While Cradle of Filth's Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa is reportedly -- according to frontman Dani Filth -- a companion concept album to 2008's Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder, the results are quite different. The former album centered on Joan of Arc's right-hand man Gilles de Rais who flipped his wig and became a psychopathic child murderer. This set pays homage to another historic figure: Lilith (the Venus Aversa, the anti-goddess of love, directly under God), who, according to Jewish mythology, was the first wife of Adam who left him because she would not be subservient: she decided, as an act of free will, to make demon babies with the serpent instead. Cradle of Filth don't retell the story so much as create a gothic black metal musical fantasia around it in hyperspeed. Whereas Godspeed sounded entrenched in a directionless sprawl that labored with its theme, Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa is tightly focused, employing COF's trademark orchestral and keyboard elements to fine effect, with wildly intense (some would say insane) blastbeats from Marthus Skaroupka, and screaming guitars (including some solos!) courtesy of Paul Allender and James McEllroy. The concentration on writing and arrangement is disciplined, with a strong set of dynamics, a terrific mix, and great production, and of course the lavish package lives up to the band's reputation as well. Standout tracks include "The Spawn of Love and War," "The Nun with the Astral Habit," and "Retreat of the Sacred Heart." Filth is in fine Satanic growl here, pushing everything forward with intensity, a devilish sense of delight, and a theatrical flourish. He's balanced by the clear thespian contralto of Ashley Ellyllon as the (anti-)heroine. Paul Allender's guitar riff on "Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned)" is one of the most memorable in recent memory. The set also includes a bonus disc containing four extra tracks and working demos. Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa is an excellent return to infamous form for Cradle of Filth.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek