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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

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