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Britain's perennial extreme metal hegemonists Cradle of Filth are back with a stopgap release in the form of mini-album 'Evermore Darkly' which follows the release of last studio album 'Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa' just under a year ago and ahead of the eagerly anticipated 'Midnight in the Labyrinth' which is promised to contain orchestral versions of some of the band's early material. 'Evermore Darkly' features one brand new track, 'Thank Your Lucky Stars', which is preceded and primed by the two-minute tongue-in-cheek 'Transmission From Hell', a spoken-word piece centered around the "sounds from hell in Siberia" audio tape that the narrator has acquired on the 6th June 2006 (how apt!), full of sonic evilness that, so we're told, emerged from digging a hole in Siberia on "a regular mining expedition exploring future oil reserves". Intertextually related to the tape recording Bruce Campbell stumbles across in 'Evil Dead' with its ramblings about the discovery of the "Necronomicon Ex-Mortis", 'Transmission From Hell' carries the same kitsch vibe as Sam Raimi's classic and climaxes with the clichéd utterance of - "I will warn you that what you are about to hear is very, very disturbing indeed", delivered in a Jigsaw-esque tone. I know some will sardonically bash Cradle by construing this as inane but they would be seriously missing the point. The band are purely about entertainment and aren't afraid to parody their blackened pseudo-evil aesthetic in such a way. 'Transmission From Hell' segues into 'Thank Your Lucky Stars' which sees Cradle switch to serious mode for a fiercely heavy track that wouldn't have been out of place alongside the more aggressive moments on 'Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa' (whether it was originally born from the same writing/recording sessions I'm unaware, but it's stylistically related). Appositely then, three demo versions of songs from said album follow which, aside from being rather very good for demo recordings, offer a rawer-edged take on the final versions (that some might even prefer if you're not over keen on Cradle's usual polished production), and provide a little insight into the creative evolution of the songs. Next up is an up tempo trance remix of 'Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned)', courtesy of 'Nymphetamine'/'Thornography' producer and Anthrax guitarist Rob Caggiano which actually works pretty well in this form as vocals from the original, both Dani Filth's and those of Lucy Atkins, are effectively mixed into the techno beats along with an array of other ambient sounds. Another '...Venus Aversa' demo follows before what is, for me, the CD's filth on the cake - a taster of the imminent sonic grandeur that's soon to be unleashed on 'Midnight in the Labyrinth' with an orchestral version of 'The Principle of Evil Made Flesh' number 'Summer Dying Fast' (coincidentally, the band's previous mini-album, some ten years ago, 'Bitter Suites to Succubi', also featured a re-recorded version of this track). If the rest of 'Midnight in the Labyrinth' is as good as this then fans are in for an aurally grandiose treat of epic proportions.

So what of the DVD that's also included with this release? Well, if 'Summer Dying Fast' is the filth on the cake of the CD then this is indubitably the forbidden fruit on top. As usual for Cradle, with no expense spared to produce a fan-pleasing package, it contains a promo video for 'Lilith Immaculate', a 40+ minute "rockumentary" which is effectively a video tour blog, and the band's entire hour long performance from Belgium's Graspop festival at the end of June this year. The latter showcases the well-oiled Cradle machine at their live best - furious, tight and flawless. Presumably no overdubs have been deployed on the soundtrack but it's never noticeable if that's the case. The multi-angle video footage has been edited together well to capture all the action and does justice to the band's energetic performance. Having not seen Cradle live for around four years, I haven't yet had the opportunity to witness their latest live session keyboardist in action, Caroline Campbell, also responsible for backing and female lead vocals but, based on this festival performance, she's the best the band have had for some time. Dare I say that I even prefer her vocals to longtime Cradle collaborator Sarah Jezebel Deva. She's that good. The documentary footage, neatly edited together in a flowing montage provides an insight as to what life is like on the road these days for Cradle (based on this, significantly less crazy and debauched than has been the impression given by older documentaries!). With Dani's assertion on the press sheet that this release is "a pleasure treasure trove of wild and wicked wonders primed especially for fans", therein lies its essence for I see little attraction for newcomers to the band. However, for established Cradle fans, wild and wicked wonders do indeed await you in a well compiled CD/DVD package. Other bands could learn a thing or two from Cradle of Filth's dedication to providing their fanbase value for money releases such as this one.
Review by Mark Holmes
43:11 (CD)
24th Oct 2011
CD: 1) Transmission From Hell; 2) Thank Your Lucky Stars; 3) Fogive Me Father (I Have Sinned) (demo); 4) Lilith Immaculate (extended); 5) The Persecution Song (demo); 6) Forgive Me Father (I'm in a Trance); 7) The Spawn of Love and War (demo); 8) Summer Dying Fast ('Midnight in the Labyrinth' Breadcrumb Trail)
DVD: Lilith Immaculate (promo video); You Can't Polish a Turd...But You Can Roll it in Glitter (Rockumentary - 42 mins)); Graspop Festival performance from 2011 (64 mins)
"Other bands could learn a thing or two from Cradle of Filth's dedication to providing their fanbase value for money releases such as this one."