Few bands have attracted as much derision as Cradle of Filth has throughout their career. But they are one of the few metal bands where the hatred arises not from lack of talent, but from overabundance of talent and the inability of some listeners to recognize it. Looking back at the black metal scene and extreme metal in general, Cradle of Filth has consistently been among the pioneering bands. If a trend becomes popular, they were usually doing it before most others. Even the band's missteps (Damnation and a Day and Thornography immediately come to mind) still have their hidden gems of inspiration and innovation. 2008's Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder was a stunning return to form, and its intriguing conceptual storyline was remarkably well-executed. Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa, another concept album, is a daring release with its own batch of new twists that will delight fans and potentially convert some naysayers.
Unlike Godspeed, this record's concept is not as immediately obvious to listeners. Lacking the narrations of longtime contributor Doug Bradley, the storyline instead requires lyrical analysis to decipher. It centers on the demon Lilith, believed by some groups to be the first wife of Adam in the Bible, and her return in the modern era as a goddess. The completely original story represents some of the most inspired and shocking lyrics frontman Dani Filth has ever written, even eclipsing the grotesque imagery on Godspeed. Not needing to utilize on the gore and horror of that album, Filth is instead free to let his perverse imagination run wild in a story that encompasses the Victorian era, Greek mythology, the Knights Templar, and several other historical periods and figures. Some may call it jumbled, but in reality it's a very precisely, well-composed tale that makes Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa the best lyrical album in Cradle of Filth's discography.
Musically, the album is extremely strong as well. The compositions are still grand, epic affairs that weave and slither through multiple sections on each song. However, the pacing of the album is more consistent than Godspeed, usually holding speed and tone consistent from the end of one song into the beginning of the next. The real advancement is the greater frequency of guitar solos, which have not been prominent in the band's sound until recently. The solos on "The Nun with the Astral Habit" and "Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned)" are both well-performed and tasteful, but the best ones occur on "Deceiving Eyes" and "Lilith Immaculate", two tracks that form the heart of the album. Lead guitarist Paul Allender outdoes himself on these two tracks, playing excellent solos alongside deceptively catchy lead lines. Combined with the lyrical intricacy, the band creates a winning formula that will hook all but the most closed-minded listeners.
Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa is a masterpiece of extreme metal creation. With some of the best compositions of their career, the highest-quality lyrics of their history, and none of the misfires they've suffered in the past, Cradle of Filth have delivered one of the best extreme metal releases in recent memory. In doing so, they have eclipsed their contemporaries and smashed all expectations, with complete disregard for the accepted standards of their genre. Cradle of Filth set the standards for extreme metal now, and Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa will be nearly impossible for other bands to live up to.
Score: 8 out of 10
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
Dani Filth – Lead vocals
Paul Allender – Lead guitar
James McIlroy - Rhythm guitar
Dave Pybus – Bass guitar
Ashley Ellyllon – Keyboards, backing vocals
Martin Škaroupka – Drums