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“Dusk… and Her Embrace”, the second official Cradle Of Filth album, was significant from moving the band out of its death/thrash metal roots, and squarely into symphonic – and gothic metal territory. Where the previous outing at least attempted to infuse its metal with a Hammer Horror atmosphere, “Dusk… and Her Embrace”, befitting of the Victorian-vampyric concept that its center, romantic above all else. Despite the album’s convincing visuals and superficialities “Dusk…and Her Embrace” has no lineage with, or connection to black metal. First and foremost it is an extreme metal album, one with links mostly in death -, thrash – and traditional metal styles.

“Dusk… and Her Embrace” is a loose concept album about vampyrism. The lyrics were inspired by the literature of Sheridan Le Fanu, in particular the “Carmilla” novel (which served as an inspiration to everybody from Jess Franco Manera to Ann Rice). The subtitle ‘Litanies of Damnation, Death and the Darkly Erotic’ concisely summarizes the lyrical content of the album. The lyrics retain part of the anti-Christian sentiment but the focus squarely lies on the erotica, vampirism and romance from this point forward. It was the recording debut of second guitarist John Piras (Gian Pyres) and the one but last record to feature vocal contributions from early backing singer Danielle Cneajna Cottington. "Dusk... and Her Embrace" was the last Cradle Of Filth album before Davey's overt usage of British humor and self-aware puns, linguistic and otherwise.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4ZLzpVdF5g

One of the greatest improvements that the band experienced was the sheer flow of the material. “Dusk… and Her Embrace” breaks free from the conventional playing that characterized “The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh”. Here the super bass licks, played by Robin Eaglestone, follow the keyboards instead of doubling the guitars. Stuart Anstis, who debuted on the “V Empire” EP, infuses the band with a healthy amount of traditional metal riffing. Last but certainly not least had drummer Nick Barker come into his own, and “Dusk… and Her Embrace” is his finest moment with the band. Frontman Dani Davey wrote some of his most verbose lyrics while integrating a wide array of vocal styles, including his standard shrieks, grunts, whispers and narration.

‘Humana Inspired to Nightmare’ and ‘Malice Through the Looking Glass’ were written entirely by the new members. ‘Beauty Slept In Sodom’ was originaly called ‘Beauty Sleeps In Sodom’. ‘Funeral in Carpathia’ and ‘Haunted Shores’ are the only truly fast tracks of the album. ‘Heaven Torn Asunder’ is the most straight-up anti-religious whereas ‘Beauty Slept In Sodom’ is the Christian creation parable of Genesis set to prose of vampirism and erotica. ‘Haunted Shores’ is about the Arthurian legend, and functions as a tribute to their home country England. It includes guest narration by British legend Conrad Lant (Cronos) from UK proto-black metal institution Venom.

In an odd turn of events history seemed to repeat itself. As before external factors put the record in jeopardy, and Davey had to overcome legal and personnel hurdles in order to regain control over the authenticity of his product. The album had a troubled two-year production history with the formative work being laid down by previous guitarist duo Paul Allender and Ryan. The original version of “Dusk… and Her Embrace” was recorded in 1995 with most of the “Principle Of Evil Made Flesh” line-up. Ongoing legal proceedings with Cacophonous Records subsequently schismed the band in two opposing camps leaving the record in legal limbo. Paul and Benjamin Ryan along with Paul Allender meanwhile formed The Blood Divine.

As Davey’s half (consisting of himself, Nicholas Barker, and Robin Eaglestone) was embroided in said litigations it was decided to produce the “V Empire” EP as a means to wrangle the "Dusk... and Her Embrace" album recordings out of its existing, and yet to be fulfilled, contract with Cacophonous Records. After winning the court case against its former contractor the original recordings of “Dusk… and Her Embrace” were used by Davey’s part of the band as leverage to negotiate a new and hopefully better recording deal between them and interested labels. Chief among those involved in the bidding war surrounding Cradle Of Filth were British label imprints Earache Records and Music For Nations.

Upon inking a mutual satisfactory agreement with new label home Music For Nations the original “Dusk… and Her Embrace” recordings were relegated to the band vaults where they have remained ever since. As the new members put their spin on what the prior line-up had written the necessary preparations were made to re-record “Dusk… and Her Embrace” a second time. With part of the original content used in the quickly put together “V Empire” EP the band wrote new material to accomodate the remainder of the initially scheduled material. Once the deal with Music For Nations was in place the band re-recorded the freshly rewritten - and newly composed tracks in 1996.

During the second recording sessions a cover of Slayer classic ‘Hell Awaits’, a re-recording of the preceding EP’s ‘Nocturnal Supremacy’ and the instrumental ‘Carmilla’s Masque’ were laid down along with material intended for the album. These featured on the Japanese print of the album exclusively. The complete “Dusk… and Her Embrace” album session would thus include 14 tracks: 9 originals that appear on the final version of the record, plus the duo of ‘Queen Of Winter, Throned’ and ‘Nocturnal Supremacy’ (as they appeared on the preceding “V Empire” EP), along with the two instrumentals ‘She Mourns A Lenghtening Shadow’ and ‘Carmilla’s Masque’ along with the earlier mentioned Slayer cover ‘Hell Awaits’.

After two sessions at Academy Studios the band decided to change locations. “Dusk… and Her Embrace” was recorded at DEP International Studios in Birmingham with Kit Woolven (most famous for his work with Irish classic rock act Thin Lizzy) producing along with Mike Exeter and Dan Sprigg engineering. With a classic rock and pop producer behind the console the production changed accordingly. “Dusk… and Her Embrace” is blessed with a smooth, bassy production that is crystal clear but warm and organic sounding. The cover photography by Simon Marsden is stylistically similar to that of Nigel Wingrove of the preceding two records. The record contains shots of the succubi models Luna, Michelle, Rochelle, and Susie. The CD and LP use different shots for the dinner table band shot, with the model being topless for the vinyl edition.

It goes without saying that the originally intended incarnation of the album is radically different from what it would eventually become in its existing form. The current version of the album is far stronger, mostly due to a complete lack of filler material, than how the album was originally intended. Whether the original recordings of "Dusk... and Her Embrace" will ever see the light of day remains yet to be seen. The album sold in excess of 100,000 copies in Europe alone, and was extensively bootlegged on the East-European market with various labels releasing cassette versions of the album. The Polish 1997 print by Metal Mind Productions even includes the Japanese bonus tracks. It goes without saying that it is rightly a classic piece of European extreme metal, regardless of its troubled conception.

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“The Black Opera” is the final of three Opera IX records with Cadaveria in the vocal slot. Of these three it is the most conventionally symfo with lush gothic overtones. It is by far the most streamlined and concise in writing of the trilogy, on top of being the best produced. What Opera IX lost of its distinct Mediterranean character was complemented by its increased ability to write shorter, punchier songs. Benefitting from the symfo black metal explosion it was Opera IX’ breakthough album, but that success came at a price. As such “The Black Opera” is an eulogy to what could have been had the band not splintered into two factions.

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“The Black Opera” delivers exactly what it promises being structured as an actual opera, consisting of six arias, or acts. The subtitle “Symphoniae Mysteriorum In Laudem Tenebrarum” translates to “Symphony in praise of the mysteries of the shadows”, concisely summarizing the lyrical direction of the record. Of the three it is the most focused on occultism, spirituality and esoterica. It more or less is a loosely conceptual record about spiritual awakening and liberating oneself from dogmas. Each song represents a seal that the listener must pass in order to reach enlightenment and to attain a higher state of consciousness.

The most interesting aspect of “The Black Opera” are its lyrics. Frontwoman Raffaela Rivarolo, who obviously has a personal interest in mythological – and occult subject matter, fuses together multiple religious pantheons through the easily recognizable literary convention of the monomyth, as described by author Joseph Campbell. Drawing mainly from Greek, Israelite and Egyptian belief systems the album’s central narrative is that of a hero’s journey in search of spiritual enlightenment. The artwork and photography by Alberto Maria Gotti puts more of a focus on frontwoman Raffaela Rivarolo than prior efforts. Foreshadowing Rivarolo’s future solo career in the industrial metal subgenre the album includes ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’, a cover of British post-punk and later gothic rock band Bauhaus.

‘Act I: The First Seal’ functions as a general outline of the album’s concept, and ‘Act II: Beyond the Black Diamond Gates’ represents the summoning ritual that sets the listener-character on its spiritual journey. ‘Act III: Carnal Delight in the Vortex Of Evil’ has the protagonist describing the arch-nemesis. ‘Act IV: Congressus Cum Daemone’ invokes the wind gods from Greek mythology. ‘Act V: The Magic Temple’ is sung in the band's native Italian. ‘Act VI: The Sixth Seal’ contains multiple invocations from the Thelemic Bornless Ritual, including the line “Asar Lin-Nefer”, a variation of "Asar-un-Nefer" ("Myself Made Perfect"), an epithet of the Egyptian god Osiris.

“The Black Opera” is more streamlined and concise in its songwriting. As a result its the least adventurous of the Cadaveria trilogy as it has none of the Mediterranean character and ethnic spirit that made the preceding two record so unique. Only a few tracks reach the band’s usually bloated song lengths, and on its face it sounds like a Dimmu Borgir record of the day. Unlike their Norwegian contemporaries Opera IX write incredibly varied songs that are majestic and aggresive in equal measure. In its defense, Rivarolo delivers her most sensual, passionate and serpentine performance on this third album in what would be her swansong with the band she helped popularize.

With the proper support of a mid-level label behind them Opera IX was given the opportunity to record in a facility outside of their native Italy. “The Black Opera” was recorded at Studio Underground in Västerås, Sweden with Pelle Saether producing. In adapting itself to the expectations of the industry Opera IX won in polish and sheen but lost part of what made its prior records so appealing. “The Black Opera”, for the lack of a better description, sounds as a Scandinavian record. It has none of the Mediterreanean warmth that graced this band’s earlier records. “The Black Opera” is as elegant as before but the standard metal production robs it of much of its spirit.

“The Black Opera” was released on AvantGarde Music in 2000, in November of the same year the label would release “Thelema.6”, the album that broke Polish death/black metal unit Behemoth to a wider audience. “The Black Opera” sold approximately 18,000 copies, and Opera IX was poised for stardom. Raffaela Rivarolo (vocals), and Alberto Gaggiotti (drums) acrimoniously split from the band due to creative differences and interpersonal tensions. Both parties carried on in their own respective projects, and Opera IX lost much of its cross-market appeal and scene visibility due to the leaving of its beloved frontwoman. Rivarolo and Gaggiotti would continue working together in different bands but neither of those units experienced the kind of exposure they had at the very heights of Opera IX’ success. Opera IX would continue releasing albums on a variety of labels and with revolving lineups.