Just in time for Halloween 2012, Cradle of Filth's The Manticore and Other Horrors arrives on store shelves. Their tenth studio album looks much of their catalog right in the face, offering what may amount to a midlife crisis in this band's career -- to the benefit of the listener. While it's true the increasingly bombastic orchestral and theatrical pretensions gained the band legions of fans, they also seemed to all but permanently alienate core ones -- this was especially true of the group's last two offerings, 2007's on Godspeed On the Devil's Thunder and 2010's Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa. The Manticore and Other Horrors is the sound of COF revisiting terrain they first mined on 1996's Dusk and Her Embrace. It's not that the orchestra or theatrics are absent (this is COF after all), but they are placed in a balanced context and don't dominate. The enormous, raw-sounding guitars and blastbeat drum energy of earlier records are abundant here. Chief philosopher and frontman Dani Filth growls gutturally, shrieks, howls, wails, gleefully intones unholy mediations on myth and heresy, and seems to dive in full-force instead of merely playing a character. Paul Allender's guitar riffs are the most memorable he's recorded in over a decade, and Martin Skaroupka's kit work is frenetic and unhinged. The sound is tight, blazing, and fierce. More than this, COF have written memorable songs this time out. Check the blackened death metal in "For Your Vulgar Delectation," with its crunch and roll, for starters. The atmospheric intro to "Frost on Her Pillow" gives way to dramatic and dynamic dialogue between band and strings with Filth soaring inside and over the top of the mix. "Succumb to This" is pulsing, urgent, frenetic, near-thrash. The female choral vocals are back but are more formally integrated into song arrangements rather than sketched in as atmospheric afterthoughts. "Huge Onyx Wings Behind Despair" commences with what sounds like an outro, but strips it back, and begins to build intensity and blackened animosity as COF plays in warrior-like counterpoint to the orchestra, charging full-on into an increasingly knotty maelstrom. While The Manticore and Other Horrors doesn't break any new ground it does accomplish something else: in re-addressing and building on their root sound (rather than trying to further dilute what they pioneered and made "popular"), COF achieve a victory here. It rocks.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek