Produced by Scott Atkins, Doug Cook and Dani Filth
Playing time: 62.26
Reviewed by Brian Fischer-Giffin
Here, on their tenth album, Cradle of Filth do what Dimmu Borgir wasn't quite able to pull off on Abrahadabra, a successful combination of their orchestral and choral pretentions with some at times quite insanely savage extreme metal. In spite of its clumsy title, Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa is a continuation of their comeback from creative mediocrity that was presaged by 2008's excellent Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder, as the influence of the very talented Ashley Ellyllon and the resurgent guitar work of Paul Allender comes to the fore.
Indeed the album owes it success more to the arrangements and playing than it does to any of the vocals - the female leads lack Sarah Diva's considerable gravitas and Dani Filth concentrates mainly on a rather monotonous mid-range croak. In the past he's always been like a demented King Diamond but on this album he seems strangely restrained. There are a couple of times he adds a nice bowel-rumbling growl like the one in "The Persecution Song" but apart from a somewhat half-arsed effort in the opening track his high shriek is virtually absent.
Of course, some listeners will appreciate this more than others, but it seems like it's given the rest of the band a license to cut loose with some of the most furious and chaotic music that's adorned a Cradle of Filth album in a very long time. Martin Skaroupka uses a combination of technical wizardry and blast-beat laden speed to lay down a seriously brutal drum assault and Allender and co-conspirator James McIlroy use a superb combination of hook-ridden rocking with hyper-speed black metal-style guitar parts and downright heavy death metal riffs like the key riff in "Deceiving Eyes" - one of the heaviest tracks this band has ever recorded. Then there's Ellyllon's keyboards, playing counterpoint as the rest of the group's metallic cacophony swirls around her like a maelstrom. There's also no instrumental interludes - not even an intro track - to break the furious pace this keeps up for its hour-long running time. Late in the piece the band take a sharp turn with the blatantly commercial Gothic rock track "Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned)" that begins with an amazingly poppy clean guitar melody and ends with Allender and McIlroy soloing all over it like they're in Iron Maiden. The strings and choirs add the colour and spice they're designed to but, as mentioned, Lucy Atkins as Lilith is a bit of a letdown. Filth's lyrics don't seem to contain quite so much of his subtle humour as usual, but he does come up with amusing titles like "The Nun With the Astral Habit" and the laugh-out-loud bonus-disc track "Mistress from the Sucking Pit", and conceptually this is actually quite similar to Cruelty and the Beast, which will certainly please those who have found this band's output since then less than remarkable.
Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa shows just how great Cradle of Filth can truly be when they put their minds to it and might even bring some of the lapsed followers back to the fold.
1. The Cult of Venus Aversa
2. One Foul Step from the Abyss
3. The Nun With the Astral Habit
4. Retreat of the Sacred Heart
5. The Persecution Song
6. Deceiving Eyes
7. Lilith Immaculate
8. The Spawn of Love and War
9. Harlot on a Pedestal
10. Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned)
11. Beyond Eleventh Hour