Whether you count them as strictly black metal or not, Cradle Of Filth were most certainly an introduction to the genre for many. There was no goat-beheading or church-burning to detract from the matter in hand – Cradle were the blueprint for making an actual career of extreme metal. Their overbearing public presence had them pegged as stars when the millennium flipped over; major labels, band members and fickle audiences came and went, leaving vocalist Dani Filth the only original member of the band he crafted back in 1991. Completed by drummer Martin ‘Marthus’ Škaroupka, guitarists Richard Shaw and Marek ‘Ashok’ Šmerda, bass-basher Daniel Firth and keyboardist/vocalist Lindsay Schoolcraft, Cradle are already working on a follow-up to 2015’s Hammer Of The Witches. While we nibble our claws with anticipation, here’s a list of ludicrous litanies to tide you over.
A is for… Alcohol
If asked what their poison was, Cradle would probably have answered “everything” back in the early days. In 1999, Select magazine bravely carted their regular feature, Our Absinthe Friends, to Stuart Anstis (then guitar player) and Dani; the piece’s premise was to do an interview while getting pissed on absinthe. The pair nearly drained the entire bottle, burned the carpet and witnessed the magazine’s photographer, out of her mind, dancing in the garden with an inflatable Frankenstein’s Monster. Also, the band apparently had a decent drinking session with Venom’s Cronos when he recorded guest vocals for masterpiece Dusk… And Her Embrace’s closing track, Haunted Shores.
B is for… Books
If you like reading, The Gospel Of Filth is an essential purchase. Any budding Cradle fan, occult enthusiast or weird bastard will ogle at the obscene amount of blood, breasts and Baphomet on display within The Gospel Of Filth’s 498 pages. Essentially a history of the occult tying in with Cradle’s career, The Gospel finds Gavin Baddeley slaving away at the research while Dani and other members of the band and the metal scene pepper facts with tales of horrendous drunkenness, Satan and so on. Dani recently dipped his toes into the ink of comic books, too, with esteemed scribbler Kurt Amacker teaming up with the frontman to forge The Curse of Venus Aversa. Special pre-orders of the comic featured Dani Filth voodoo dolls, blessed in New Orleans. Really.
C is for… Cradle Of Fear
It’s the best bad horror film ever. Devised before the band hit Sony Records, Cradle of Fear’s B-movie brilliance features little in the way of plot, replaced instead with a multitude of gruesome deaths and Dani slitting a cat open, ears to arsehole. It’s ridiculous. There’s a demon that looks like John Bishop. An amputee is possessed by his own leg, which kind of serves him right seeing as he nicked it from his mate. Get on this film immediately.
D is for… Dani Filth
Cradle wouldn’t be Cradle without Dani Filth. Sure, they’d still be a great extreme metal outfit with another vocalist, but Dani has always given this band star power. He’s got that sardonic wit about him, making jokes that often go over the heads of audience members, journalists and worried parents; as we’ll discuss later, his vocal prowess and lyrical viewpoint are totally unique. And he injected that British, morbid sense of humour into the genre – Shat Out Of Hell remains the greatest pun ever. All these things made Cradle an intriguing, alluring concept to the mainstream; Dani featured on TV panel show Never Mind The Buzzcocks, and is the only guest to ever be banned from returning. He was also voted an icon of his home county Suffolk in an online poll, but was later deemed an unsuitable candidate, disqualified and replaced with a swimming pool. Boo. Hiss.
E is for… Esoteric and Erotic
You won’t hear Dani banging on about how many people he’s shagged or what sort of car he drives. No, Cradle’s crepuscular mouthpiece prefers to soak his lyrics in vivid, gothic tales; graveyard rendezvouses and love beyond this mortal coil; 15th century paedophiles, monsters from another dimension and various chapters from the Bible. Speaking about masterwork Dusk…, Dani claimed it was “our attempt to evoke Byron and Shelley and that whole Romantic period in 19th century literature.” H.P. Lovecraft and Clive Barker were both massive influences on fourth LP Midian, while the 15th century witch-hunt manual Malleus Maleficarum is flipped on its head for lyrical excavation during Cradle’s Hammer Of The Witches.
F is for… Fucking Darkness, Total
Unleashed in 2014, Total Fucking Darkness is the band’s third demo, recorded in 1992, remastered alongside rehearsal tracks and the beautifully titled Spattered In Faeces – the only surviving track from Cradle’sdeleted Goetia tapes. Of Spattered In Faeces, Dani said the sound was akin to “melodic death metal basically, with keyboards, something aimed at achieving a certain atmosphere… which wasn’t quite as atmospheric as one would’ve hoped.” He hit the nail on the head there – Total Fucking Darkness and its accomplices are raw, pallid reflections of a band yet to reach their full potential.
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G is for… ‘Green’ Period
Cradle’s prolific campaign from 1994 to the turn of the millennium. The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh, V Empire Or Dark Faerytales In Phallustein, Dusk… And Her Embrace and Cruelty And The Beast are four discs that cemented Cradle as genuine musical innovators. Taking the brutal black metal skeleton of Principle and sexing it up on subsequent releases, Cradle created their own genre, shitting out a flurry of discs that most old-school fans feel they haven’t bettered since. The original recordings of Dusk…, held by Cacophonous Records following the band’s parting from the label, were laid down by the Principle-era line-up in 1995, finally seeing the light of day this year labelled as The Original Sin. It’s a bit good.
H is for… Her Ghost in the Fog
Fourth LP Midian surfaced in 2000, armed with the tagline: “Does the world really need another Cradle Of Filth album? Of course it does. It’s a bad world and needs to be punished.” Guitarist Paul Allender was back, drummer Adrian Erlandsson and keyboard player Martin Powell were wet behind the ears and the focus was on hooks, heaviness and er, not MTV. MTV, however, fancied a slice of Filth, whacking Her Ghost In The Fog’s wicked, winter blunderland video on heavy rotation and scaring the piss out of their viewers. ‘TrVe’ Cradle fans will pretend to dislike Her Ghost In The Fog, but they’re lying. The reason Her Ghost In The Fog found Cradle a mainstream audience is because it was a stark contrast to the squeaky clean musical climate it found itself in and, well, it’s a massive tune.
I is for… Inimitable
Nobody has done what Cradle Of Filth have done. No band so sordid, so disgustingly deviant, has ever infiltrated mainstream and metal consciousness in the way Cradle did. Their unique blend of extreme metal with gothic melodrama and NWOBHM guitars latched itself onto Dani’s beastly belches and, well, the rest is history. They’ve been name-checked on The IT Crowd and, less prestigiously, Coronation Street. They were even slated as main support on Slayer and Pantera’s 2001 Tattoo The Planet tour, including a planned stop at Wembley Arena; the tour was derailed in the wake of 9⁄11. But still, Cradle are a true one-off. Grammy-nominated, concept-peddling, Byron-worshipping genius.
J is for… Joey Jordison
Back in the mid-noughties, when then-Slipknot drummer Joey Jordison decided to do everything, a side-project with Dani was allegedly in the works. Slated to be produced by ex-Anthrax/now-Volbeat guitarist Rob Caggiano, the band apparently cobbled together a few tracks with Gorgoroth bassist King, Christopher John from I, Parasite and, as Dani put it, “another who hadn’t fully committed”. Record label woes ensured the tracks never saw the light of day and the project was indefinitely halted, which sucks.
K is for… King Diamond
An undeniable influence on Cradle’s twin-harmony material, visual aesthetic and Dani’s horror-drenched, lovelorn lyrics, King Diamond more than proves his worth. Yeah, his music was key in Metallica’s formative years, but Cradle never stopped kneeling at the King’s altar. In 2005, they even roped him in for a crass cover of Cliff Richard’s Devil Woman. We don’t remember Cliff dropping a C bomb in the original, though.
L is for… Living With The Enemy
This is really, really funny. Following Cruelty And The Beast’s release and subsequent explosion into the wider world, BBC2’s Living With The Enemy introduces us to worried parent Janet Robinson and her son Luke, a Cradle obsessive. “There’s nothing wrong with dead people and vampires,” says Luke, plunging us into a half-hour exercise of hilarity that, if we didn’t know better, we’d assume was some sort of stray Brass Eye episode that just didn’t cut the mustard. Daughter Lynn accompanies Janet for a week on tour with the Filth; initially frosty, the band end up hugging the pair and come across as quite lovely. Drummer Nick Barker admits that even his mum doesn’t like the ‘Jesus Is A Cunt’ shirt. Who would’ve guessed?
M is for… Martin Marthus Škaroupka
Adrian Erlandsson left and we all thought the Filth had fucked it. Thankfully, Martin rode in atop a tidal wave of blast beats, injecting his merciless, pinpoint percussive punishment into Godspeed On The Devil’s Thunder, its three following LPs and various side-steps. As well as muscling his way into a rejuvenated version of the band, Cradle’s Czech mate provided the luscious keys and orchestration you hear on The Manticore & Other Horrors and Hammer Of The Witches.
N is for… Norway
Six core bands built Norway’s black metal scene: Mayhem, Burzum, Darkthrone, Emperor, Enslaved and Thorns. That’s the backbone of the sound; the list of infinitely influential acts that crept into Cradle’s melting pot of Celtic Frost, Mercyful Fate and Sisters Of Mercy.
O is for… One Final Graven Kiss
An icy, piano-laden instrumental interlude that soon gives way to synth, One Final Graven Kiss was just the start for Cradle’s non-rock ditties. A hallmark of black metal, the interlude is a nefarious character that can add endless mysticism or, alternatively, jettison your record into a mouldy pile of cheese. Thankfully, Dani’s love of Hammer horror movies and, recently, the band’s acquisition of Martin, has assured that halfway houses such as this remain spine-tingling zingers. Most valiantly, the band spent extra care on these passages for their major label release Damnation And A Day, recording with an actual orchestra. More on that later, though.
P is for… Prince Albert (no, not the piercing)
Believe it or not, our fledgling Filthlings were invited to a royal ball courtesy of Prince Albert and Princess Stephanie of Monaco. The band and their manager binned the invite because, well, who’d invite Cradle to something like that? Turns out the offer was genuine, made as Cradle’s record label executive rubbed shoulders with the royal siblings at the Cannes Film Festival. “They must have taken quite a shine to the concept of the Filth,” mused Dani.
Q is for… Queen of Winter, Throned
V Empire Or Dark Faerytales In Phallustein is Cradle’s most ridiculously titled release and, by many fans’ admission, the band’s crowning glory. Queen of Winter, Throned is the EP’s highlight, showcasing 10 minutes of sprawling, overly ambitious extreme metal that battles with the likes of Emperor when it comes to being forward-thinking. There’s still enough bite and brutality to please your average Mayhem fan, yet the elegance and sheen is still apparent; The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh was sexy and heavy, but this was something else. This had brains as well as brawn. And bats. Lots of bats. Cradle were on track to be darlings of extreme metal and V Empire was the catalyst.
R is for… Record Labels
Now residing within Nuclear Blast’s esteemed roster, Cradle’s genre-spanning, audience-slicing product has seen them hop from label to label with varying degrees of success. Music For Nations released everything from Dusk… And Her Embrace to 2001’s Bitter Suites To Succubi following a war with former label Cacophonous. For some bizarre reason, Sony signed Cradle and decided to pump a fuck-ton of cash into them, resulting in the band blowing it on the 80-piece Budapest Film Orchestra And Choir for 2003’s glorious, gluttonously over-the-top Damnation And A Day. Sony didn’t ‘get’ Cradle and the band landed in Roadrunner Records’ lap for Nymphetamine the following year, going on to pen Thornography and, finally, Godspeed On The Devil’s Thunder: the best album about an aristocratic, demon-summoning, serial-killing paedophile from 15th century France you’ll ever hear. Indie label Peaceville harboured the Filth for two more LPs and a few stop-gap releases, and now hopefully Nuclear Blast will hang onto the band for more than five minutes.
S is for… Side-projects
Cradle is a lifelong commitment for Dani, so it came as something of a shock when he joined Suffolk metallers Devilment, letting his shlockier, rockier side loose. Releasing two demos before dropping their first LP, The Great And Secret Show, in 2014, Devilment had Dani doing double duty as Cradle toured The Manticore & Other Horrors and started plotting Hammer Of The Witches. While Cradle is still Dani’s baby, his other band are readying to release Devilment II in November, with viscous videos and puerile promos available in due course. Elsewhere, Paul Allender took his punk-orientated riffing out of Cradle and into White Empress, so much that it stopped being a side-project and had Paul leave Cradle.
T is for… T-shirts
You know the shirt. The one that bloke got arrested for wearing. The one that still riles people up, with a woman even trying to deface it when it slithered into a New Zealand exhibition last year. A wanking nun on the front, with the legend ‘Jesus Is A Cunt’ scorched into the back. But how about Cradle’s lesser-known absurdities? ‘Touched By Christ’ adorns one garment with ‘Fingered By God’ completing the puzzle. ‘Your Mother Should Have Swallowed’ is a strong statement for any budding black metal fan; even in their later years, Cradle are still pumping out perverse products for your pleasure, with ‘Abstinence Makes The Church Grow Fondlers’ sure to become a future classic design.
U is for… Under Huntress Moon
Essentially Cradle’s stab at arena rock – albeit through a glass-completely-empty, morbidly hilarious filter – Thornography is largely viewed as the steaming shit floating in Cradle’s luscious, libidinous punchbowl. While we largely disagree (save for Temptation, which is still questionable), you can’t mess with Under Huntress Moon. A seven-minute epic that stands toe-to-toe with Tortured Soul Asylum, this gem found itself wedged in the band’s setlist even after the Thornography touring cycle. Unfortunately, it’s also the track synonymous with Cradle’s Bloodstock headline set derailing in 2009; some inconsiderate twat in the audience threw a gobstopper – one of those massive ones – straight at Paul Allender’s spine, resulting in the guitarist being carted off to hospital in full stage gear.
V is for… Vatican
Cradle rock up to the Vatican for a photoshoot. Dani’s donned some of his band’s merch – the ‘I Love Satan’ number, to be precise – and Les ‘Lecter’ Smith is suited up as a vicar. The band are held at gunpoint, Les has his collar confiscated and the band are interrogated for a bit, managing to slip through the Pope’s claws so they can play a gig with Napalm Death later that day. We wish Neck Deep would pull shit like this.
W is for… Wobbly Line-ups
Despite the tyrannical reputation Dani’s had – whether through remarks from the press or ex-bandmates – he recently described Cradle’s latest incarnation as “a democracy, and presently the six people in this band understand that and everybody else can fuck off if they don’t believe that’s the case!” Since Cradle’s inception, 23 members have been in and out of the door. The band’s ‘green period’ line-up, comprising Gian Pyres and Stuart Anstis on guitars, Nick Barker on drums, Robin Eaglestone throbbing the bass plus Les ‘Lecter’ Smith and/or Damien Gregori (depending on your tolerance for men dressed as vicars) on keyboards only held together for a couple of years. It sucks that Barker upped sticks and left allegedly due to Cruelty’s dogshit drum sound, but at least we got Martin and, before him, At The Gates/Paradise Lost legend Adrian Erlandsson.
X is for… e(X)tra tracks
Always ones to bite/chomp/suck off more than they can chew, Cradle have ended up compiling a right old pile of bonus tracks. Some rip just as hard as album tracks – Truth & Agony trumps most of Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa’s main bulk – while others, such as The Manticore & Other Horrors’ extras, fade into obscurity. The band’s covers are usually bangers too, with Bathory’s Bestial Lust (Bitch), The Misfits’ Death Comes Ripping and Black Metal by Venom ticking all relevant boxes. A Filthy reworking of Jeff Wayne’s Forever Autumn is apparently in the works, too. No, seriously.
Y is for… Yours Immortally…
Tearing into the ears like a bloodhound addicted to earwax, Yours Immortally… opens Cradle’s 11th LP, Hammer Of The Witches, in suitably abrasive fashion. Rejuvenated with fresh creative fluids in the form of Richard Shaw and Marek ‘Ashok’ Šmerda on guitars and Lindsay Schoolcraft banging the keys, Cradle returned in 2015 as a six-piece, bringing with them a twin-guitar guillotine, conceptual bliss and Dani Filth on unprecedented form. Given the past two records, hopes for Hammer Of The Witches weren’t high; as soon as Yours Immortally… tore said doubts to fucking shreds, it became apparent that Cradle of Filth can still make a dent in extreme metal when they fancy.
Z is for… Zimmer, Hans
Dani’s love for film memorabilia and bric-a-brac has been laid bare throughout multiple interviews – the man even owns a full-sized Dalek – but his affinity clings to soundtracks, too. A huge fan of Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer, the Cradle frontman confessed to regularly moistening his quill while the latter’s The Dark Knight OST creeps through the background; Midnight In The Labyrinth, Cradle’s album of ‘green period’ orchestral reworkings, was heavily inspired by soundtracks – especially those by John Williams, Christopher Young and the like. The whole album is basically Mark Newby-Robson playing keyboard for an hour while Dani whispers over it. Sarah Jezebel Deva also provides welcome warbling for old-school Cradle fans, too.