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 Long before enjoying the support of major labels like Sony and Roadrunner and headlining festival stages around the globe, Suffolk-based extreme Metallers Cradle Of Filth were just another UK band struggling to make ends meet.

Their first three demos did generate some interest but the band’s original attempt to release an album entitled “Goetia” under the underground label called Tombstone Records was aborted at the very last minute, following the label’s implosion.

It took twenty years and the involvement of a handful of determined and totally dedicated people to unearth some of this old material which, combined with the band’s third demo, is now released in a number of interesting formats under the title “Total Fucking Darkness”.

If the two questions that come to mind are, first, to whom is the re-release of a five track demo and a few surviving extra tracks appealing and, secondly, who will be willing to part with their hard-earned cash for it, then the answer to both will be ‘their fans’ – especially the ones in favour of the band’s rawer approach from the earlier stages of the band’s career.

Even the most loyal, however, may end up becoming slightly frustrated by the lack of focus and, most importantly, the below-par production which plagues quite a few of the compositions on offer – not to mention the odd out-of-key solo, courtesy of the band’s then guitarists.

On a more positive note, this twelve track collection of early material provides you with a unique opportunity to enjoy Cradle Of Filth at their absolute rawest – long before melodic keyboards and layered/over-produced vocals began to inform the band’s style.

“Spattered In Faeces” is, funnily enough (based on its title), the one song that will delight fans of Cradle Of Filth the most as it is the only complete surviving composition from the “Goetia Sessions”.

Up-tempo, guitar-driven and featuring vocals of Deicide’s style and quality, this six minute belter incorporates the best elements of the band’s early style, with keyboards acquiring an important but somewhat subtle role in the proceedings.

The remaining five compositions consist of the material originally featured on the band’s third demo, with the eight minute dark epic “Unbridled At Dusk” stealing the show, while songs like “The Black Goddess Rises”, “As Deep As Any Burial” and “The Raping Of Faith” showcasing a few interesting thematic moments but lacking the maturity expected from a Cradle Of Filth composition.

The latter part of this collection consists of three simple-crafted keyboard-led instrumentals of which “Seance And Mandrake” is the most interesting, alternative versions of “The Black Goddess Rises” and “Unbridled At Dusk” as well as a pretty interesting composition entitled “Devil Mayfair (Advocatus Diaboli) – a song whose eerie badly-recorded keys and simple but heavily distorted riffs reminded me of the glorious early days of the mighty Rotting Christ.

Let’s be honest here: in a day and age when new, well recorded releases come out in their droves, the decision to invest one’s time and effort in a collection of tracks of demo/rehearsal quality is maybe for the band’s most loyal of fans only, so it is to them that “Total Fucking Darkness” will appeal most.

That, of course, does not mean that any of you interested in discovering the band’s early steps should shy away from this collection – you need, however, to approach it with caution and in full realisation that this will not be the most comfortable of listens. Enjoy.

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