Twenty-one years ago, way back in 1998 when their star was on the ascendancy and the average metal fan was wondering whether they were Black Metal, Gothic Metal or That’s Not Metal, five years after the infamous ‘Jesus is a Cunt’ T-shirt made them a household name for a variety of reasons, Cradle of Filth release their third album Cruelty and the Beast on Music for Nations. A much-acclaimed tribute to non-vegan Ribena fanatic Elizabeth Bathory. It was a milestone in their developing sound and at the time, I absolutely loved it.
As time has gone on, I’ll confess it’s been quite some time since I’ve listened to the album. When this appeared on my “to review” list I was somewhat confused, a re-issue? Why? a re-master, oh okay Re-Mistressed? Yeah, that sound more like them, fair enough, but still why? The original was a classic? Whilst waiting for the new version to arrive I decided to re-acquaint myself with the original album, fond memories of that album brimming to my mind’s ear of this pivotal album in my life.
Oooh, to say it hadn’t aged well is an understatement. I don’t recall cringing so much when I originally listened, way back in the day. This was a masterpiece? Surely Spotify has the wrong version? I dig out the Celtic Cross version of my CD, ohh right. This isn’t good, this isn’t what I remembered. The songs were there, but the advances in production standards meant this had not aged well at all.
The electronic elements which once were the calling card were very much a product of the ’90s. WTF, I loved this album, this was my gateway into Black Metal a genre famed for shit production, but this left me confused and questioning the integrity of my memories entirely: a borderline existential crisis, eek!
A few days later the Re-Mistressed version arrives in my inbox, with some trepidation I load it up and hit play. From the opening bars of ‘Once Upon Atrocity,’ it’s clear this is a game-changer. This! This was the masterpiece I remember, made fresh and new like Bathory herself after a big bath of virgins’ blood. The production is restored, no longer constrained by the technology of the day, it goes from cringe-worthy to respectable. There’s still the odd bit which couldn’t be masked, but if I wasn’t reviewing I probably wouldn’t have noticed.
Noticeable is that this version comes with the somewhat legendary Iron Maiden ‘Hallowed be thy Name’ cover, but sadly not the Venom’s ‘Black Metal’ or ‘Sodomy and Lust’ by Sodom. Covers that originally introduced me to both bands.
It must be said Cruelty and the Beast: Re-Mistressed is the definitive version which does justice to an absolute classic album which had, unfortunately, not fared well against the ravages of time. This version is essential and belongs in the collection of any COF fans. If you’ve never heard this album before then honestly, this is the only version you’ll want to hear. I’d still recommend checking out the Black metal cover on YouTube though.
8 / 10