While parts of "Nymphetamine" saw a return to the blaspheme and bedlam that prevailed during the early days of CRADLE OF FILTH; its predecessor, "Thornography" left more to be desired than any album in their discography. Commercially, the 2006 release might have been a success, but that element of blackened (well, dark grey at least) and vampiric gore seemed to have been traded in for a much more polished and accessible sound. Ironically enough, just as the Hannah Montana generation gets its very own "Interview With A Vampire"-styled flick in "Twilight", COF counter with their most frightfully heavy release in years.Recapturing the full essence of the Elizabeth Bathory-inspired concept album "Cruelty And The Beast", "Godspeed On The Devil's Thunder" follows the tale of another one of history's more hellish figures, Gilles de Rais. Nobleman, soldier and generally well-regarded dude by day, this 15th century Frenchman had a decidedly darker side that came out behind closed doors; one that saw him take between 80 and 200 (some accounts even go as high as 600) lives in the name of Satan. Toss in the charges of sodomy and heresy that followed de Rais to the gallows and you've got the makings of a killer (pun intended) concept album. Dani Filth does an excellent job of translating the life and times of this dual persona into a set of lyrics that maintains the historical integrity of the subject, while allowing for his own perverse (and at times overly-theatrical) artistic liberties. Vocally, Filth pulls some impressive tricks out of his sleeve. His shrieks are like those of a banshee and his growls are a demon's, but the overall delivery is a bit too polished to be as ear-piercing as it could have been. The front man's vocals seems to be getting more versatile with each album and the returning backing voices of Sarah Jezebel Deva and Doug Bradley (narration) add even more depth in this department. Though it may seem like it at times, Dani Filth is not the be all end all of CRADLE OF FILTH, and musicianship reigns supreme on "Godspeed On The Devil's Thunder". Following the obligatory, symphonic, mood-setting opener, "In Grandeur And Frankincense Devilment Stirs", COF tears into the blistering "Shat Out Of Hell". Driven by darkened speed-picking of guitarist Paul Allender, this track, along with "Tragic Kingdom", "Midnight Shadows Crawl To Darken Counsel With Life", and "Sweetest Maleficia", mark a triumphant return to the days of "Middian" and "Dusk…And Her Embrace". The eight-piece choir that appears on "Honey And Sulfur" lends new meaning to the band's already defined brand of symphonic metal. One downside to "Godspeed On The Devil's Thunder" would be its length. When you consider how much many of these thirteen tracks sound so closely related, the disc's running time of well over an hour can feel excessive. The between-song narration serves its purpose of adding to the storyline and tying the songs together, but after so long, the Vincent Price impression began to take away from the impact the music was making. While I've not heard any talk of a Dani Filth-produced Broadway musical based off of "Godspeed And The Devil's Thunder", I wouldn't be the least bit surprised with the amount of dramatics and theatrics crammed into this disc. Was Filth and Co. to pull back on some of these extraneous cinematic elements, yet hold onto the blackened, minor-key assault that makes this a musically bad-ass endeavor, "Godspeed And The Devil's Thunder" would stand a chance of being considered the best CRADLE OF FILTH album ever. As it stands, in its sleek and polished state of grandiose, it's at the very least the best they've done in several years.
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