So it happens that just in time for the season of goodwill and peace to all men, I get to review the new Cradle of Filth album, the British black metallers who we can safely assume won't be doing much caroling this Yuletide.
With Peaceville their latest home on the veterans prosaic label odyssey, album number nine comes with all the requisite overtones we've come to expect from the gurus of gore. Singer Dani Filth has described Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa as a concept album that's a companion to 2008's Godspeed On The Devil's Thunder, the story revolving this time around yet another sordid cast of Crowleyian charachters and brimming with incantations, demonic possession and what sounds like a cameo from Old Nick himself.
The good news is that whilst COF make a racket that certainly won't be covered on the X Factor anytime soon (But oh, what a show there would be if it was) it certainly isn't as extreme as their iconoclastic presentation might have you believe. To re-create the effect in your mind, imagine if Jim Steinman had been hanging upside down in darkened cave for a few years and then started writing songs for a thrash metal group. Who sung about Satan a lot. Ok, I realise that this may be a stretch but the only other way to understand the sound is to experience it for yourselves, diving into its maelstromic intensity and then riding it's overblown gothic nuances for all they're worth.
It's certainly not for the faint hearted. Opener The Cult of Venus Aversa - with Ashley Ellyllon voicing the part of the titular anti-heroine as she's introduced to us - shifts focus at dazzling speed between acid riff guitars and pummelling blast beats, both in stark contrast with the flourishes of operatic symphony that remain COF's signature device. It's a formula they rarely if ever deviate from, and it's pleasingly slick, well-executed and visceral, persuading the listener not to focus too much on lyrics like Truth & Agony's "An architect for my total destruction/My erector, my dissector/My flesh will be wet for your best seduction". They may believe all this, they may not, but Cradle Of Filth are more than just a freakshow, and can promise all of us a miserable, merry Christmas.