In The Studio: Cradle Of Filth

New-look six-piece metal institution Cradle Of Filth have been holed up in the countryside of their native Suffolk since the end of last year, drawing deep inspiration from England’s historic Witch County for their latest album, the medieval retribution-themed Hammer Of The Witches. Hailing a kindred spirit, Hammer tracked down Dani Filth to a hedgerow near the Suffolk/Norfolk border.

How long until the album’s finished?

“We’ve still got 18 days left. We’ve been working eleven hour days – not including weekends, we can party then – and it’s sounding fantastic. We’re getting to that very exciting stage where you’ve fought through the boredom of being in the studio for so long, now it’s getting exciting again, the puzzle’s being put together.”

Once again, the line-up has changed significantly since 2011’s The Manticore And Other Horrors. Keyboardist Lindsay Schoolcraft joined in 2013, plus there’s a new pair of guitarists, Richard Shaw and Marek Šmerda (aka Ashok), augmenting the rhythm section of drummer Marthus and bassist Daniel Firth. How did this line-up come together?

“Our previous guitarist Paul moved to the States – he lost interest in the band, he didn’t want to come out on tour – so we had to find someone else for a Behemoth co-headliner we did last year, and we got Rich. Then our other guitarist James had been suffering from severe neck problems and was undergoing major surgery so he was out. Ashok is already good friends with our drummer Martin, they’re both from the Czech Republic. We call them the Czech Mates! They were chosen for amazing musicianship, but it developed on tour that they were also both really nice people. We did a massive tour of Russia last year and bonded really well, and subsequently wrote accordingly.”

It must have been fun getting a new guitar team together, watching them spark off each other?

“Guitar-wise it’s like Glenn Tipton and KK Downing! There’s loads of really fucking great guitar harmonies. They’re both fans of the band anyway, they’ve done a lot of guitar tuition and they’re very well-versed in the scene, but they bring a fresh perspective to everything. It was great fun watching the fruits of our labours come together in the studio!”

Is Hammer Of The Witches a concept album?

“It has been misconstrued, some people seem to think we’re jumping on a Viking bandwagon. It’s about the Malleus Maleficarum, a medieval document of guidelines for the persecution and torture of witches, but our version is more retributory. It’s the Hammer Of The Witches for the witches; the hammer is in the witches’ hands. It’s payback time. It’s not a concept record, although most of today’s concept records are loose themes around a loose title with some artwork thrown in, so it could be called a concept record. It’s a mixed bag, but it has its roots in that medieval period. There’s a track called Onward Christian Soldiers, which may pertain a little to today… You always have to tread carefully around religious conflicts nowadays, but it’s mainly about the Crusades. Obviously there’s quite a few songs about witchcraft; living in the Witch County we’re always inundated with all of that influence and inspiration.”

Recording at Grindstone Studio must help in that regard?

“The studio is firmly lodged in the heart of Suffolk, very rural, you can’t see anyone bloody anywhere! It’s cool because the themes of isolation are prevalent on the album, it’s helped the band form and experiment without being sidetracked. It’s rich with history, it’s got a reputation for hauntings, it’s totally inspirational, you really need that when you’re writing. We’ve recorded all over the place, great places and great records, but they were never quite as atmospheric as those recorded in rural locations.”

It seems like a perfect creative environment, is the temptation now to settle into your home turf for good?

“Obviously there’s not the same sort of money in music nowadays, it’s got to be said, but we could still go to a residential studio, we just wouldn’t be able to spread our wings as much. Back in the heyday, we’d be four months in a residential with the whole band – meals, games rooms, everything – now we’ve got a very small studio but it’s more productive, it’s 15 miles from my house, and despite Cradle being scattered over the known universe, there’s a great holiday home near here that we stay in which is even more remote than the studio! I think we’ve found our niche here. It allows us to be more critical and spend more time getting everything right.”

Do you feel by now the pressure’s off to deliver the goods because you have enough confidence in the way you work, or is it hard to come up with new twists nearly 25 years into your career?

“There’s always a worry, ‘is this what people are expecting from Cradle Of Filth?’ You can never answer those questions, but this is the first album for three years – the longest gap Cradle have ever had – so the hunger and bite is there. We’re itching to get out and play this stuff and do what a band does. After 25 years of being in Cradle Of Filth you’d think that pleasure would diminish somewhat, but maybe it’s the onset of spring and being in the countryside so long, you just really want to get into that whirling rush of humanity again.”

Hammer Of The Witches is out in July via Nuclear Blast

Chris Chantler

Chris has been writing about heavy metal since 2000, specialising in true/cult/epic/power/trad/NWOBHM and doom metal at now-defunct extreme music magazine Terrorizer. Since joining the Metal Hammer famileh in 2010 he developed a parallel career in kids' TV, winning a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Award for BBC1 series Little Howard's Big Question as well as writing episodes of Danger Mouse, Horrible Histories, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and The Furchester Hotel. His hobbies include drumming (slowly), exploring ancient woodland and watching ancient sitcoms.