD somewhere, whereas entering the options menu that pops up on a right-click and deleting from there will allow you to wipe it from your computer altogether. This is something I didn’t realise before and it’ll be relevant again later.
I had a few protected albums, exempt from The Cull’s relentless gaze, namely those most recent fancies that I’ve yet to fully explore: albums produced or engineered by Scott Burns and by Ministry were spared the rod so to speak. Everything after that was fair game. It’s a sad reality when your getting into a band that you don’t like everything of theirs, but enough time has passed that my brain finally allowed me to do away with a great deal of music by bands that I would still claim to like. For example, from Napalm Death’s last four albums, only a handful of tracks remain, about 6 from their latest and 2 from a 2005 release. Liking Napalm Death does NOT mean I need to have their entire catalogue represented in my music collection. It’s rewarding to finally realise this, let alone apply it to SO many other bands. Between Rush’s 1982 album Signals and their 2002 ‘comeback’ Vapor Trails, I have barely one album’s worth of songs culled from 7 full-length releases. The realisation came easily that the time I kept telling myself I’d devote to getting familiar with these albums was never coming, so away they went.
Part of the idea behind this was that if I put the whole thing on shuffle, no song would come on that I’d want to skip, and though I’m not quite there yet I am SO much closer to it than I was before I started. My library (if you will) is so much leaner a beast now.
But wait: there’s more. Because my PS3 is my primary (almost only) method of listening to music and organisation by year is for me the most efficient method of doing so, certain methods had to be applied to maximise said efficiency. I have an awful lot of game and film music on there (though a LOT of the film music didn’t pass The Cull) and such albums tend to comprise a huge amount of tracks which can be a pain when cycling through to find a song you like, particularly in the case of 1996 (my favourite year for music) which in Soul Blade and Tekken 2 alone boasts something like 150 tracks. I have, however, found a way to counteract this. Originally I subtracted a thousand years from each album’s release date, so 2006 became 1006 and so on, which in iTunes works fantastically, but the problem is that the PS3 doesn’t recognise any year less than 1000 and as most of my music if from before then (film scores just ain’t what they used to be) I had to reassess. What I’ve ended up doing is reducing every year by a seemingly awkward 900, so 1999 is now 1099 and 2001 is 1101. With at least the last two years matching their actual counterpart in makes browsing for ‘actual’ music a lot quicker, and all the score music (and comedy, come to think of it) is in one handy place. Simpler than it sounds, though I will admit I was the least harsh on the game scores section and a further Culling is in store, so smoke ’em if ya got ’em, Biohazard 2 Complete Track (ludicrous Japanese title).
Following the deciding of which tracks I wanted rid of I needed to ensure they were all in the one place, so I ended up creating a new folder (titled ‘noofe’, as is now tradition on my trusty little Acer laptop) on my desktop and copying the 7000+ tracks directly into it from the iTunes browser rather than a specific folder, ensuring that whatever was on the screen at that point would be preserved. Once that was done the count showed a missing 60 tracks but so far I’ve yet to notice any major losses (sorry, I should say ANY losses) and if I do I can easily rectify it. With the new iTunes folder created I deleted the old one and reinserted the songs back into iTunes, creating automatically a new self-regulating iTunes Music folder and THEN deleting the one I had created earlier. Confused? Thank your lucky stars if you are: no-one should be burdened with this much thought over an efficient music library.
Once that was done I had to delete the music from my PS3 to make room for the new and improved (a favourite oxymoron) library. Sadly, the PS3 doesn’t allow for a quick ‘delete all’, so I had to do it by genre, one at a time, though it didn’t take long enough to moan about it. Then copied the iTunes folder onto my iPod, then onto the PS3, the latter stage of which took a good seven hours.
Think I’m finished? Think again bro.
I then had to ensure everything on the PS3 was in top order, seeing as it’s where I’d be using the music 99% of the time. What I was looking for were 1) songs I didn’t want that had escaped The Cull (and I caught about 20 or so), 2) songs marked as ‘corrupted data’ or ‘unrecognized content’ that would no longer play on the PS3 but work fine in iTunes and require re-downloading (including “Broken Wings” by Mr. Mister and parts of the Dawn Of The Dead score taken from the DeWolfe Music Library) and 3) songs without artwork (numbering about 20 albums). All issues have since been rectified and the PS3 music library is just about as perfect as can be.
All in all, I lost about 20GB of music which is close to a third of what I had before I started, and I can honestly claim that 99% of it is music I either love or intend to listen to in the next two months. If I DON’T listen to it within two months, it gets binned. Chances are the thing’ll actually get smaller as time goes on.
Thanks for sticking with me, I bet it wasn’t easy.
BUT YOU’VE NO EXCUSE FOR COMPLACENCY: CONSOLIDATE!!!