Nearly 20 years into a career marked as much by outrage and scandal as by their frequently overlooked musical accomplishments, Cradle Of Filth have firmly established themselves as the extreme metal act everyone loves to hate. On the one hand, they’re capable of headlining the none-more-prestigious Bloodstock Open Air festival; on the other, they’re equally capable of storming off mid-set when their guitarist gets struck by a wayward gobstopper [see the 09 event for details]. Why is this relevant to ‘Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa’, the band’s ninth, and perhaps best studio offering to date? Well, if you think that Cradle Of Filth are about to make the slightest concession to their detractors in their encroaching middle age, think again. If, however, you’re willing to lay down your preconceptions, you’ll discover a highly theatrical, yet not overly bombastic, progressive black metal workout of the highest order. Most strikingly, ‘Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa’ displays a masterful control over the multi-faceted Cradle Of Filth sound; brutal vocal gymnastics, skull-rattling double-kicks, symphonic flourishes, dramatic narrative and balls-out axe-slinging all make their presence known, but in a manner which routinely serves to bolster the coherency of the greater whole. Haters be damned: this fucking slays.