It's an album that should really require no introduction, at least for anyone that has paid attention to the world of heavy metal over the last 25 years. "Cruelty and the Beast" was originally released in 1998 and was an obvious landmark in the evolution of a seminal extreme metal band. Whether you're a fan of Dani Filth's macabre theatricality or not, CRADLE OF FILTH became a big deal when "Cruelty…" was first released, and they remain a pretty big deal 21 years on, in part thanks to the clarity and cohesion of Dani's vision on what was a truly great record first time around. Okay, so everybody knows that the big downside to the original version of "Cruelty…" was that the drums sounded like someone whacking a biscuit tin with a wooden spoon and that nothing sounded quite as heavy or as brutal as these epic, ornate songs demanded, but a benchmark '90s metal album it remains.
Let's face it, if you don't dig this band then listening to a remixed version of one of their classic albums is unlikely to win you over. But for CRADLE fans, this is a gift from the metal gods. Projects like this are always a little perilous, not least because we metalheads can be extremely precious about our favorite records, often to the point of vociferously defending obvious flaws. But it's hard to imagine anyone complaining when they hear what Dani and studio maestro Scott Atkins have achieved here. Many re-mixing and re-mastering jobs fall short of their transformational remit, but "Cruelty and the Beast – Re-Mistressed" demonstrates what can be done: this is a flawed classic reborn in magnificent sonic splendor, sounding precisely as it should have done all those years ago and yet somehow even bigger and better than that. The drums are, of course, unrecognizable from the original's thwarted thuds and clicks: thank Satan for modern technology, because suddenly "Thirteen Autumns and a Widow" sounds like a bomb going off in hell, just as its creators originally intended. The overall sound has been tweaked to renewed perfection, remaining close enough to the spirit of the original without emulating any of its weaknesses and newly imbued with a very contemporary sense of sonic heft.
When you consider how compromised the album's original production was, it's a small miracle that "Cruelty…" has always been held in such high regard. But its appeal is simple enough: you just can't argue with the quality of these songs or the fact that CRADLE OF FILTH mutated into something bigger and better at this point in their history, earning their right to be part of metal's permanent furniture in the process. They have made better albums than this since, but none that have had such lasting impact. Finally, "Cruelty…" sounds like the black-hearted and bloody masterpiece it always deserved to be, and we can relax into our bathtubs of blood with a strong sense of justice served.