In an age of dwindling profits and piracy so rampant one would imagine half of all under-30s wore eye-patches and wooden legs, it’s quite understandable that record labels don’t let untrustworthy oiks like me get our slippery hands on copies of precious, precious copyrighted music. Unfortunately, it makes it a little awkward for me to review a metal album if I can’t put it on an MP3 player and take it around with me. As I can only stream the album online, I have mostly listened to Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa on lunch-breaks and odd evenings at home, so I have not really had chance to properly get in to the mood of the album, which is by turns demonic, cacophonous and occasionally slightly erotic (in a not-particularly-arousing sort of way).
Cradle of Filth’s 9th studio offering is a concept album, based around the demoness Lilith, first wife of Adam and subject of various stories and boobs-out painting over the years. The lyrics and subject matter are pretty standard metal fayre, but I find myself unable to get in to them. For example, the voice-overs that say, “All mirrors lead to my palace – my exotic pleasure temple”, and, “I’ll nurture you and hurt you too, fulfil all wishes for my sad Aladdin”, both seem a bit silly really – but this may be because I am not listening to it in the appropriate midnight, candle-lit, blacker-than-black surroundings; there’s no wi-fi coverage in my dungeon, don’t you know…
Overall, Darkly… has a very intense sound – mostly double-kick driven, fast and angry. Unfortunately, the machine-gun drumming has been compressed into monotony, and it’s hard to feel a real sense of ‘rock’ in the tunes, despite the pretty incredible musicianship. The squeeze to get every last drop of volume out of the music often leaves the vocals a bit swamped and indiscernible. If I’m honest, I’m not sure that I want to hear about, “The spurting of his seed inside her cave”, on my lunch-break, but if I had this album as a fan, I would most certainly want to be able to make out what was being said/shouted/screamed.
‘The Persecution Song’ stands out – slower than most of the rest, but building throughout the song to a real head-banging conclusion, with just enough space in it to make it really good to mosh along to. ‘Deceiving Eyes’ starts off with an amazing Pantera-esque riff, but doesn’t develop it the way I would hope – it reverts to the musical equivalent of a pneumatic drill once the drums kick in. ‘Forgive me Father I have Sinned’, is Maiden-meets-Metallica with female vocals reminiscent of Evanescence.
Further comparisons with Iron Maiden are inevitable – Maiden are the only British metal band to outsell Cradle of Filth, and Dani Filth himself has said this album takes after them. However, musically CoF have a lot more up their sleeves, making use of orchestral strings, chugging riffs, organs and synth sounds, female vocals, a fair few voice-overs, plenty of palm-muting and lashings and lashings of double-kickdrum. The only thing CoF really lack, which Iron Maiden did have, is those incredible rousing choruses. Regrettably, that puts them in a style that has been done to death (and many horrible things afterwards), with nothing to set them a part from a list of metal bands so long that would make my editor explode.
Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa never really relents – which I don’t like. Being heavy is all good, but it loses its impact after a few songs if there is nothing to contrast it with, nothing to throw it into relief. It’s just like the way that drinking champagne every night in your mansion with a gaggle of groupies gets a little dry after a year or two. That’s not to say it’s not good, I just think maybe it needs to get out more, meet real people, get some sunlight, that sort of thing.
Release Date 01/11/2010 (Peaceville Records)