Down the Same Dark Road
England’s Cradle of Filth are no stranger to the tradition of black metal bands producing concept albums. After a brief detour with a couple of song-based releases (even if those songs told stories), their ninth studio album, Darkly Darkly Venus Aversa, extends the path they followed with 2008’s Godspeed on the Devil’s Thunder. Darkly explores deeper musical territory, however, simultaneously punishing and rewarding the listener with an assault of speed and noise mixed with some breathtaking orchestral arrangements and strong character portrayals.
Darkly centers around the mythology of the demon Lilith, Adam’s first wife before Eve. Bookended by CoF’s signature orchestral keyboards (with narration by Lucy Atkins as the title character), Darkly wastes little time delivering the fastest, hardest drum beats around courtesy of Martin “Marthus” Skaroupka. While it’s a welcome affirmation of CoF’s place in black metal, it does get tiresome. Fortunately, by the fifth track, “The Persecution Song,” the tempo changes even if it never mellows.
Several songs that follow are quite compelling. “Lilith Immaculate” features Atkins in a singing role, and her lower register works nicely with Dani Filth’s mid-range screaming style. “Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned)” is a standout track with an infectious riff, an outstanding vocal by Filth, and again Atkins’ tasty contralto working together to justify repeat listens.
As a whole, Darkly is a welcome follow-up to Godspeed. Fans of CoF will not be disappointed. Despite some relatively calmer moments, the disc hits hard. Newcomers and fans of classic black metal like Mercyful Fate will appreciate Skaroupka’s fearless assault on the skins and the riff-heavy but solo-light guitars of Paul Allender and James McEllroy, not to mention the melodic touches Filth provide in some songs to offset the screaming. Depending on your tolerance for fast-as-I-can drumming, you might stop listening after a few songs, but the remainder of the album commands—and deserves—attention.