“I don’t have any qualms about playing it until the day I die.” How Nymphetamine helped Cradle Of Filth become “the Backstreet Boys” of black metal

Dani Filth Nymphetamine Video Shot
(Image credit: Press/YouTube/Roadrunner)

By the time they released their sixth studio album, 2004’s Nymphetamine, Cradle Of Filth were loved and loathed in equal measure. Having partially shed their black metal skins, they’d embraced a more grandiose and symphonic style, dragging extreme metal as close to the mainstream as it could get at that point. They’d even – gasp! – signed to a major label for preceding album Damnation And A Day, which came out on Sony in 2003. 

Nymphetamine the record featured two versions of its title track. Nymphetamine (Overdose) was a multi-part, nine-minute epic sitting as the centrepiece of the record. But it was a shortened version, dubbed Nymphetamine (Fix), that was sent forth as a single, taking on its own life, propelling the band to even greater levels of infamy and landing them their biggest-selling album to this day. It even got nominated for a Grammy. 

“The negativity had already hit us in a tsunami by that point,” laughs frontman Dani Filth. “When we signed with Sony, of course we were labelled sellouts. We were the Backstreet Boys! But the thing about being in a band with longevity is that you eventually outrun all that crap anyway.” 

Cradle’s relationship with Sony lasted for a single album, with Nymphetamine emerging on Roadrunner just a year after Damnation And A Day. When asked if they were in a hurry to get something out on their new label, Dani explains that it was more a case of the band just being on a roll. 

“We were fuelled up at this time. We’d headlined the B-stage of the American Ozzfest for 10 weeks, which was a big, big deal,” he recalls. “We took Type O Negative out in support of us in the States - and I think some of that Type O rubbed off on us a little bit with some of the songwriting. Sony didn’t really understand us, and they let us go without holding us to any contract, with Roadrunner waiting in the wings. We were riding high as a band, and that’s why we were so swiftly off the bat.” 

Following a string of full- and partial-concept albums, the band wanted to return to a more varied approach on Nymphetamine. This coincided with a change in the songwriting process, with former keyboard player Martin Powell telling blog Jävla Musik that they went from “writing as a full band in the rehearsal room, to each of us working on our own songs on our own studio set-ups”. He also claimed that he wrote a few songs in their entirety, along with “the majority” of the title track. 

“What I remember is that we wrote the song and it was vastly different,” Dani says. “People started discussing the merits of shortening it into just the middle section but I wanted to keep the original like a triptych, with wings on both sides. 

The original vocal pattern was twice the speed and we were trying to work out how we were going to get this to work. Then one Sunday afternoon I was like, ‘Right, everybody is going out somewhere, I’m going to sit down and work this out.’ I ran the vocals at half speed and it suddenly dawned on me, ‘This is actually quite clever.’ OK, it sounds really obvious, but it wasn’t at the time.” 

The recording sessions themselves were a little stop-start, with producer Rob Caggiano having to leave at one point to go on tour as then-lead guitarist with Anthrax. Dani came down with a pollen allergy that prevented him singing for a while, but these were, he says, pretty standard obstacles for any long-term band. In the end, both the longer Nymphetamine (Overdose) and the reworked Nymphetamine (Fix) were included on the album, with the shortened version acting as a kind of closing reprise. 

As well as Dani’s barking shrieks, both versions benefited from a guest appearance by former Theatre Of Tragedy and Leaves’ Eyes vocalist Liv Kristine. It wasn’t the first time Cradle had employed a female singer – Andrea Meyer had appeared on debut album The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh, and Sarah Jezebel Deva sang as a backing vocalist with the band for almost 14 years, but they wanted a different voice for Nymphetamine.

Dani vaguely recalls having a connection to Liv through her then-husband, Alex Krull of Atrocity. “Roadrunner US got in touch with me out of the blue and asked me to do some vocals for Nymphetamine. They needed my vocals very quickly,” Liv told Brave Words at the time, adding that she recorded them remotely at Alex’s Mastersound Studio in Germany. 

“I fell in love with the song straight away… I love the contrast between Dani’s vocals and mine. The feeling of the song might remind you of [Where The Wild Roses Grow by] Kylie Minogue and Nick Cave,” she added.

“So she just ripped it off then, did she?” laughs Dani, when we tell him about her comparison. “I guess she’s talking about that sort of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ vibe, although it’s a horrible thing to call her a beast! No, I see what she means – it is a cool juxtaposition. And again, we’ve employed that throughout our career. In fact, we’re doing that even still with our collaboration with Ed Sheeran.”

Cradle Of Filth - Nymphetamine Fix [OFFICIAL VIDEO] - YouTube Cradle Of Filth - Nymphetamine Fix [OFFICIAL VIDEO] - YouTube
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Unlike the Kylie and Nick Cave duet, Nymphetamine doesn’t end in bloody murder, but it does explore the darker side of love, lust and obsession. The title itself is a portmanteau of ‘nymphette’ and ‘amphetamine’, and at the time Dani described the song as concerning itself “with a love affair so intense, that although soured and dead, it ignites at the slightest sniff of reinvention”. 

“It’s a kind of morbid love letter,” he nods today. “And unhealthy. An addiction, as love often is. Probably worse than alcohol or heroin – to those of us who are divorced,” he adds with a chuckle. 

As already mentioned, the approach to songwriting on the Nymphetamine album was markedly different to 1998’s Cruelty And The Beast – a concept album based around Elizabeth Bathory – 2000’s Clive Barker-inspired Midian or 2003’s Damnation And A Day, which the singer describes as “a huge, convoluted album literally dripping off the CD, about the fall of Lucifer”. 

“To paraphrase Alice Cooper, he’s not writing songs about the Fall of Man and politics and that sort of thing. He just wants to hear how your girlfriend’s doing,” he grins. “It was refreshing to go back to that, because I’m a bit of a gothic romantic at heart and the lyrics on the album were more Byron-esque.” 

Of course, famed poet Lord Byron probably wouldn’t have used Airwolf as a placeholder. Taken from the hokey 80s military helicopter-themed TV series, that was the unlikely working title of the album’s title track until it was completed.

Another key element of the success of Nymphetamine (Fix) was the suitably gothic black and white music video that accompanied it. Liv Kristine flew over for the shoot, which took place partly in the tunnels around the London Dungeon and was directed by Dani Jacobs, who had previously enjoyed success in the pop world with the likes of Tears For Fears, The Corrs and Steps. 

“We didn’t have a lot of time to film it but we did have a lot of cool costumes and ideas,” Dani recalls. “Most of our previous videos had full stories going on, but much like the album, this was more freeform. And it’s obviously one that’s stood the test of time.” 

Buoyed by the video and their burgeoning success, Cradle Of Filth secured that Best Metal Performance nomination at the 47th Annual Grammy Awards in 2005 alongside Slipknot, Hatebreed, Killswitch Engage and Motörhead. The latter bagged the award with their cover of Metallica’s Whiplash – a fact Dani remains philosophical about. 

“They’re the Grammys, they don’t really know about subgenres,” he shrugs. “Metal comes on, they go, ‘Oh, Motörhead we know about them. We’ll vote for those.’” 

So has Nymphetamine itself stood the test of time, in both of its guises? There’s no doubting that the original extended Nymphetamine (Overdose) version has been overlooked, despite those enfolding ‘wings’, as Dani calls them, providing some excellent metallic dynamics at either side of the far better-known middle section. 

“I still love the [Overdose] version. We were going to play it live, but the longer you go on, the trickier it gets to put the setlist together without missing anything,” Dani shrugs. 

And Nymphetamine (Fix)? “Every time I hear it, it sends a shiver of fear and revulsion through me, because it means I’m probably in the toilet and I should be at the soundcheck instead,” he laughs. “Seriously though, it’s the go-to song, and I’m not one of those people moaning, ‘Oh, I wish I’d never written that, now I have to play it every day.’ I don’t have any qualms about playing it until the day I die."

Cradle Of Filth tour the UK from October 27 and headline Damnation Festival on November 2. For the full list of live shows, visit the band's official website

Paul Travers has spent the best part of three decades writing about punk rock, heavy metal, and every associated sub-genre for the UK's biggest rock magazines, including Kerrang! and Metal Hammer