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Cradle of Filth 

Damnation and a Day (Sony)

Cradle of Filth's latest album is important not only for the band, but for all of black metal. As the first band from the genre to sign a major-label deal, they've been thrust into the role of standard-bearers. It's a good thing, then, that Damnation and a Day is the major metal statement it is. In 2001, Dimmu Borgir's Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia took black metal further than anyone had before, with lush orchestral flourishes turning the band's already grandiose compositions into epics worthy of the early '70s symphonic-rock era.

It's clear, from listening to Damnation, that Cradle of Filth heard and understood. The band's sixth LP, which features an orchestra and choir, turns black metal into grand opera, while retaining the speed, power, and ferocity of the underground. These songs may be bolstered by strings and massed voices, but they're built around grinding, Slayer-like guitar riffs and lightning-speed avalanches of drums. The album's mix of melody and savagery is pitch-perfect. For a band that's seemed overrated, even silly, in the past, Damnation and a Day is a total artistic triumph.

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