Cradle Of Filth - Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa
Long have Cradle of Filth been UK's premiere alt, black, extreme, speed, goth, any label you want beyond traditional heavy metal (that title goes to Iron Maiden, of course!) band. And long have I been a fan, since Cruelty And The Beast opened my eyes to the depth this type of music can have when carefully laid out and executed. Since then, their inspiration has run a gamut of subject matter, and, yes, thematically, they have swayed back and forth much to the pleasure (or torment) of their fans. To me, they had lost a bit of the plot somewhere after Damnation And A Day and up to Godspeed On The Devil's Thunder, where they retreated back to what they do best; haunting stories wrapped in blasphemy, melody, and most importantly, full-album chemistry. They are not and obviously never will be a singles-based band, and their foray into that territory is thankfully in the past. On Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa, they have forged what sounds to me like a companion piece to Godspeed, a feminine take on a saint turned sinner, harking back to the glory days of Cruelty and firmly entrenching itself as one of their catalog's highlights.
Forgoing their typical instrumental intro, "The Cult Of Venus Aversa" begins with a familiar bit of piano tinkling, the style of which will instantly set the atmosphere of what's to come. After Lilith, the protagonist of our demented tale of biblical perversion and Victorian imagery, introduces herself, the song kicks into traditional COF gear; rapid percussion, thick riffing and the ever-enjoyable Dani Filth, whose range and ability still retain their depth after all these years. Truly, Dani is one of the most underappreciated vocalists I've ever heard, a range most metal vocalists can only wonder why they don't have and he's a very clever lyricist to boot. "One Foul Step From The Abyss" sounds lifted from their older works, very straightforward and emphasized (like most of these songs) with symphonic keyboard pulsations. Things progress at a similar pace up until the surprisingly melodic and very well written "Persecution Song". It has become a staple of COF's works to stretch their considerable talents around such mid-paced groovers, and to fit them aptly amongst their more extreme counterparts. These songs are almost always album highlights simply for their diversion from the norm. When it comes down to picking the best from the rest, the innovatie "Lilith Immaculate" shines above the rest with the male/female vocal playoff between Dani and Lucy Atkins, and one of the coolest melodic passages they'll ever write. You'll know it when you hear it, and should in turn be as impressed as I. The album closes on a few high notes; the blazing Harlot On A Pedestal", the Maiden-esque Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned)", and the epic closer Beyond Eleventh Hour".
The story is one, like most Cradle albums, worth following with a lyric sheet. Keeping up is a challenge, and each passage is truly a plot twist in an engaging tale of lust, betrayal, demonic possession and most other forms of wicked behavior. No band out there combines such interesting and engaging themes with a knack for writing all-around good songs. This band interchanges members at a very frequent rate, and despite that manages to stay consistent on the whole. This album should satisfy the fans, win a few new ones, and eventually be matched up with the best of their past on an even level. It really is that good.
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