Cradle of Filth
Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa
6/2/2011 - Review by: Ben McCraw
By now the majority of the metal world has drawn its vast conclusions as to Cradle of Filth's ninth full-length album since its release last November, but for me this question remains: does the band really deserve all of the praise that they get for it? Admittedly, there have been some negative criticisms as well, but these have all been drowned out by the usual rounds of deafening applause. Let us examine the pros and cons.
The beginning of the first track proves once and for all that CoF are the masters of the cool sounding intro. "The Cult of Venus Aversa" begins with an introduction by the Lilith character herself, followed by Dani Filth's trademark shriek. The pitch manipulation of his voice that he displays here is something new and exciting, but the songs take a more characteristic turn after this. Intentionally or unintentionally, Dani's voice is noticeably deeper on this album, and while this does add a different tonal color to their sound, much of the fierceness of his past is gone, giving way to a much more tame and melodic sound.
The overall attack of the rest of the band is also starting to wane. The drums in particular sound much less intense than they did on the last record, and being noticeably softer makes long double-bass drum lines blend into the background far too much, instead of serving to move the songs forward as they should. Musicianship hasn't advanced much guitar-wise, as lead work is virtually absent on this endeavor. When a solo does appear, as on "Harlot on a Pedestal", it tends to be at an excessively low volume in the mix, and placed almost mechanically at the end of a song.
And while it would seem that the band has explored their natural minor song structures to their utter limit, they continue on with rhythms and riffs that are far too repetitive. This constant repetition makes most of the album predictable and monotonous. Despite this, a few of the tracks are relentlessly catchy, no doubt aided by Dani's songwriting which remains as some of the best in the business; songs are lyrically driven and this has always been one of CoF's strong points. The lack of dynamics is counterbalanced by keyboardist Caroline Campbell, whose classically inspired parts keep the theme of the album intact and add refreshing elements to what would otherwise be a very bland sound.
"Forgive Me Father(I Have Sinned)" provides the albums first single and video, a video that I think is horrible enough to merit its mention here. The costumes and makeup used therein were childish to say the least, as was Dani Filth's and Paul Allender's foolish behavior all through it. This project to define the character of Lilith failed miserably at its attempt, (I can only assume that there was an attempt) and did not help in lending integrity to the band at a time in their career when they so desperately need it.
In spite of everything that I have mentioned here, Cradle of Filth will undoubtedly gross more money than the Saudi royal family off of this release as their legions of fans will forever speak with their pocketbooks as much as their undying devotion. But it is more of a mindless devotion at this point, for the changes that the band has made to their sound and image are obviously being done to suit commercial interests rather than for art or spontaneity's sake. One could argue that that was their intention from the beginning, but my hope is that they will steer themselves away from this horrible new direction.
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