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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.