by James Zalucky
For many metal listeners, the name Cradle Of Filth provokes a great deal of scorn and resentment. This is especially true among passionate Black Metal fans who feel insulted at the band's association with the genre. Some people are turned off by the extravagant subject matter, and dismiss the band's themes as sophomoric and stupid. Many feel a cringing resentment towards parts of their fanbase (I have to admit that when I saw them in 2007, it was a great show, but it did feel slightly like a Hot Topic staff convention…) and well…some people just REALLY hate Dani Filth. For my part, although I can sympathize with much of this, I am still a fan of Cradle Of Filth. Yes, they can be a little silly (The video for Temptation made my skin crawl), but they've still made some very entertaining and compelling music. The Principle of Evil Made Flesh, Midian, Nymphetamine, Cruelty and the Beast, and Dusk and Her Embrace all hold a special place in my collection. I was very disappointed with Thornography, but after Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder, much of my confidence in the band was restored and was hopeful when I heard about the release of their latest album: Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa.
The album's concept centers around the character of Lilith, the mythical, demonic first wife of Adam, and is a modern adaptation of the character as she emerges in modern society. The album starts off very strong with the blast-beat storm of The Cult of Venus Aversa, supported both by a brutal rhythm section and an entrancing syth/symphony backing. The punishment continues with the equally harsh ride through One Foul Step From the Abyss and The Nun With the Astral Habit. The album suffers from a lack of variation in a few parts, which can make it an daunting listen, but luckily enough the band is still creative enough to grab your attention on songs like The Spawn of Love and War. The song reminded me a lot of Midian, but still carried the Darkly theme with it, and has a few very melodic parts to it. One of the things I liked about Midian was the emphasis on memorable guitar riffs and perhaps this is why I feel slightly deflated with the rarity of standout riffs on Darkly. Through much of the record, the guitar serves more as a slab of foundation underneath the whirlwind of synth-laden grooves, riding along with the brilliantly executed drumming of Martin Škaroupka.
And then of course comes the most characteristic part of Cradle Of Filth's music, Dani's voice. On Darkly, his voice tends to roam within the middle register while sometimes ripping out the higher screams that he is known for. In typical Cradle Of Filth fashion, a lot of the vocals are double-tracked, with mid range shouting in the foreground, with higher screeching running alongside it. Understandably, Dani doesn't pull out the screams he once did (Malice Through the Looking Glass), which may be a tactic of preserving his voice for touring. When I saw them live a few years ago, he was still able to belt out Dusk and Her Embrace perfectly (still my favorite Cradle song), going even higher on some parts. Despite being in his late 30's, much of his vocal power is still intact.
Reflecting on the album as a whole, it's clear that Cradle Of Filth focused very much on adopting the album's concept and riding it through all eleven tracks. They execute this well enough, but at a slight expense of making songs that are memorable on an individual basis. Concept albums are limiting by definition, so it may benefit COF to break away from this format. (and maybe they can stop using those ridiculous voice-overs) Funny thing is, I actually like the Bonus tracks more than anything on proper album! Beast of Extermination, Truth & Agony, and Mistress of the Sucking Pit are all incredibly heavy, and composed with real precision and creativity that makes me think…why they didn't these tracks make it? The final bonus track, Behind the Jagged Mountains sounds like classic Cradle, in the vein of Cruelty and the Beast.
So, would I recommend the album? To Cradle Of Filth fans, sure. For those looking to get into the band, start with some of the other records to gain some perspective- and come back to this later. For those who already hate Cradle, this album won't do anything to change your mind. The band has a very characteristic sound which, while giving the band a definite identity, limits their appeal to those who can enjoy that sound. And in the context of this album, this reviewer still does.
Favorite Tracks- The Cult of Venus Aversa, One Foul Step From the Abyss, The Spawn of Love and War, Beyond Eleventh Hour and all 4 Bonus tracks
7 out 0f 10