|Gothic Metal, Symphponic Black Metal
Nuclear Blast Records, Peaceville Records
November 9th, 2010
Release length: 1:02:37
Well it comes pretty close honestly. The material here is about the same quality as what you would find on Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa, having a very grim atmosphere through a pretty clean production. That sound can hurt some tracks, but others sound like they were completed for the album but just not used, having a bit of a rougher sound to them that gives the music a rougher edge. For the most part, the music has that sleek gothic tone to it that Cradle of Filth has become accustomed to lately. The guitars sound great with a slight Black Metal distortion against some deep bass that varies with how much of an impact it makes, the vocals are clear in the mix and just loud enough to not be drowned out by the music, but the symphonic keyboard elements can really take a good deal away from the music sometimes, as well as even feel a little drowned out depending on the effect used, or just the lower notes. The drumming comes through pretty clear as well with the snares and cymbals being the most predominant, sounding thick and crashing loudly, however in some cases the kicks are basically drowned out thanks to the deeper thud being too low against the keyboards and guitars, finding the bass really coming in to save the day instead.
The audio included really isn’t the most spellbinding either outside the quality. It all starts with a spoken word introduction that has plenty of ambient effects layered over it. It’s a narration of a letter discussing the “Tapes from Hell” and how it chills the listener to the bone. This goes into the demo version of “Thank Your Lucky Scars” which actually didn’t make the cut on Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa, and it’s actually pretty shocking it didn’t. This song clearly sounds a bit deeper and, for a demo, seems to have some stronger mastering to it comes to other demo and “elder version” recordings. The tone of the track really brings you back to early Cradle of Filth aggression, but isn’t shy on having catchier Gothic riffs really take center stage and evolve into some really furious material that is spearheaded by the drumming. The overall sound of this track carries over into “Lilith Immaculate (Demo Version) (Extended Length),” which is exactly what it says it is. The version of “Lilith Immaculate” to appear on the full-length was six minutes and twelve seconds, while this demo version has it at eight minutes and eleven seconds. There really isn’t that big a difference between the two as far as the audio goes, but in the end you can tell why this one was eventually cut down in length. As you come closer to the end, the music starts to feel a little more drawn out with additional symphonic elements. It’s not that it’s bad in comparison, it’s just the other version sounds a lot tighter than this one.
This leaves us with the “Elder Versions.” These are the most questionable versions you can find, and really makes you happy the ones that appear on the full-length were the ones chosen. These songs aren’t even mentioned in the explanation int he booklet, while everything else is, acknowledging the demo tracks are not-quite-finished songs from the studio. But these have no real explanation, and really just sound like half-assed un-mastered test versions. “Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinner)” sounds toned down horribly, especially in the vocals, showing a Gothic Rock border being crossed by the band and a lot more harmonic vocals with the cleanest male vocal performance in Cradle of Filth history altered greatly by distortion. “The Persecution Song,” however, is still a pretty enjoyable track that really isn’t as rough as the previous “Elder Version,” and shows a better performance from the band all around compared to the rather phoned in one earlier. However, “The Spawn of Love and War” seems to walk the line between the previous two. Some elements of the song don’t quite sound as strong as they could be, largely at fault of the cleaner sound to the music, especially the vocals. But then there are times on this song where the music gets really thick and it really just sounds great compared to around the four-minute mark where the bass seems to go away and the music just sounds like higher pitched madness in the vein a rawer Black Metal album.
Finally, there are two tracks here that seem a bit out-of-place for various reasons. As mentioned, “Transmission from Hell” seems to be a new spoken word segment for this EP and acts as an introduction in the same way the start of the description in the booklet warns readers of what the EP holds for them. But, what little compilation of Cradle of Filth material would be complete without some Techno? “Forgive Me Father (I’m in a Trance)” is a Techno/Rave rendition of the song. The instruments are replaced with the synthetic sounds of the style, and overall it does have an infectious beat that mimics the original material pretty well. Some distortion is used on the vocals at times for the chorus, but other than that they are about the same. It’s enjoyable, but again just comes out of nowhere as you reach the end of the audio disk. Then finally you have the really out-of-nowhere “Summer Dying Fast (‘Midnight in the Labyrinth’ Breadcrumb Trail)” track that comes from the The Principle of Evil Made Flesh, but clearly modernized a bit. Again, this is far from bad and is actually one of the best offerings this collection holds. The five-minute and twenty-two symphonic instrumental, which acts as the closing music to Cradle of Filth‘s set for recent show dates, really establishes a creepy atmosphere that die-hard fans will instantly fall in love with. However, gamers may find something to giggle at as some chords do bare a hint of similarity to early Castlevania video games. Aside that, it’s a good reinterpretation of the track, and well worth checking out if you like the original in any way.
Now, onto the last bit of this collection. There’s a second disk to this release, a DVD that features three different videos. First, the main reason a lot of people will buy this, which is the Graspop live performance video. The live concert part of the DVD has its ups and downs. The video is clearly shot with regular cameras and not with high-definition, but it still looks good. Given the band’s stage appearance, it works in their favor honestly. The editing is shot well, and there’s a decent amount of time paid on each band member, plenty of well executed shots, and it doesn’t come off like someone changing clips with ADHD on a caffeine rush. The audio is pretty good, though a little muddy none the less, making you wonder if it’s from the speakers or directly from a really crappy sound board. Either way, there’s a hell of a lot of complications here. There’s feedback constantly, especially in the high-pitched shrieks, and even when Dani is just addressing the crowd and no one is moving from where they stood. The female vocals are really loud and, sadly, she sucks live. Pure and simple. She may be pleasant on the eyes but her performance is really lacking vocally. Then again, it may be the recording they have her singing over. Yes, that’s right, during one of the songs when she starts singing, there is a close up on here and you clearly hear two distinct voices performing and she’s the only female vocalist, and one of them sounds really good while the other like garbage, so who knows, maybe she’s good, but singing over the same lyrics/vocals that are pre-recorded is never a good sign of a singer with talent. Then again it’s just this song, and during “Nymphetamine” you clearly know who is singing, and the very Kittie-esque sound in her voice doesn’t feel that dark or gothic/romantic at all, and her performance in “Her Ghost in the Fog” is very grating with how she doesn’t even bother to put effort into it. But she’s not the only culprit as Dana changes things up too in the set, not usually for the better either, such as the maniacal laugh in that same song that causes him to go off on a bit of a tangent to catch up before the next passage begins, which sounds like he’s trying to rap.
Other than that, all the instruments are performed well, including the keyboards, but that doesn’t really mean they sound good. In fact the guitars sound horrible at the start, and even Dani’s voice, an instrument in its own right, comes off like he wasn’t fully prepared to take stage as you can clearly hear him struggling with the shrieks in the first two tracks of the set. But, as the band warms up, the music gets tighter, and some of the imperfections are better masked, or just go away thanks to the band sounding how they should have been the second they took the stage. Also, some knowledge as to where to stand and not stand, especially for Dani, would have been really good for the band to know since the feedback is so atrocious. Between the female vocals, the poor variances in Dani’s performance, and that feedback, it actually became a really hard set to sit through, which is bad since their other recorded live performances sound so great in comparison. Oh, yeah, and there’s no set list anywhere except on the screen prior to starting the concert.
Also included on the DVD is the uncensored promotional video for “Lilith Immaculate,” which is found on the full-length, as well as a “demo” version on this collection. The song is catchy with a grim, gothic overtone that caters to exactly what makes Cradle of Filth such a great act. Additionally, it shows the pros and cons to that new female vocalist of theirs. Yes, in the studio she has a better voice, though no one can really replace Sarah Jezebel Deva honestly, and much like her live performance she just stands there, even when all she does it play a few notes then wait for her cue to play them again. Once in a while she’ll alter her stance and move her head once, but sticks out like a sore thumb the entire time. But, on the positive side, the story on the video is good, and the acting of the woman playing Lilith is enjoyable to watch, and, hey, boobies! So there’s also that to look forward to. But, if that’s not your thing, there’s also the documentary “You Can’t Polish a Turd, But You Can Roll it in Glitter,” which covers the bands touring through English and Russia. Above all with this, it’s really interesting to hear Dani’s normal speaking voice, as well as see all the band members without their make-up on. Other than that, it’s mostly just some backstage footage or talking about the set up when they get there coupled with extensive live footage with a layer of audio from Darkly Darkly Venus Aversa on it. It ends up being nothing too special, and some of the text that appears is cut off on the side of the sides of the screen as well. It’s the kind of thing you’ll watch once and probably never revisit again. Oh, and this also has boobies! Though they appear very quick and only at the one venue. Oh and male butt crack too if that’s your thing.
Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa (Special Edition) really has a good deal of reasons to buy it, but at the same time just as many to justify not buying it. The audio disc collects mostly unfinished or altered material that varies between good and god awful, and the rest is about the same though clearly unreleased. It’s a good audio companion for three, maybe four songs. The bonus DVD really feels like the band did their best in every aspect to make that material entertaining, but much of it you’ll never want to go back and watch aside the “Lilith Immaculate” video. The biggest letdown being the problems the band faced, and obvious slightly unprepared band performance at the start of the live concert. Much of the show will have dedicated fans screaming at their televisions. Is it worth the upwards of fifteen dollar price tag most places seem to be carrying this release at? No, it simply isn’t, as there’s just not enough quality material to warrant the purchase. Unfortunately, for the dedicated fans (such as myself), it’s a price that will end up being paid for a mixture of good and bad material, ideas, and entertainment levels, leaving this to just feel like a mediocre compilation pulled together with good intentions.<
01. The Cult of Venus Aversa – 7:07
02. One foul Step from the Abyss – 4:53
03. The Nun with the Astral Habit – 4:55
04. Retreat of the Sacred Heart – 3:56
05. The Persecution Song – 5:34
06. Deceiving Eyes – 6:32
07. Lilith Immaculate – 6:12
08. The Spawn of Love and War – 6:19
09. Harlot on a Pedestal – 5:09
10. Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned) – 4:33
11. Beyond the Eleventh Hour – 7:16
Disc Two (Special Edition)
|Initial Pressing Score: 7.5/10
Special Edition Score: 7.5/10
Digital review copy of this release provided by Nuclear Blast Records.
Physical review of special edition provided by personal funds.