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Cradle of Filth - Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa - 80%

MindOverMetal, December 22nd, 2010

Lilith is a cunt. That's mostly what Cradle of Filth wants you to remember on their ninth studio effort, Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa, which functions as somewhat of a feminine companion piece to the depraved masculinity found throughout Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder. Rather than Gilles de Rais, this album focuses on "the scarlet whore skinned in magnificence" who was the "first offender and succour to demons" . This is prime territory for CoF, who—like Dimmu Borgir—have shed much of their blackened past for an extreme symphonic approach with gothic overtones.

Three albums on the monolithic Roadrunner Records broadened their assault, and this direction is welcome. Folks looking for bleaker landscapes can just live in the damned 90s. There are scores of bands doing that style, and the Filth possess the collective sack to record however they please. Pleasure-seeking is central to so much of their canon, in one form or another, and unabashedly embracing this rooted reality is a relief.

Clocking in at a palindromic 62:26, Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa is a demanding journey (to say nothing of the extra 24+ from the expanded 2CD version). It challenges further with a raw Dani Filth behind the microphone, who is clearly center stage for nearly all of the proceedings. He's one of those undeniable characters that you cannot help but be thankful for, much like the immortal Ronnie James Dio (RIP) or the iconic King Diamond (get well soon). All are talented lyricists and inimitable performers, regardless of personal preferences. Occasionally verbose perhaps, but come on, you wish you could write like this:

The scent of death is rent
In this ornamental verse
In ventures down the centuries
Tormenting me with secrets so anathema
And now the fires grate
I must relate, to end this curse
I'll break through spires to escape my fate
Am I too late or just perverse?



(from "The Cult of Venus Aversa")


Grandiosity lends well when invoking history with music like this, and Dani is truly a poet. If he catches flak anywhere, it will be on the increased strain on his shrieks as the album progresses (the most obvious offender during "The Persecution Song"). The other half of the bombast comes from young newcomer Ashley "Ellyllon" Jurgemeyer, formerly of Abigail Williams. Her timing and tone are surprisingly spot-on, and should prove both an inspiring counterpoint and tasty eye candy for future Filth. Which reminds me, let us collectively stop bellyaching about the hack that is Sarah Jezebel Deva. She was scarcely ever a worthwhile contributor and is easily improved upon by an appropriately-anonymous female vocalist interspersed throughout the album.

More significant is the return of guitarist James McIlroy, who last appeared on 2004's Nymphetamine, though the Allender–Pybus–Škaroupka core has really solidified in recent years. I like the flashy riffing the compliments even the most radio-ready tracks, such as "Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned)"—one of the shortest tunes here.

While Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa does not launch into legendary territory, it shows a still-confident Cradle of Filth capable of more than they let on in recent years. However hedonic their private practices, professionally they must be unbridled, as they repeatedly breakneck gallop into the mouth of hell.

FCC: 7, 8, 11
Try: 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, 10

Originally written for MindOverMetal.org

Yet another improvement over Thornography - 87%

Lustmord56, November 17th, 2010

Review originally published at www.teethofthedivine.com by Erik Thomas

Nuclear Blast has to be happy: The last couple of months have seen the label release new albums from Enslaved, Dimmu Borgir and now, Cradle of Filth. Three of black metal’s forefathers in the early ’90s, now grown and developed far beyond their roots into metal’s biggest acts ― regardless of what genre you lump them in now. To have secured the latest releases from Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth alone, is a coup in itself. Not only are both bands two of the most polarizing bands around, but because of that very divisive nature, respective releases from both bands command attention from fans and the media regardless.

Personally, to these ears, Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth have always been somewhat linked. They both saw their meteriotc rise, style changes and the subsequent backlash at around the same time, as both acts tried to outmatch one another in imagery and presentation. While a horde of new fans appeared, the actual music seemed to take a backseat. With that being said, both acts have weathered their respective storms and are now two of the biggest ‘extreme’ metal acts on the planet. Like it or not.

So, with yet another label and another lineup tweak, Cradle of Filth return with a new foray into a female based concept album and the formula―akin to Cruelty and the Beast―appears to be a winner. Where last year’s God Speed on the Devil’s Thunder saw the band vastly improve from the rather dire Goth thrash of Thornography, Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa sees the band improve again (album artwork included), this time using the concept of the original woman scorned, Lilith, as the backdrop.

Whether it’s the addition of keyboardist Ashley Ellyllon/Jurgemeyer, who after slogging away in US-based Dimmu/Cradle wannabees Abigail Williams, is now perfectly placed in Cradle of Filth. Or perhaps it’s the new guitarist James Mcllroy? Or simply the subject matter! Cradle of Filth haven’t been this sensually epic and scathing since the aforementioned Cruelty and the Beast. And while comparisons to Dimmu Borgir’s recent opus will be abound, rightfully so I might add (with the addition of a small choir to the proceedings), Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa is the slightly superior album.

While Dimmu Borgir’s Abrahadabra―which I enjoyed―has a controlled but lavish, mid-tempo pace, backed by a full orchestra, Cradle of Filth’s concept is rendered with a much more intimate, feverish and furtively blistering tone. Armed with a sturdy Scott Atkins (Sylosis, Ignominious Incarceration, Man Must Die) production and more blast beats than they’ve had in nearly a decade―which are now, with Ellyllon’s synths, as menacingly grandiose and sweeping as said era―the album drips with a carnal but dangerous energy and urgency that can only be called Cradle of Filth.

Quite simply, the opening trio of “The Cult of Venus Aversa”, personal favorite “One Foul Step From the Abyss”, and “The Nun with the Astral Habit” are as good asset of tracks as the band has ever penned. Virile, symphonic, yet rooted in black and thrash metal, the tracks heave and writhe with tangible sense of vengeful sexuality befitting of Lilith. And of course Dani Filth is in a fine form, reveling in the subject matter’s innate carnality with his croaks, screeching, hissing, rasping and overly dramatic prose and delivery: “A stunning woman, summoned, coming scimitar-curved, Statuesque, but living flesh, Draping nakedness about their pagan saviours, She came Lilith, a perfect myth, The scarlet whore, Skinned in magnificence, In her defense, She only slew a few of them”. However, he is aided by the choir and various female voices (though notably missing Sara Jezebel Diva who I thought would have been perfect for this album’s concept).

“Retreat of the Sacred Heart” continues the pace, but injects a classic haunting, CoF melody line/solo―not heard in many albums―into the more thrash-based attack. “The Percussion Song” finally takes the foot off the throttle for a mid-paced chug akin to Nymphetamine’s languid title track. The foot comes slamming back down for the pummeling “Deceiving Eyes”, which is as directly heavy and guitar/riff based as I’ve ever heard the band ― even with its expected symphonic trappings. At one point during another favorite, “Lilith Immaculate”, it hit me how good this iteration of CoF is, as the female vocals and a repeating symphonic bridge displays an upbeat and strangely alluring, melodic atmosphere that shows a side of the band I have not heard before. I think Ms. Ellyllon/Jurgemeyer is mostly responsible (vocally and keyboard-wise) for that.

Admittedly though, partly due to the album’s hour plus run time, as the album gets to “The Spawn of Love” and “Harlot on a Pedestal” its best parts appear to have passed. Though closer “Beyond the Eleventh Hour” is a classic CoF bookend track. It’s unfortunate that the single/video released from this album was “Forgive me Father (I Have Sinned)”, because as I feared, it’s easily the album’s worst cut. Even the four bonus tracks (usually piecemeal, subpar tracks or lame covers) tacked on to the additional CD are better, with “Beast of Extermination” and “Truth & Agony” being particularly impressive.

Of course, haters will still hate and recoil at the band’s imagery, popularity and (the suddenly Nick Barker -sized) Dani Filth’s delivery. I personally haven’t been truly excited about Cradle of Filth in many years, but Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa has accomplished in just that! Not only has it made me go back and listen to the likes of “Queen, of Winter Throned”, “Haunted Shores” and “The Forest Whispers My Name” on repeat occasions, but it’s also made me recall how really good these guys were at their peak and how good they still can be when they choose so.

We are the voice of the future past - 80%

doomknocker, November 16th, 2010

We know ‘em, we love/hate ‘em, and it seems we gotta live with ‘em…the mighty Cradle of Filth. A more reviled, deified, and overtly controversial group has yet to come from the primordial ooze of metallic devolution. For what it’s worth, I’ve always had a lot of respect for Cradle of Filth, mainly in that they do what they want but can still maintain that level of dignity and skill that has made almost all their albums great listens (I say ALMOST, as their track record is a little less than perfect…lest we forget the lamentable “Thornography”…). Regardless on how you look at their specific genre or standing in popularity, there’s no denying that CoF are here to stay and will continue plying their wares whether you like it or not.

And to that end, I took to this new album with winged feet…

To be honest, I was a bit dyspeptic going in…”Godspeed on the Devil’s Thunder” was such an awesome clusterfuck of an album that I worried that whatever would succeed it wouldn’t have that level of musical monstrousness and, let’s face it, with CoF that’s been the case more than once; the dark and visceral “Cruelty and the Beast” being followed by the tame and lame “Midian”, which in turn was followed by the even more anemic “Bitter Suites to Succubi”…the devastatingly violent “Damnation and a Day” suffering a two-handed fall from grace, both the minimal (the streamlined but still enjoyable “Nymphetamine”) and the cancerous (the aforementioned lamentably bad “Thornography”). But still, I carried on, with bright hopes that whatever would come after “Godspeed…” would at least be able to mirror its predecessor’s intensity and fistfuls of great ideas. And I was proven wholly right. “Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa” is, without a doubt, Cradle of Filth’s most cohesive album in years, where each song actually feels like it fits in the greater scheme of things versus the patchwork feel of albums prior. Which proves a point I’ve been telling people; COF do their best work with concept albums. Like “Godspeed” before it, “Venus Aversa” combines the modern-day guitar riff work with very old-school, “Dusk”-era keyboard lines that couple the now-fully Gothic beauty and barbaric brutality that’s been the Filthy way of life lo these many years into two fists of metallic aggression that more than satisfies. The general feel of the music has a very eerie and gloomy appeal, like if King Diamond and Danny Elfman wrote a soundtrack and gave it to a black metal band to record, which definitely fits the concept (the demon angel Lilith in this day and age) rather nicely. For the first time in years, it sounds as though most of the central arrangements are based on the keyboards lines versus the riffs, which has always worked best for the band, the way I see it; Miss Ellyllon’s key fingerings are quite impressive, giving the music more depth than one has heard from the group in some time now, and the performance is again energetic, lively, and filled to the brim with symphonic goodness. On the other side of the coin, the guitar/bass riffing and drum work are just as punchy and chaotic as before, loaded with slicing distortion and rapid-fire blasting, all the while not dominating the overall sound, thankfully; once they started putting the guitars in the forefront that unholy magic ended up suffering for it. Such is not the case this time around. Even Dani’s vocals sound more stage-left than one would be used to, and as well, his performance is quite different; leaving most of his screecher comforts behind, he instead employs a mid-ranged gravelly/raspy narration which is probably a lot less hellish on his vocal chords, but still works given the musical approach. But the biggest pisser is the bland, plastic-sounding female singing, which leaves a bitter twinge on this listener’s lips. I’m not sure who it was who did such a vile deed, but her voice, which reminds me of Helena Bonham Carter with a touch less insufferableness, only serves to distract rather than go with the flow. Thankfully, though, she’s not utilized as often, so one can continue to enjoy the disc unabated, where the madness of the heavier likes of “The Cult of Venus Aversa” and “Retreat of the Sacred Heart” meet the creepy, slower dirges of “The Persecution Song” and “Forgive Me Father (For I Have Sinned)” in a track-by-track entry into blackened metallic wonderment.

In the end, “Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa” blew me away in terms of it being able to capitalize on “Godspeed’s” sleeper-hit appeal. It goes to show that one shouldn’t count out an extreme metal veteran who’s strayed a bit from the path, as chances are they’re simply biding their time until they can spring back with both horns raised. And this is the best example yet. Highly recommended.

Progression stops - 84%

Freezerator, November 10th, 2010

Cradle of Filth is one of those bands that you either liked in their early years and now you loathe from the bottom of your heart, or you simply enjoy for what it is, trying to spot the good parts and tolerate what doesn’t seem to deliver. I must say I belong to the latter category of people and I’m not ashamed to admit that Cradle of Filth is one of my favourite bands. I’m not a fan, though, but I like the band, a lot.
From 1994 till 2008 Cradle of Filth changed their style with every album they released. You cannot state that their first album resemblances “Dusk and her embrace” or even “Cruelty and the Beast”. There is no COF album in this time span that should be labeled as a copy cat of another, as their music progressed in such a manner that the term “black metal” doesn’t suit them by far. In fact, COF has never been a “black metal” band, well, except for the first album, perhaps. They haven’t borrowed anything from their Scandinavian “counterparts” or from the European black metal bands that roamed the highways to hell and back and spread the word of evil throughout the years.

Till 2008 they amazed me with every album musically and lyrically, but this progression came, it seems, to its end with their new offering, “Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa”. The lyrical concept is interested, but not too original, as there are a lot of Romantic poets that treated the theme of Lilith. One example that comes to my mind is Goethe, who wrote a passage dedicated to Lilith in his “Faust”. Furthermore, musically, “Darkly……” follows the steps of its predecessor, “Godspeed on the devil’s thunder”: the same sound and the same production. The drummer does his best, but he cannot save this album from falling into mediocrity, the guitarists seem to be stuck in a standstill, as they barely shine on this album. Had it not been for the keyboards and Dani Filth’s voice, I would have regarded the album as a bad Slayer imitation. Speaking of Dani’s voice, it’s obvious he’s getting older and his once high-pitched screams are nowadays some bells at the gates of oblivion. He tries to grunt his ass off as much as he can and from time to time he keeps the listener’s attention with his high-pitched screams, but even his grunts reek of fatigue.

If I were to analyee the album song by song, I wouldn’t get too far, so here goes the bad stuff. “One foul step into abyss” is the worst song I’ve ever heard from COF (besides certain remixes), as it really goes nowhere, and although it’s filled with melody it seems the song is structured on just 2 notes that are put on repete over and over again. The same thing applies for “Church of the sacred heart”. The rest? There are certain songs that really blew my mind, but not thanks to the guitars, but to the atmosphere created by the keyboards and the neverending drumming. Apart for several solos, the guitars don’t draw any attention, they are used strictly for the rhythm section which is pretty much buried below the aforementioned instruments. The opener is one of the best songs on the entire album, presenting Ashley Ellyllon’s, the keyboard player, impersonation of Lilith which proves that she’s not only a talented musician (well, in the field of Gothic Metal she pulls the strings well, but I doubt it she’ll ever be as good as Kevin Moore or Jordan Rudess, the latter being one of her influential keyboardists). The song under discussion has some progressive and thrashy elements that merge into each other pretty well. In fact, the whole album is a thrash fest, but unfortunately not used properly everywhere. Another highlight is “Lilith Immaculate” , song that again uses the vocal skills of Ashley representing a dialogue between her and Dani. The single “Forgive me father (I have sinned) is really catchy and worthy of being made a video, but COF were never good at this aspect. Overall, the rest of the songs have both good and bad sides, more of the former, though, which is a good thing after all.

The limited edition comes with 4 new songs whose status as bonus tracks I don’t comprehend. They are nearly flawless for the music COF is playing at the moment and I really don’t understand why Dani didn’t manage to introduce them on the actual album, instead of “One foul step”, “The church of the sacred heart” and two other songs. “Beast of extermination” and “Mistress from the sucking pit” stand out among the 4 left-overs, but the other 2 are as nearly as good, in any case better than the 2 mistakes on the actual album.

What can be said in the end? Mediocre this is not. Could it have been improved? Probably. One thing is for sure, though. The songs from the bonus cd should have been selected among the first 11, and not taken as substitutes of art.

I smell a new era of music on the horizon... - 80%

burnoutfool, November 5th, 2010

Everyone has a secret shame, and mine happens to be Cradle of FIlth. I got into them in 6th grade, and I can't seem to let them die. I have all their albums, including their Nymphetamine - Thornography era (yeah, I know, pathetic), but I still enjoy them. Most people in black metal categorize Dani Filth as the person causing black metal to grow more mainstream. I agree with this, however that doesn't make it a cancer that most seem to stigmatize their name with.

Cradle of Filth has done some amazing stylistic changes and actually have some very catchy and good songs out there. They were also one of the first bands to pioneer the Symphonic sound that many black metal acts use today (The other two being Emperor and Dimmu Borgir). As pioneers, I at least give them some respect, the same as I give the Beatles respect for pioneering the sound that many bands use to influence their own music.

This album is yet another concept album and like their previous album, Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder, it is another step toward the mainstream. This album uses more tremolo picking, rather than power chordal structure, however, so it is a step back toward the early days of Cradle of Filth. I did enjoy the sound that was used, as it sounded more like pre-Midian Cradle of Filth. I found the album kept me entertained and intrigued the entire time I listened to it.

This album did not feature Sarah Jezebel either, so it was actually sounding decent. To be honest, I never really liked her singing (minus on Mannequin, where her harmonies with Dani's screaming were flawless) and the music seems to flow much better as a result of that. Lucy Atkins was a strikingly great performance, and I would like to hear more from her in the future. I think that Paul Allender really stepped up from the middle-era of Cradle's music, and Martin Skaroupka is a much better drummer than Adrian Erlandsson, in my opinion of course.

Speaking of the guitar and drums, they were great on this record. The guitar used either a catchy hook to entice you, or got directly into your face and got you rocking right away. It was great to see them go back to their early sounds. The drums were extremely technical, which was a great thing to hear. I especially liked the punk beats that were throughout the song "One Foul Step From The Abyss".

I think most of the mix was focusing on getting into your face, like the early Cradle of Filth used to do, but one song stands out - Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned). When I heard Dani doing semi-melodic vocals, I first laughed, but after the song got going, the chorus got me hooked. It seems that they draw influence from Depeche Mode or something, because this song reeks of goth-synth pop. Overall though, the mix fit perfectly. This was also the first Cradle of Filth record to not feature an instrumental track.

As a fan, I can say that I am thoroughly pleased with the direction that Cradle of Filth is going. Hearing Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder was a plus, but I thought it was a gem plucked out of shit - finding a needle in a haystack, if you will. It seems that I was wrong (for the better, too). I hope that Cradle's new releases will follow this trend and continue to surprise us.

Highlights: The Cult of Venus Aversa, One Foul Step From The Abyss, The Persecution Song, Lilith Immaculate, Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned), all the bonus tracks.

The poisoned fruits of alimony - 77%

autothrall, November 1st, 2010

The time has come around for another Cradle of Filth album, and if your head is not already dowsed in a pail of your own vomit, you might be pleasantly surprised to discover that the the band has built upon the strengths of the previous Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder, writing not only their best album since 2000's Midian, but perhaps one of the better of their career. Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa is yet another of the band's conceptual works, this time homing in one of what is undoubtedly one of their favorite subjects: poor Lilith, the pissed off first wife of Adam, and perhaps the poster child for brunette animosity towards blonds throughout history? Roll your eyes back in your heads, folks, because as usual, you can disregard the mascara sloshed masses of Hot Topic mummification and simply lose yourself in the bewitching poetry and rapid juggling about of searing axes, intense blasting, symphonic orchestration, harpy calls and Dani Filth's charismatic personality disorder.

Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa is hardly going to win over any new blood to the Cradle of Filth audience, but if you're enamored of Dusk and Her Embrace, Midian, Damnation and a Day, or Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder, then I can't think of any reason you'd want to skip out on this action, because it's thoroughly entertaining with only the faint flaws of a few stagnant riffing sequences that, while spring-loaded to the fangs with carnal malevolence, simply don't resonate deeply into the memory. It helps that the band have largely stuck to the same lineup here, the one addition being Ashley Jurgemeyer of Abigail Williams on keyboards and backing vocals, who has molded herself in rather well here. The choir and orchestration of this album seems to invoke a more effective trespass than the similar Dimmu Borgir's later opus, if only because there is a measure excitement in the interplay between campy keyboards and thrusting devil riffs, the latter so often engorged with their own thrashing weight.

"The Cult of Venus Aversa" blazes an initial trail through the dark depths of history, through the rank and devouring abyss, where Lilith awaits her revenge on the Man, Woman and Mankind that have spurned her porcelain beauty. The guitars squirm about like a spastic carousel that even Bal-Sagoth would be proud of, while the synths hang on edge like angelic war heralds, and Martin Škaroupka's drumming really begs the question: why would Superman associate himself with such a legion of night fiends? The orchestral segues here, complete with Filth's vicarious fuming and tongue lashing (like a crack-addicted Martin Walkyier) are the usual fluffy haunted house fare, make no mistake about it, but nonetheless a lot of fun, and a number of other pieces here offer equal escape velocity: "Lilith Immaculate", "The Nun with the Astral Habit", and the hammering "Harlot on a Pedestal". Of course, the delightful misogyny would hardly be served by a lack of dynamics, so there are some slower rocking, moodier pieces here like "Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned)" and the pompous "Spawn of Love and War" maintaining balance.

Act now and you'll get a bonus disc with four tracks that are nearly the rival of those on the full-length, plus a video for "Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned)", only adding to the overall value of the release, and I particularly enjoyed the hilariously apt "Mistress from the Sucking Pit". As usual, Cradle of Filth have put an enormous amount of effort into the finishing touches: the cover art is fairly typical of their releases, but still gorgeous. The lyrics are well plotted, interesting, 'colorful' and angry, par for the course for Daniel Lloyd Davey, the William Wordsworth of the black metal mainstream. The production is also well managed across the varied components, without ever sounding too glitzy or dumbfounded. The final factor is really you and I. Do we enjoy this notorious band, despite the political pratfall they've received by the underground? Cradle of Filth are good at what they do, but they could certainly do better than this, and have done so in the past. Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa just has the advantage of being a damned solid effort with numerous moments of bitch slapping, envious joy from the queen of demons herself.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland - 76%

joncheetham88, November 1st, 2010

Me and Cradle go back a way. Years ago my brother introduced me to this fun little song called 'Gilded Cunt', and together we chomped our way through an inconsistent but at the time rewarding back catalogue including still awesome songs such as 'Funeral in Carpathia' and 'Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids.' In the words of Noel Fielding's goth character Richmond on The IT Crowd, "I tell you, it was good having the Filth to come home too after another hard day."

Anyway, on this album Cradle shocked me by ditching the orchestras, the gothic sound and the slick production and recording an album of raw, fuzzy old school black metal mostly recorded in Dani Filth's bedroom with a tape recorder and featuring a guest appearance from Nattefrost. Nah, just kidding, it's super catchy and gothic with such lyrical flourishes as "cat got your tongue?" Not bad though. Although if you didn't like their output post-Midian don't bother. If you never liked them at all you're just reading for entertainment so be m'guest.

Godspeed On The Devil's Thunder was a good listen, but struck me as being conceptually similiar to Thornography's expansion pack Harder, Darker, Faster. That is to say, it was a knee-jerk reaction to the poor reception to Thornography that manifested as an immediate acceleration back into blastbeat-laden lengthy songs and elaborate storytelling. With Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa, the band's most gayest-named album, Dani seems to have regained his confidence enough to experiment again.

Darkly, Darkly is a fast paced extreme metal extravaganza with baroque strings colouring the whole thing. It's still about as far away from black metal as you get, but is still the most cohesive album they've probably ever done by dint of ditching the usual instrumental interludes that litter other Cradle albums. Doug Bradley is also absent for a change, which is a shame. I like that guy. Apparently they're remaking Hellraiser. Bet it won't be any good though. Replacing Dougy is Cradle's latest lady narrator, keyboardist and backing singer Ashley Ellyllon, who apes the style of Sara Jezebel Deva while possessing neither the continent-sized bosom or lascivious morbidity to pull it off.

A lot more gets done with the guitars here. Whereas Godspeed was predominantly whirring and chugging, this album sees Paul Allender breaking off all sorts of melodic leads, breakdowns and jarring chords that keep things interesting. Take the lead single 'Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned)' - it's totally commercial, catchy, rocking gothic metal, but the guitars are out of this world, climaxing in a series of classic metal solos. 'Church of the Sacred Heart' is a highlight, heavy breaks heaving into buzzing death metal riffs and the usual menacing leads. Album closer official 'Beyond Eleventh Hour' has some extremely convincing tense leads in the vein of Illnath, while the dramatic 'The Persecution Song' pays tribute to 'Nymphetamine' and 'The Death of Love' with its mournful, chugging motif. Turns out they can still do those twisting, tortured guitar lines in the vein of Cruelty and the Beast, on 'The Spawn of Love and War' and bonus track 'Beast of Extermination.' The serpentine riffs and creaking strings of 'Harlot on a Pedestal' make for another unashamedly gothic moment that stays just about blackened on the edges. While it doesn't have really striking standout tracks like most previous albums, Allender's guitar work and Dani's (slightly) more restrained songwriting make it work as an enjoyable concept and piece of music.

Meanwhile the drums, rhythm guitars, bass, strings and pretty much everything else are as on Godspeed - functional instrumentation that keeps the songs thundering along in typical style, jumping orchestral maneuvers (Cradle would probably call them "orchestral maneuvers in the dark" or something), on-point triggered drum pacing from Martin Škaroupka, and so on. They're all capable musicians these guys, and Dani's latest tapestry of indulgent, expensive chaos channels their collective talents into a far more focused and effective draught than in the last few years. The rousing symphonic beat of 'Lilith Immaculate' is a good indicator - a hell of a lot simpler than previous releases (excepting Thornography) but full of adrenalin, catchy and polished.

Dani is the one who falters - he can still whip out a harrowing shriek or a ghoulish growl if he really tries, but sings the majority of the album in a half-arsed croak, at points seeming as if he's just muttering in a funny voice (although it probably still takes a fair amount of effort to create the sinister vocals). You'll find yourself listening to the album for the backing tracks, and Dani ends up relegated to complimenting them, which is a bit sad considering his striking yelps used to be the icing on the Filthy cake - a track like opener 'The Cult of Venus Aversa' and its aggressive peaks could have been that much better with the larynx-rending yowls he peppered early material with. His lyrics aren't as smart-arsed and poetic as once they were either. Perhaps he hasn't been reading so much lately, although titles like 'The Nun with the Astral Habit' and 'Mistress From the Sucking Pit' are fairly hilarious. Eventually they'll do a song called 'One Thousand Facials in the Crypt of Satanic Porno.'

Overall it's worth a listen if you like Cradle of Filth. It was never going to be anything else anyway. It won't win over those who see them as a sold-out, talentless bunch of hacks, and it won't alienate anyone who stuck around through the last ten years. It includes the now obligatory bonus disc, and they've now decided to just make this an epilogue to the album, so the tracks are in the same style and basically of the same quality - which makes good value for money. I think of Cradle in the same terms I do Dimmu Borgir, I've never been caught up in extreme hate or extreme devotion for either band, but this year Dimmu melted down while Cradle seem to be capably cruising along doing their thing. Despite the progression in originality and daring here I can't decide whether this or Godspeed is a better album, but both are better than Thorno and make decent sequels to Nymphetamine's better moments via Midian.

(http://baileysmmcreamy.blogspot.com/)