Shock Value And Storytelling Mediums – A Ramble

Well, I thought that I’d talk about shock value and storytelling mediums today mostly because, early this year (I write these articles quite far in advance), I happened to read a few online articles about a controversial play in London which apparently made an audience member faint. This made me remember when I saw a “shocking” play quite a few years ago.

It was a recreation of several short late 19th/early 20th century Grand Guignol plays that was performed at the 2009 Abertoir film festival. Although it told the kind of melodramatic vintage horror stories that wouldn’t be that scary or shocking in most other mediums, it was about ten times more shocking for the simple reason that the play’s horrors actually appeared to take place in real life. So, this made me think about whether shock value works better in different mediums.

But, whilst mediums that place less distance between the audience and the story (eg: theatre, videogames etc..) can shock the audience slightly more easily than mediums where the audience feels slightly further away from what is happening (eg: film, comics, novels, music etc..), shock value can be achieved in every medium. However, I’d argue that shock value probably has more to do with both the audience and their expectations than the medium itself.

I mean, the Grand Guignol play was shocking for the simple reason that I’d never seen a play in the horror genre before. On the other hand, I’ve seen quite a few horror movies, played several horror computer/video games and read numerous horror novels etc.. so, these things have to be especially shocking in order to elicit this reaction in me. So, what your audience are used to plays quite a large role in how much shock value something has.

On a side note, this is also probably why Raven Gregory’s “Return To Wonderland” was such a shocking horror comic to read. Leaving aside the ultra-gruesome artwork and disturbing storyline, horror comics are nowhere near as common as they apparently were in the genre’s 1940s-50s heyday (before they got censored by the Comics Code and were replaced with superhero comics). So, when I happened to read this comic a decade or so ago, it was a genuine shock because I hadn’t really seen many horror comics – let alone more modern ones- before.

But, the best types of shock value play with audience expectations in interesting ways and this is something that can be done in pretty much any medium. Of course, there many ways to achieve this type of shock value – but the best of these involves leading the audience to expect something mildly “shocking” and then giving them something even more shocking. This works for the simple reason that it makes the audience feel like they are tough or unshockable, only to catch them by surprise later.

So, whilst some mediums have a slightly easier time achieving shock value than others, it can still be achieved in pretty much any medium since it has more to do with the audience than the medium itself.

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Sorry for the short article, but I hope that it was useful 🙂

Is There An Artistic Equivalent Of A “Live Version” Of A Song? – A Ramble

Well, since I’m still going through a bit more of a musical phase than usual, I thought that I’d try a bit of a thought experiment – is there any kind of visual art equivalent of a “live version” of a song?

I started thinking about this because I’ve been listening to a live album from 2006-8 by a heavy metal band called Gamma Ray. One surprising thing about this album is that a couple of the live recordings on the album sound significantly different to live recordings of the same songs on another one of Gamma Ray’s live albums from 1995.

In this eleven-year time gap, the live recording of a song called “Man On A Mission” has gone from this epic, soaring, deep thing (in the 1995 live version) to a significantly faster, lighter and more eccentric song in the 2006 recording. I’m not sure which version I prefer, but it’s a perfect example of how live recordings allow musicians to rearrange and reinterpret their songs.

Of course, there’s also the contrast between the live version of a song and the studio version too. Some songs (like “Generator” by Bad Religion) sound better in studio recordings and some songs (like “Ever Dream” by Nightwish) sound better in live recordings.

Obviously, there isn’t really a direct equivalent to all of this when it comes to making art. By definition, most paintings or drawings are “studio versions”. Yes, there are things like time-lapse art videos, street art etc… but these often involve the creation of totally new pieces of art rather than repeating a familiar piece of art, in the way that a musician might play a familiar song during every concert.

So, we’ll have to be a bit more indirect. In other words, we need to look at the underlying qualities that make live recordings of music so interesting. These include things like variation, rawness and audience interaction.

Variation is fairly easy to include in visual art. Simply put, just make multiple versions of the same painting (at different times, or with different materials) and/or multiple paintings about the same subject. For example, here are two versions of the same digitally-edited painting that were made about two or three years apart from each other:

“Trendy 90s Cafe” By C. A. Brown [2014/15]

“Trendy 90s Cafe (II)” By C. A. Brown [2017/18]

Although this is a great way to measure your progress as an artist, it also allows us to do what musicians do and reinterpret our “greatest hits” in new ways. Yes, it isn’t really the same as a live performance, but it allows us to do one of the things that makes live versions of songs so interesting.

As for “roughness” or “rawness” – just try using more basic, minimalist or primitive tools. For example, I once tried to recreate a photograph I took in 2009 using MS Paint:

This is a comparison of a photo I took and my attempt at recreating it in MS Paint.

As for audience interaction, this one is fairly self-explanatory. But, if you don’t have the time to reply to comments etc.. then one way to add some audience interaction to your art is simply to accompany each picture of painting with a short paragraph that explains either how or why you made that particular piece of art (kind of like how musicians will sometimes introduce songs during live performances).

So, no, there’s no direct equivalent to a “live version” of a song in the visual arts. But, if we look at the underlying elements that make live versions of songs so interesting (eg: variations, rawness etc..) then we can use those underlying things to make our art more interesting.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

What Tribute Bands Can Teach Us About Fan Art- A Ramble

Although this is a long and rambling article about being a visual artist, I’m going to have to start by talking about music. As usual, there’s a good reason for this that I hope becomes obvious later.

A few days before I prepared this article, I happened to watch a gameshow on TV (called “Even Better Than The Real Thing”) where several pop/rock music tribute bands competed to see who was the best. The program was a truly surreal affair, since the studio audience consisted of other tribute bands/celebrity lookalikes. Yet, it was absolutely fascinating to watch.

Although the few tribute bands I’ve actually seen perform live have been fairly faithful recreations of the bands they’re based on, one intriguing thing I’ve seen on the internet are tribute bands that put a slightly different twist on the traditional idea of a tribute band.

These are bands who play covers of songs by many different bands in the same genre, bands who use a different musical style to the band they’re paying tribute etc..

But, why have I been talking about tribute bands? Simply put, because they offers some interesting lessons about making fan art.

One of the things that always puzzles me are artists who only ever seem to make fan art. Although I’ve already written about this topic, I felt like returning to it again. Because, although I originally used “tribute acts” as a disparaging metaphor for the lack of originality these artists displayed, thinking about the subject of tribute bands more deeply made me reconsider what they can teach us as artists.

One of the central appeals of tribute bands is that they make big-name bands more accessible. For example, during my mid-late teens, I saw Iron Maiden perform live in London and I also saw a couple of concerts by an Iron Maiden tribute band (Hi-On Maiden). The two experiences couldn’t have been more different.

When I saw Iron Maiden live, I was sitting near the back of a large theatre. The music was, as you would expect, amazing and I consider it to be one of the coolest moments of my life. There were also a few amusing moments during the concert, such as when the lead singer of the support band (Trivium) ranted at the audience for throwing bottles onto the stage, or the ten-minute power cut during Maiden’s set when one of the pieces of sound equipment caught fire and had to be replaced. During this, there were synchronised waves, things thrown in the air, songs sung by the audience and other such tomfoolery. Seriously, it’s a testament to the band that they can still hold the audience’s attention even when their microphones and instruments aren’t working properly.

But it was a somewhat different experience to the visceral thrill of being near the front of the crowd in a small venue, being almost deafened by the speakers and singing along until my throat was hoarse. Seeing the tribute band was like what I imagine seeing the original band during their early days must have been like. The tribute musicians on the stage weren’t famous, so the focus was almost entirely on the music they were playing. They were fans of it, just like we in the audience were.

And, maybe fan art is kind of a bit like this. Because the artists who just make fan art are maybe internet-famous at the most, the emphasis is more on the art itself. They aren’t going to end up in galleries or anything like that. And their art is meant for a general internet audience. So, although it may lack the vision and originality that an artist who comes up with their own ideas will have, it is at least more of a “ground level” thing than the things it is based on are.

But, a more interesting type of fan art (both to make and to look at) is – like the inventive tribute bands I mentioned earlier – the type of fan art that tries to do something a bit different. Whether it is using a different art style, different art materials or making some kind of parody or pastiche, this is a much more creative and interesting type of fan art. Here are some examples of my own attempts at this style of fan art:

“Fan Art – Blade Runner – But, Then Again, Who Does?” By C. A. Brown

“Alchemist (After Joseph Wright Of Derby)” By C. A. Brown

“After Oskar Zwintscher” By C. A. Brown

So, if you’re going to make fan art, then try to put an original twist on it. Use a different style, use a different palette, be a little irreverent or challenge yourself to use different materials to the original artist.

But, finally, it’s also worth noting that – like all musicians – all artists are tribute artists. Every artist has their inspirations, the artists who have made them want to make art or who have influenced their art in some way or another.

This is, by far, the best type of “fan art” – totally original art that has been inspired or influenced by another artist, but is also it’s own thing too.

It is art where the artist has asked themselves why their inspirations fascinate them so much (eg: the lighting, the composition, the colour palette etc..) and then used these answers to create art that doesn’t directly copy any part of their inspiration.

Although this type of “fan art” is more difficult to make, it is by far the best! Not only is it actually original art (that you can proudly call your own), but it also forces you to use your imagination more. It forces you to work out exactly why you love the things you do and then to use these elements in an original way that appeals to you.

Plus, the awesome experience of making something genuinely original that is inspired by something else will make you want to look for other things to take inspiration from – which will make your art even more unique and distinctive.

So, yes, if you’re going to make “fan art”, then be creative about it.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Review: “Time Stands Still” By Unleash The Archers (Album)

A few months ago, I was watching random heavy metal music videos on Youtube when I happened to stumble across one for a song called “Test Your Metal” by a band that I’d never even heard of before called Unleash The Archers. I was astonished. This song was proper old-school 1980s-style metal from a modern band 🙂

Fast forward a few months and, eventually, I got round to ordering a copy of the band’s third album “Time Stands Still” (2015) after noticing that it was only about a fiver or so on Amazon. Because if the rest of it was even half as good as the music videos I’d seen, then it was worth getting.

So, let’s take a look at “Time Stands Still” by Unleash The Archers:

And, yes, this album cover is EPIC! It could almost be an Iron Maiden album cover 🙂

The best way to describe the overall sound of this album is that it is a really interesting blend of old-school NWOBHM-style heavy metal and classic European-style power metal, with some more modern Scandinavian-style elements too.

Seriously, some parts of the album sound like they could have come from an old Iron Maiden, Helloween, Judas Priest or Saxon album and some parts of it sound like they could have come from a Wintersun, Ensiferum or Hammerfall album.

One of the early lines in the album’s fifth track, “Test Your Metal”, is ‘You’ve been around town/ with an original sound‘ and this sums up the band’s style perfectly.

Although it’s easy to see who they have been inspired by, they don’t sound exactly like any one specific band. Like all great metal bands, they’ve come up with their own uniquely distinctive sound that is both instantly recognisable as heavy metal, yet also intriguingly different from everything else.

Even though the album isn’t a concept album, most of it has an “epic fantasy/sci-fi” type of atmosphere that wouldn’t be totally out of place on an Iron Maiden, Hammerfall or Helloween album.

But, the album also includes a fair amount of variety too, from the vaguely Iron Maiden/DORO/Saxon-like “Test Your Metal” to the subliminally more gothic/horror-like “Crypt” (which contains some hints of death metal/black metal in some parts) to the opening instrumental “Northern Passage” – which wouldn’t be totally out of place on a Nightwish, Lacuna Coil or Wintersun album.

The best song to sum up the overall atmosphere and style of this album is probably the third track, “Hail Of The Tide”.

The early parts of this song sound vaguely like a mixture of a song like Ensiferum’s “Into Battle” and an epic sci-fi themed Iron Maiden song like “Caught Somewhere In Time” or “If Eternity Should Fail” (but is thematically closer to Iron Maiden’s “The Talisman” or “Ghost Of The Navigator”). Soon, the song goes in a very slightly more Helloween-like direction with a more sustained vocal segment, before returning to classic-style fast paced metal vocals. After this, there’s an utterly epic growled backing vocal segment that wouldn’t be out of place in a Wintersun or Amon Amarth song. And this is only the first half of the song……

The vocals on this album are absolutely outstanding. Lead singer Brittany Slayes’ vocal style is very much in the tradition of singers like Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden), Rob Halford (Judas Priest) and Michael Kiske (Helloween), but she also adds many original flourishes to this traditional style.

Mostly notably, she seems to be an absolute expert at sustaining a single note for long periods of time, which adds an extra sense of epicness to the songs. But, she’s also an incredibly versatile singer, who can sing more ordinary classic rock/ metal vocals (eg: in “Test Your Metal”) and vaguely Nightwish-like vocals (eg: in the early parts of “Dreamcrusher”).

In addition to this, backing singer Andrew Kingsley adds more modern-style growled vocals in some songs (with his vocals in “Hail Of The Tide” reminding me a lot of Wintersun’s first album). Not only that, the song “Time Stands Still” features some absolutely epic Viking-style clean backing vocals/chants, which reminded me of a band like Ensiferum or TYR.

Instrumentally, this album is wonderfully sumptuous. It is a beautifully complex feast of different sounds and styles, that all blend together perfectly.

Not only are there lots of awesome 1980s-style guitar segments, but the album’s atmospheric opening instrumental “Northern Passage” also contains a wonderful mixture of gothic piano/violin music and electronic elements. Likewise, the guitar segments in other parts of the album also have a crunchier and more modern sound too.

Plus, the longer version of the song “Tonight We Ride” even features a brief bass solo at one point (4:17-4:27, if anyone is curious) too. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a metal band do this before, but it works!

Another interesting thing about the longer version of “Tonight We Ride” is that it ends with a brief audio segment which imitates flicking through several radio stations (a bit like the beginning of “Starlight” by Helloween), which culminates with a single tone rising in volume. This segues absolutely perfectly with the beginning of the next track “Test Your Metal”.

And, yes, there are actually two versions of “Tonight We Ride” on the album (eg: a longer album version and the shorter version used in the song’s “Mad Max”-style music video).

All in all, this is a heavy metal album! If some of my favourite metal bands got together and made an album, it would sound a bit like this one! It is an absolutely brilliant blend of both old and new style metal, whilst also being totally unique at the same time.

If you love bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Helloween, Saxon, Wintersun, Hammerfall etc… then you’ll find something to love about this album. If you’re unsure, then go onto Youtube and look up both “Test Your Metal” and “Hail Of The Tide”. You won’t be disappointed.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a five.

When Nostalgia Isn’t Defined – A Ramble

Although this is a rambling article about nostalgia, creativity and gaps in popular culture, I’m going to have to spend the next 3-4 paragraphs talking about music. As usual, there’s a good reason for this that I hope becomes obvious later.

A day or two before I wrote this article, I was clearing part of my room when I happened to find a CD that I’d forgotten that I even had. It was a free music CD that had been attached to the March 2006 issue of “Metal Hammer” magazine.

Although I was initially pleasantly surprised to discover that it contained “Cyanide” by Deathstars (a song that really reminds me a lot of 2008/9), I listened to a few of the other tracks out of curiosity and, although I didn’t know or remember any of them, one of them stood out in particular.

It was a song called “The Last Sunrise” by Aiden and it was the absolute epitome of mid-2000s heavy metal. With a mixture of clean vocals, emo-style vocals (that almost have a whiny early 2000s-style pop-punk quality to them) and shouty vocals, it couldn’t have come from any other era in history.

Even the intense, but sharp, guitar parts of the song sound very much like something from this part of history. Likewise, the emotional angst-filled lyrics are also very mid-2000s. I suddenly found myself feeling incredibly nostalgic about the mid-2000s (of all times) just by listening to a song I didn’t remember.

But, as you can probably tell from the convoluted description in the previous paragraph, the vocabulary for describing and defining mid-2000s nostalgia doesn’t really exist yet.

I mean, if I was to talk about – say- 1990s Hollywood movies, then I could talk at length about the chiaroscuro lighting that was popular back then. Or I could talk about how being made between the end of the cold war and before 9/11 gave these films an optimistic emotional tone that can’t be replicated today.

I could probably talk about how the fact that the internet was less widely-used back then affected the stories films told. I could probably talk about how the larger number of mid-budget films back then was beneficial to popular culture (and how smaller-scale stories can often be more dramatic than larger-scale ones). I could probably go on for a while.

But, when talking about something as simple as a song from 2006, I’m forced to use convoluted descriptions that may or may not make sense. Yes, I know what sets heavy metal music from the mid-2000s apart from heavy metal from other parts of history. But, finding a way to express that knowledge is somewhat more challenging because popular nostalgia hasn’t really caught up to this time period yet (eg: there’s usually at least a 20 year gap when it comes to nostalgia becoming popular).

So, what is the best thing to do if you’re a creative person who wants to express a type of nostalgia that hasn’t really been explored in popular culture?

Well, the first thing to do is to try to work out which qualities make something from a non-nostalgic period of the past so distinctive. Use your memories, do some online research, look at examples of things from that time etc.. and try to work out what they have in common. Or, failing that, find some creative works from the time period in question and take inspiration from them.

Even if you can’t concisely express what makes things from a particular time period unique, gaining a greater knowledge of it (through research and thought) will help you to find less direct ways to express this particular quality (eg: the way you describe locations, your characters’ personalities etc..).

If you’re an artist, then you have an advantage here, since you can try to replicate the “look” of a particular period of history, even if you can’t quite find the words to articulate what makes it do distinctive. For example, here are two paintings of mine that are based on a stylised version of the early-mid 2000s:

“Future 2004” By C. A. Brown

“Like 2005” By C. A. Brown

Finding ways to turn nostalgia that isn’t widely shared into art, fiction etc.. can be a bit of a challenge. And, you probably aren’t going to get it right the first time. Still, it’s certainly worth trying nonetheless.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Finding Good Things In The Mainstream – A Ramble

Although I sometimes take a somewhat cynical view of modern “mainstream” culture, I had a rather interesting experience that made me think about it in a slightly different way.

This was mostly because, during a nostalgic moment, I remembered that there was a brief period during the late 2000s/early 2010s when modern British pop music was actually really good.

In 2009-11, La Roux had released songs like “Bulletproof”, “In For The Kill” and “Tigerlily”. Tinie Tempah had released songs like “Pass Out” and “Written In The Stars”. Ellie Goulding put out a song called “Guns And Horses”, Clare Maguire put out a song called “Ain’t Nobody”, Jessie J released “Do It Like A Dude” and Mini Viva released “Left My Heart In Tokyo”. For a couple of years, modern mainstream pop music here was actually worth listening to.

Despite the fact that modern mainstream culture is often eye-rollingly terrible, it does contain good things. Although lots of them rarely appear at once (eg: the only other recent example I can think of is how both a remake of “Ghost In The Shell” and a sequel to “Blade Runner” were released in 2017) and some even have high barriers to entry (eg: system requirements for modern “AAA” computer games etc..), they are certainly there. Not to mention that many of the old things from the 1980s and 1990s that I love so much were probably at least slightly “mainstream” when they were originally released.

Yet, finding good things in the mainstream is often either a rare surprise or more like panning for gold. This is, of course, why “mainstream” stuff from the past often tends to be far better than modern mainstream stuff. Leaving aside the awesome historical nostalgia in many “mainstream” 1990s TV shows, movies etc… History usually has a habit of ensuring that only the best things are remembered.

Although this isn’t perfect – since contemporary classics (like “The Matrix” or “Half-Life) can overshadow other good things in the same genre released at the same time – history does serve as a very good quality filter for “mainstream” things.

So, one of the best ways to find good things in the mainstream is simply to either wait a few years or to look at things that were mainstream a couple of decades ago. Generally, if something has stood the test of time, then this is usually a good sign.

But, often the best way to find good things in the mainstream is just to trust your own instincts. If something sounds like it could be good, then check it out (when the price has gone down a bit) and see how you react to it. I mean, some “mainstream” authors that I really like include Lee Child, J.K.Rowling, G.R.R Martin and Dan Brown. Yes, their popularity was the thing that first introduced me to their novels, but it was the quality and/or enjoyability of their work that kept me interested.

So, let your own quality standards be your guide (instead of advertising or whether something is “popular” or not).

Because, yes, sometimes good things become popular. Sometimes they don’t. Although there are a lot of criticisms to be made of the mainstream, the fact remains that there are occasionally good things that can be found there.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Review: “Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa” By Cradle Of Filth (Album)

Note: I prepare these articles quite far in advance. So, this title illustration was made before I reviewed Judas Priest’s latest album about a month and a half ago.

Well, I thought that I’d take a look at a heavy metal album that I’d meant to get over seven years ago but only finally got round to buying a while before I wrote this review. I am, of course talking about “Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa” by Cradle Of Filth.

This album by the venerable heavy metal/ symphonic black metal/ gothic metal band was originally released in late 2010. I actually remember this quite well since the band took the unusual step of giving out free MP3 copies of the song “Lilith Immaculate” on their website at the time.

This track really bowled me over, although I couldn’t afford to get the full album at the time. I then pretty much forgot about the album (apart from checking out another couple of songs on Youtube) until I noticed that it had come down in price and was able to snap up a second-hand copy on Amazon for about three quid.

One of the first things that I will say about this album is that it is very much it’s own distinctive thing. It mostly eschews the grandiose fire and brimstone drama of 2008’s “Godspeed On The Devil’s Thunder“, but it is also a far cry from the decadent De Sade-ian opulence of 2012’s “The Manticore And Other Horrors“. This album is a lot “colder”, more melodic and more gothic. And, it is probably one of the best Cradle albums that I’ve heard. Seriously, it’s almost up there with classic albums like “Cruelty And The Beast” and “Nymphetamine”.

“Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa” is a concept album about the mythological character Lilith. However, it also focuses on a tragic character called Victoria Varco, a 14th century noblewoman who bears an illegitimate child and suffers unspeakable cruelties at the hands of the church because of this. This eventually leads to her having visions of Lilith (and possibly being possessed by Lilith’s spirit), before being brutally murdered by the church’s torturers.

She is then exhumed by her grief-stricken lover, Isaac, in a scene vaguely reminiscent of Heathcliff and Cathy from Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights“. The later parts of the album focus both on Lilith herself and on Isaac’s memories of meeting her through Victoria.

The final song ends with a mildly Lovecraftian flutter, with Isaac saying: “…These words I speak are gates to hell“, evoking the ‘last words’ narrative device used in many of H.P. Lovecraft‘s short stories. In addition to this, it is also a repetition of an early verse from the first song on the album. This gives the album an intriguingly circular storyline, which also hints strongly at a Lovecraft-style unreliable narrator.

And, yes, this album actually has a continuous story. However, this actually harms the album’s lyrics very slightly. Whilst I’ve written before about how Cradle Of Filth songs are basically old-school poetry in disguise, the lyrics in “Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa” often read more like a historical ballad of some kind.

Whilst the lyrics still contain a fair number of poetic flourishes (eg: “By flights of morbid fancy/ Psychomancy, rites of ancient wrong”), the focus on storytelling means that the lyrics are often a little bit more “functional” and can occasionally lack some of the dark eloquence of Cradle’s other albums.

But, enough literary criticism. What about how this album actually sounds?

Well, for the most part, it sounds like Cradle Of Filth. However, unlike some of their albums, this one has quite a few melodic elements, such as a vaguely harpsichord-like segment at the beginning of the first song in addition to other creepily gothic string and keyboard segments throughout the album. These go really well with the more intense guitar segments, which often sound more like a “heavier” version of traditional heavy metal. Personally, I really love all of these melodic elements, but more “traditionalist” fans of the band might not like them.

Likewise, despite the occasional well-placed death growl from Dani Filth, his fast-paced and guttural singing in this album is considerably more understandable than in some previous albums. As much as I love Dani’s older vocal style, his more modern style certainly has merit too.

Plus, like in many of Cradle’s albums, Dani’s harsh vocals are counterpointed by more elegant female vocals. In “Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa”, these are provided by Lucy Atkins (and Dora Kemp).

Like with some of Sarah Jezebel Deva’s vocal segments in “Cruelty And The Beast”, Atkins speaks rather than sings. This lends the character of Lilith a stern, cold gravitas that goes really well with Dani’s more emotional vocals.

The best songs on the album are probably “The Persecution Song”, “Deceiving Eyes”, “Lilith Immaculate”, “Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned)” and “Beyond Eleventh Hour”.

“The Persecution Song” begins with a beautifully haunting instrumental segment, which manages to be both creepily cold and reminiscent of the warm lushness of Cradle’s “Nymphetamine” album. Dani’s vocals near the beginning of the song are noticeably slower too, which helps to add to the oppressively gothic atmosphere.

Musically, the song is dark, intense and overwhelmingly powerful. Vocally, Dani alternates between several singing styles (eg: slower singing, emotional growling, ominous whispering etc..) which helps to add to the surprising array of musical variety within this song. Seriously, it is one of the most atmospheric songs on the album.

“Deceiving Eyes” has some really intriguing hints of both thrash metal and traditional heavy metal. Although it is mostly just a fairly solid Cradle Of Filth song, these extra musical elements really help to turn it into something a bit more distinctive.

“Lilith Immaculate” is a fast, powerful, opulent and intense song. The opening instrumental is vaguely reminiscent of something from “Godspeed On The Devil’s Thunder”, but, as soon as Dani begins howling, you’ll remember that this is a very different album. This song is something of a duet between Dani Filth and Lucy Atkins, and it is brilliant! It is filled with dramatic descriptions and powerful emotion. If it wasn’t for the fact that this song tells a later part of the album’s story, it would have been a perfect opening song.

“Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned)” is a slightly lighter, faster and more “goth”-like song. The opening segments of it are something of a palate cleanser from the heavier and more intense songs earlier in the album. Likewise, the guitars sound a little bit less distorted here, which lends the song a very distinctive sound. Like with “Lilith Immaculate”, it is also something of a duet between Dani Filth and Lucy Atkins – which is always cool to hear.

“Beyond Eleventh Hour” is the stunningly opulent ending to the album. It begins in a creepily understated way, with quiet keyboard music and some poetic vocals from Atkins. But, it quickly builds to a spectacularly dramatic climax soon after Atkins intones the words “…and hell will come with him”.

The lyrics in this intense and dramatic song also contain a few gloriously obscene “classic Cradle Of Filth”-style flourishes too. This song is Cradle at their most eloquent, poetic, debauched, blasphemous best! At one point, there’s even some vaguely horror movie-style cackling in the background too 🙂

All in all, “Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa” is one of Cradle Of Filth’s best albums. It’s a cold, heavily atmospheric, furiously intense and creepily gothic album. Yes, it isn’t quite their best album in purely lyrical terms but – musically – it is absolutely stunning. Like with all great metal bands, this album manages to be both the kind of unique thing that only one band could make whilst also being noticeably different from both previous and subsequent albums.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get at least four and a half.