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Cradle of Filth: Still Evil After All These Years

Wednesday, 20 September 2017 Written by Alec Chillingworth

Legends of extreme music, black metal blaggers or Hot Topic heathens...whatever your view on Cradle of Filth, it’s already been expressed on some internet messageboard. They’ve heard it all before. Dani Filth’s troupe of misfits have undergone various line-up and stylistic changes over their near three decade existence, but one thing remains the same: people online hate them.

“People have been saying shit about me my entire life, and they can keep doing it,” Dani remarks today, living up to his reputation by arriving for this interview in blood red contact lenses. “But I used to think heavy metal was this close community, and it’s becoming this hinterland of annoying people who don’t give a shit about anyone else. They just want to tell you their opinion. It’s not even a good opinion. It’s not even hilted in reality.”

Now safely ensconced in his 40s, Dani risks sounding like a right cantankerous bastard. Also on the ledger: he has a Facebook account but doesn’t run it, his favourite album is Jeff Wayne’s musical version of The War of the Worlds and he lives in a nice Victorian house.

But that’s always been part of Cradle’s charm. They tap into archaic realms that few bands would even think to reference, let alone anchor full-length concept records around. In 2008, ‘Godspeed on the Devil’s Thunder’ told the tale of Gilles de Rais, the 15th century French aristocrat and child murderer who attempted to summon the demon Barron, while John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, formed the basis for their 2003 major label masterpiece, ‘Damnation and a Day’.

Elsewhere, the works of H.P. Lovecraft, Lord Byron, Bram Stoker and more have all informed the band’s lyrical spine, with Dani’s unique turn of phrase ensuring separation from anything else going on in metal. And that mindset claws its way through again on Cradle’s 12th LP, ‘Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay’.

Steeped in grotesque gothic litanies, the album’s title also display’s Dani’s everlasting love for the art of portmanteau. Here ‘crypt’ and ‘Victoriana’ combine to showcase the Victorian fascination with the supernatural and the occult, stemming from a period of writer’s block cured by his wife’s suggestion to write about what he was reading, namely horrors by E.F. Benson, Arthur Conan Doyle and H. Rider Haggard.

One of the album’s true eccentricities is the fact that it was recorded by an identical line-up to the previous LP. Cradle lore dictates that someone has to leave between album cycles. But 2015’s ‘Hammer of the Witches’ solidified a new line-up that’s been untouched since: Richard Shaw and Marek ‘Ashok’ Šmerda on guitar, Lindsay Schoolcraft on keys and vocals, Daniel Firth on bass and Martin Škaroupka behind the kit.

This incarnation has the capacity to become the Cradle line-up; to not just emulate but adapt the twin-lead, Iron Maiden-gone-goth leanings of the band’s glory days while incorporating their pompous latter-day melodies and smatterings of Massacre-esque supernatural death metal.

But if Dani were to retire to a rocking chair for the rest of his days, content in grumbling at keyboard warriors, then this band would be done. He’s irreplaceable. You couldn’t do a Brian Johnson, a Michale Graves or Blaze Bayley on him. Cradle would be dead and buried.

“It’s not all about me, although people do try to make it seem that way…sometimes I wish it was,” he quips. “The band carries on. We used to joke that the logo would grow its own legs, run off and do its own thing. Obviously I’m aware of that, but I try and play it down, because you’re only as good as the strength of your numbers. ‘Cryptoriana...’ and the last record sound so great because of the people involved in it.”

‘Cryptoriana...’ is essentially a big brother to ‘Hammer of the Witches’, stretching that record’s old school vibe further and injecting it with the pace and polished sheen of modern Cradle. It’s a poignant reminder that they were – still are – a driving force in extreme music and a key reason for black metal getting the mainstream exposure it did in the late ‘90s and beyond.

It remains somewhat frustrating that Cradle’s flirtation with the mainstream never mutated into something bigger. Christ, they tried. In 2006, ‘Thornography’ was basically a stadium record for people who like to wear mascara and draw pentagrams on their schoolbooks. Alas, it came too late.

By that point, they’d already ruined a major label contract with Sony by releasing the majestic, definitely-not-palatable-for-the-general-public ‘Damnation and a Day’ and followed it up with ‘Nymphetamine’ and its Grammy-nominated title track. They were sell-outs, chancers. Allegedly.

“Maybe we did things the wrong way round, but I strongly believe we were just being arrogant and not playing the game, which is obviously to my detriment,” Dani says. “I don’t know why we get so much shit for what we do, but when I think about it, I don’t mind. At least people care enough to talk about it. You could be another band polluting the metal highway, recording an album on the cheap, just a-n-other band with a strange smell and a weird haircut.”

In reality, Dani’s not one to dwell on the band’s past. Cradle’s back catalogue doesn’t allow it. While they reference former glories – Achingly Beautiful from ‘Cryptoriana...’ harks back to 1994’s A Crescendo of Passion Bleeding, for example – they never revel in them. And they’ve had ample opportunity to do so, with last year marking the 20th anniversary of the classic ‘Dusk…and Her Embrace’. Talk of an ‘album in full’ tour rumbled, but never materialised.

“Well yeah, it’s a bit late for a 20th anniversary now, isn’t it?” Dani laughs. “I saw Maiden do ‘A Matter of Life and Death’, and I just sat there waiting for them to play the old stuff. Which they did…at the end. I’d hate for people to watch us and just be bored. I know everyone bangs on about our old albums like, ‘‘Dusk...’ and ‘Cruelty...’ are my favourite albums ever, why are they [Cradle] so shit now?’. But I think it’s nostalgia, and most of the people who say it aren’t even old enough to have nostalgia.

“They are good albums, yeah, but we’ve done other good stuff, and to warrant a tour based on one album would do an injustice to the fans. I’m probably talking complete bollocks now – they’re probably like, ‘No, no, do it!’. We’ve got 12 albums, and it’s really bloody hard picking a setlist. We’re playing three different sets on this upcoming tour, and it’s like, ‘He wants to play that song, I want to play that song, Martin wants to play every album back to back for 19 hours and he’ll still keep going at the end.’ It’s complicated.”

A visit to the past that’s being entertained with more warmth is the much-discussed remaster job of 1998’s ‘Cruelty and the Beast’. It’s a record that contains some of Cradle’s finest work but, as the frontman himself admits, also possesses a drum mix that “sounds like two pins being struck against two other pins”. Overseen by frequent Cradle collaborator Scott Atkins, this is set to be a true labour of love.

“Sony wanted me to remix it but with someone else taking care of it, so it’d be a bit phoned in,” Dani says. “I don’t want to lose the original vibe. We can make it as polished as you want, but if you lose that atmosphere, it’ll kill it dead. Scott and I sat down and did a trial mix, and it’s harder than you think, but we endeavour to do it.

“So many people love that record and they want it remixed, so I don’t want to do them a disservice. I’m hoping to get a load of different artists to do their versions of the artwork, too – I’d love Sam Araya to do something ‘Cruelty’-based. The album will also include our Hallowed Be Thy Name cover, which shared a similarly pants drum sound.”

Looking back to go forward seems to have worked for Cradle of Filth. They’re a band with a rich legacy and so many brilliant footnotes. They deserve to be immortalised in the heavy metal history books, but they’re not ready for embalming just yet. Although not active in the mainstream eye like they once were, Cradle’s renaissance continues.

“We’re a name,” Dani concludes. “People talk about Cradle of Filth and they’ll instantly go, ‘Yeah, I love that,’ or, ‘Yeah, they’re shit.’ That’s good. That’s all you can ask for: to be remembered, and for a multitude of things, too. We’re not just the band who were on a BBC programme, or the band that did the ‘Jesus is a Cunt’ shirt, or the band that fucked the Pope off, or the band that did that fucking awful Temptation song. Just being recognised is eulogy enough.”  

‘Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay’ is out on September 22 through Nuclear Blast.

Cradle Of Filth Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Mon October 30 2017 - BELFAST Limelight
Tue October 31 2017 - DUBLIN Academy
Thu November 02 2017 - MANCHESTER Academy 2
Fri November 03 2017 - GLASGOW Glasgow Garage
Sat November 04 2017 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Institute2
Sun November 05 2017 - LEEDS Church
Tue November 07 2017 - OXFORD O2 Academy Oxford
Wed November 08 2017 - SOUTHAMPTON Engine Rooms
Thu November 09 2017 - NORWICH Waterfront Norwich
Fri November 10 2017 - LONDON Electric Ballroom
Sat November 11 2017 - BRISTOL Bierkeller

Click here to compare & buy Cradle Of Filth Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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