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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.