On the surface, Cradle of Filth's Vempire or Dark Fairytales in Phallustein is a stopgap EP released to appease Cacophonous Records, thus ending the band's strained relationship with the London-based label. But it also marks the beginning of Cradle of Filth's image- and chops-heavy, slyly tongue-in-cheek persona. Highly stylized album artwork depicting partially unclothed, buxom maidens in various lurid, bloody poses and a giggle-inducing title (one hopes that Vempire or Dark Fairytales in Phallustein was a phrase dreamed up with a mischievous grin and not grim-faced seriousness) would showcase Cradle of Filth's evolution from young, corpse-painted English black metallers enamored by the nasty Norwegian scene into a highly original and astoundingly clever horror rock act. Vempire illuminates the group's transformation from the deathly conciseness of their debut, The Principle of Evil Made Flesh, to the more flamboyant, sprawling, and ornate architecture of 1997's Dusk and Her Embrace; with Vempire, the band started incorporating melodic snatches of Sisters of Mercy and Iron Maiden into their raw and primarily speedy sonic mixture of Bathory and Venom. In addition, vocalist Dani Filth started more effectively utilizing the myriad of ghastly voices that has since become his trademark, while songwriting and instrumental dynamics improved dramatically. The ambitious and lengthy cuts "Queen of Winter, Throned" and "The Rape and Ruin of Angels (Hosannas in Extremis)," at ten and eight minutes, respectively, pointed at classically influenced epics to come, incorporating whisper-to-a-roar dynamics and complex arrangements with recurring musical themes. Also notable is a re-recording of early Principle track "The Forest Whispers My Name," which shows a marked improvement in overall musicianship and production values. Essentially, Vempire, despite two fluffy instrumental tracks, found Cradle of Filth focusing their vision and storytelling craft, developing into a mature outfit who's not only brutally heavy, confrontational, and dramatic, but also extraordinarily listenable and more intelligent than the majority of their peers.
AllMusic Review by John Serba