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Normally when I review an album I try and listen to a good chunk of the other material the band I'm reviewing has put out, especially when they have a larger discography. However, I'm not going to do that for Cradle of Filth, and there's a couple of reasons for that. First of all, they're probably one of the biggest and most well-known bands associated with black metal today. Giving context here is probably a bit pointless, because there's no shortage of polarizing opinions surrounding this band and I have no pent-up resentment towards early '00s goth kids that I need to get off my chest myself. No need to pile on. Even if I wanted to give some context or comparison, I probably couldn't though, which brings me to my next reason for not doing so: I just can't get into Cradle of Filth in general. I don't want to compare this to their other albums, because that would mean I'd have to put some half-assed effort into listening to some stuff that I already know I don't like.
Despite my position on the band being firmly cemented, I still make terrible decisions with my money. I stumbled across a beat-up digipak of Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa in a store that was having a going out of business sale (40% off everything! Sometimes CDs being a dying medium pays off). So fuck it, why not give the band one more chance, I thought? It was four bucks, not even the price of a 6" sub. Maybe I'm just letting the vitriol swirling around Cradle of Filth get in the way of me enjoying an album, because I don't really have a problem with symphonic black metal in principle...
At the very least, this actually sounds like it has a substantial amount of black metal influence on it. From what I understand, in the early 2000s they wrote some hackneyed goth pop, but they shifted back to their earlier roots in an effort to reclaim a little bit of their credibility later on in the decade. Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa certainly has a tinge of desperation to it that indicates this. Not necessarily in a strictly emotional sense; this is just packed to the brim with all sort of stuff that's constantly jumping in your face and trying to grab your attention. This album tries extremely hard to be extreme and bombastic, but it only succeeds in fits and starts. There's a constant flurry of blasting, double kick and aggressive, speedy punk beats in the drumming, the keyboards are constantly overwhelming your senses and stealing the spotlight, the vocals are all over the place (but more on that later) and the only thing that really gets neglected is...the guitars. Perhaps that's the root of why Cradle of Filth is subject to a lot of scorn from metalheads: they were never really a guitar-centric band, and that admittedly throws me off a little bit right away. It's a bit frustrating, too, because when the riffs actually do make themselves heard, they're pretty solid! It's just a shame they're constantly buried in the bombastic pompousness of everything else.
Love it or hate it though, Cradle of Filth does have a distinctly...vampiric feel to their music that isn't too common in black metal, and I get that keyboard-laden maximalism has its place in black metal history and this band played a crucial role in shaping that sound, for better or for worse. Maybe I have no place in reviewing this album, because for all I know it's just a competent album in a style I don't really like. I always hated that argument, though. I could review a Limp Bizkit album even though I fully well know I'm going to hate it going in, as long as I can articulate exactly why it sucks. So why does Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa kind of suck? There's absolutely no sense of dynamics. Even the moments that attempt to be more subdued transitions still have way more going on in them than they should. It doesn't matter if the music is going full blast or trying to be pretty and delicate, there's always something flailing about screaming LOOK AT ME I'M A SPOOKY VAMPIRE. As a result, I can't really tell any of the songs apart. Sometimes there will be an interesting keyboard part or some well-done clean singing (see "Lillith Immaculate"), but no effort is made for that stuff to stand out in context. They've got a feel to their music that is admittedly quite unique, but they don't seem to be doing nearly as much with it as they could. This is the kind of music that could go in all sorts of different directions, but Cradle of Filth seem limited to playing attention-grabbing goth metal.
I'm going to have to talk about the vocals at some point, reluctant as I am to do so. Now, let me make it clear right off the bat that I don't have a problem with the tone of Dani Filth's shrill shriek, despite how much ire it seems to draw from metal fans. I've heard that he sounds like a "dying bird" or some stupid shit like that...whatever, you listen to extreme metal, don't make it sound like that isn't a good thing. If you like black metal vocals you already have whacked-out standards. It's just an easy and unwarranted way to hate on the band. No, Dani's tone is varied, sometimes not great, but other times really good on this album. He uses a multitude of rasps, whispers, yells, and some surprisingly precise screeches that have varying degrees of success, but for the most part are competent and professional. My complaint is not with how the vocals actually sound, my problem is that Dani Filth can never seem to shut the fuck up. This goes back to the lack of dynamics in this album; aside from the occasional solo or a very brief bridge, Dani smears his poetic vocal pus all over everything, all of the time. For shit's sake, let the music breathe! I think the culprit is the lyrics, really; there's just too many of them. They're certainly detailed and verbose and are meant to weave some kind of story, but it seems like he wrote the lyrics out entirely before any music was written. As a result, there's just too many words constantly being jam-packed into places where they don't really fit. You can tell Dani's the only original member of the band and has way too much pull with how the rest of the musicians sound. Even with all the varied vocal tones, the similar rhythmic patterns make everything sound exactly the same.
Well, maybe not everything. "Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned)" is a clear departure from the rest of the album and perhaps a throwback to the band's poppier days, because it's clearly an attempt to capture a "hit single" sort of vibe. It's got a catchy main riff, and oddly enough it's the best part of the album. It sounds like the song the band was the most comfortable writing. Sure, it's not nearly as bombastic or energetic, but damn, it's nice to get a bit of a change of pace from the shameless pandering that makes up the rest of the album. This is a half-decent and legitimate release at times, but for the most part it's just trying way too hard. I'm sure you'll find something to enjoy in Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa if you're already a fan of the band, but this isn't going to sway guys like me who have always been on the fence.
If you chucked all the component parts of Cradle of Filth into a woodchipper and then compressed the result into an album-shaped whole, you would find yourself looking at 'Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa'. All the key tropes and sounds are in there: the obsession with semi-nude evil women, the recurrence of religion, the gothic features like nuns and moonlight, the overwrought poetic lyrics, the effulgent symphonic keyboards and choirs, the pounding blastbeats clinging to extreme metal's coattails, plus the sense of overblown drama that dares to dream in cinematic proportions. So, does that make the band's 2010 effort, a completely generic CoF album? In an intriguing twist to Cradle's knotty tail (intended), yes and no.
While the preceding 'Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder' had done a lot to quieten the uproar that met 'Nymphetamine' and 'Thornography', CoF still had a point to prove, namely that they could make an album of consistent quality and musical worth, not to mention proving their relevance in a musical scene that had come a long way since the band's inception. It's always a cliche to compare any group to AC/DC, but in the extreme gothic/vampire mode, CoF usually delivered the same goods from one album to the next and, having shed their purer black metal roots, seemed to have no intention of making any further changes other than the odd tweak here and there. For 'Venus Aversa', they did stick to their guns, though there are noticeably bigger guns on display here, with a resumed focus on riffs and extreme intensity after the 'Nymphetamine'-era dip. The ripping guitar that pushes 'Retreat of the Sacred Heart' through its first minute or so shows a determination to be purely heavy in a manner that the band had barely attempted before, tearing away any pretences of kvltness that had seeped in from the fuzzier production of the early albums.
As such, the defining feature of 'Venus Aversa' must certainly be its bombastic production and the sonic weight of the songs. Andy Sneap and Doug Cook both return from the making of 'Godspeed', though Sneap takes on only an engineering role, while Scott Atkins produces alongside Cook, meaning that the character of this album is similar to that of its predecessor, yet with certain advances made in sound. There is a very modern, "scooped" sound quality that makes the whole band passages imperiously grand in scope, benefitting from the low guitar tuning for the first time in memory, while the oft-maligned keyboards are not allowed to dominate, sitting above the cavernous fury of the heavy instruments and co-existing to great effect. The vocals too, so often overused or misused in the past, are given a great position in the mix, slightly above the rhythm instruments; Dani Filth also had a moment of clarity and decided to tend towards his lower-pitched harsh vocals with rare moments of mid-range and beastly narration thrown in, which I am personally very satisfied with. (See my previous CoF reviews for Dani abuse.) The overall effect is like a thunderstorm at night, with the majority of the band churning menacingly in the pitch-black sea, Dani screaming atop the highlighted cliffs, and the lead keyboards and guitar (of which there is a decent smattering) lighting up the sky in sudden flashes.
So far, so good, right? The good decisions continue with the individual song choices, though there isn't as great a streak of creativity here as there was on 'Midian', which turned that into a great album. Ultimately, most of the risks that CoF take pay off, with the defiantly modern parts of 'One Foul Step from the Abyss' or 'Deceiving Eyes', the non-operatic (*gasp*) female vocals of 'Lilith Immaculate', and even the ballad opening of 'The Persecution Song' proving that these guys can think outside their self-imposed box at times and reap multiple rewards without sacrificing any supposed "integrity" along the way. There is a good blend of the heavy and the catchy that shows Cradle have learned from their detour into more popular territory, while the strong doses of modernity are balanced by some cool 80s-influenced melodic work on 'Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned)' and 'The Persecution Song'. In addition, the sense of drama comes more from concrete musical movements and actual excitement rather than CoF's past tendency to include purely "atmospheric" interludes in their music, which rarely served to do much except break the tension that the songs proper had managed to build. The frantic ascent towards crescendo on 'The Spawn of Love and War' and 'Lilith Immaculate' are achieved mainly through the use of pace, smart guitar work, and Dani Filth's feverish delivery, the orchestral elements thickening the drama instead of drawing attention to its obvious nature.
If pushed to choose best songs, I would instantly select 'Lilith Immaculate' and also give credit to the middle stretch of the album from 'Retreat of the Sacred Heart' to 'The Spawn of Love and War', which is certainly more memorable and just seems to glitter more brightly than the opening and closing parts. I have to mention 'Forgive Me Father' too, the single from the album, another example that CoF can combine the catchy, the classic, the creepy, and the rockingly heavy in a single showcase when the mood takes them. However, the really curious thing I can't get my head round is why the opening 'The Cult of Venus Aversa' was included on the album, since it's starkly unexceptional if not absolutely forgettable: if that were removed and something attention-grabbing like 'Retreat of the Sacred Heart' chosen to open the album, 'Venus Aversa' could have been less than an hour long and packed with mostly quality extreme metal nuggets. Plus, we could have done without the rather unseemly album title. Nevertheless, it remained, and we are left with a very satisfying, though not outstanding, Cradle of Filth release.
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")
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 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.
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.
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 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.