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The success of Cradle of Filth was in no way inevitable. Granted, metal has always sported its share of glam, and even the rawest of corpse-obsessed Norwegians bought into that eyeliner tradition during the ’90s. Yet this 12-year-old British quintet has married marketable theatricality (think: Slipknot) with uncompromising black metal (think: a bunch of bands you’ve never heard of) and hopped over the major-label threshold—Sonic Youth and Nirvana aside, an almost unprecedented feat for a group that makes such marginalized music. Because of the more vendible elements of its persona—Marilyn Manson contacts, Matrix body suits, and Kiss levels of Clown White—I was fully prepared to write off Cradle of Filth as all sound and fury, signifying squat. But whatever time the group spends on its Goth-glam image doesn’t come at the expense of its highly evolved songs. That the hardest of black-metal fans won’t claim them is another issue. Yes, Damnation and a Day is ridiculous—punctuated by “angelic” female vocals, thin-spun keyboards, and horror-flick orchestration. But the band wears those sell-out sonics as a badge of honor: The liner notes read, “Over produced by Doug Cook and Cradle of Filth.” And in reality, most of this 77-minute album sounds like five guys in front of mikes. “An Enemy Led the Tempest,” for example—there’s really no reason to choose more than one—is hard rock of the most straight-ahead and devastating variety, alternating between blizzard-thick melodies and blocky percussive riffs. The real novelty here is the way vocalist Dani Filth splits notes: When he sings, “Repentance might stay holy war,” he attacks the last syllable like the possessed man he so badly wants to be, splintering it into high-pitched fragments. Is it great art? Not at all. But as far as escapism goes, it’s the very best kind: something as distant as possible from my own world. —Brent Burton