Sound — 8
Ever the black sheep of Black Metal (irony intended), Cradle of Filth return with another blastbeat-laden trip into fantastical phantasmagoria and semi-Satanic cultural references. Lead singer Dani Filth remarked that "Darkly Darkly, Venus Aversa" is the band's heaviest album yet, which clearly isn't the case. Cradle still tries to walk the fine line between commercialism and hardcore extreme metal, albeit far more obviously than contemporaries like Satyricon. The production values are tip top, the sound is pure sonic absinthe, and it's difficult not to bang your head and get worked up by the energy of the album. DDVA comes hot on the heels of "Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder," which was the worst display of musical writer's block in the band's stellar career. This album seems to have learned from the glaring mistakes of its redundant predecessor and swung on the vines of a few different trees to achieve its clarity of vision. Nevertheless, it's Cradle of Filth. Song structure remains relatively predictable without treading too much new ground. It doesn't go for the gutter like "Nymphetamine," and it's nowhere near the sheer might of "Damnation And A Day," but I liked it nonetheless.
Lyrics — 9
Dani Filth is arguably the best lyricist in metal, period. He's back at it in true form with his own brand of darkly ethereal gothic poetry. The man screeches and growls with purpose about the history of the ancient figure Lilith, supposedly Adam's rebellious first wife who was given the boot out of Eden and subsequently paved the way for any number of succubi-origin stories and wickedly feminist explanations of female sexual power. At the heart of all this inhuman sneering is Ashley Ellyllon, former member of Abigail Williams. Not only does the woman possess a Bachelor's degree in Music Theory, but her seductive voice is a welcome throwback to old-style Cradle while still sounding vibrant and new. The key here is balance, and although most songs serve as a soapbox for Dani Filth's wildly imaginative storytelling, Ellyllon lends her talents on key songs such as "Forgive Me Father, I Have Sinned," and "Lilith Immaculate," two of the best songs on the entire record.
Overall Impression — 8
If there is a problem with the album, it's derived mostly from Cradle of Filth's status as a Black Metal outcast. Indeed, the band has sought to move away from such a controversial and admittedly stringent musical classification, but it's hard to ignore when the music drips with such dark atmosphere and showmanship of which Black Metal is universally renowned for. Only Dimmu Borgir manage to divide more metal fans down the middle. As a piece of music, DDVA is brilliant. I was fired up by the rapid intensity and pace at which the album travels, the subtle nuances, the occasional use of soul-boosting major chords and the decision to ignore "Godspeed's" bland and boring album structure. The band seems clear-headed and ready to rock, and although it doesn't hit the artistic ceiling of "Nymphetamine" nor the molten metal fury of "Damnation," it's still one of the better COF albums to come out in quite some time, and worthy of play.