Cradle Of Filth are the bee’s bollocks. The dog’s knees. The frightening in the bottle. They’ve been perverting clean ears for almost a quarter of a century and, as last millennium rolled on its belly, the Filth were set for world domination. But it didn’t happen. Somewhere along the line, Planet Earth shat its drawers. It wimped out. The notion of a band with such far-reaching roots – everything from Iron Maiden to Bathory, from The Sisters Of Mercy to Celtic Frost – being nominated for a Grammy, packing out venues and selling shirts emblazoned with ‘Jesus Is A Cunt’ didn’t sit right with the man upstairs. Which is a shame. Because they were – and still are – one of the most original bands to ever give it a go.
Tonight’s modestly-filled Rock City is testament to this tale. Back in 2001, the place was bursting with bodies as Cradle recorded their Heavy, Left-Handed & Candid DVD; on this crisp Friday night, the balcony is scarce but the floor is flooded with New Rocks. Even the support band’s reflect the nature of the Filth’s eclecticism, with blackened metalcore newbies She Shall Burn and Australia’s symphonic Ne Obliviscaris along for the ride. You’ve probably never seen a hybrid of Chas Smash and Chris Pontius playing violin over double bass drumming, but Ne Obliviscaris’ Tim Charles provides just that. What a man.
And now the main course. Nottingham – and most of the UK, come to think of it – has been starved of a fully-fledged Cradle tour for nearly a decade. A UK-based band. A flagship UK act, not truly touring their homeland for eight excruciating years. The band has popped up here and there for one-off appearances, garnering everything from rapturous applause to a gobstopper right in the spinal column. But tonight, Cradle Of Filth are to take Rock City’s bollocks between their teeth and gnaw their way through like they haven’t done in, to be exact, 3093 days.
Right off the bat – there aren’t actual bats in here, don’t be silly – something is different. Lindsay Schoolcraft, keyboard extraordinaire, creeps on stage with a lantern. Crucified skeletons decorate either side of the stage, glowing like they’re in a Nivea advert. Head honcho Dani Filth is spawned from Hell, black contacts inserted and suitably gnarly garb in check as Heaven Torn Asunder crawls from the amps. Those guttural growls are, as the kids would say, ‘on point’ and the high screams are back in a way they haven’t been since 2001. Very rarely do Dani’s high-pitched gymnastics go off-piste; all right, we swear he’s just making bits up every now and then and he slightly fluffs his lines on newie Blackest Magick In Practice, but he’s Dani Filth. This man’s daily stools contain works of lyrical wonderment to rival Lord Byron. He’s allowed to make a whoopsie every now and then.
Cradle’s show has, for the past decade or so, largely relied on the frontman pratting about while the other members lark about like a gang of gimps. Not tonight. Marek ‘Ashok’ Šmerda and Richard Shaw’s guitars are locked in tighter than a tumble-dried g-string, sordid images flash on screens flanking the band and FUCK ME THAT’S HOT fire erupts from the stage’s orifices through Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids; Dani and Richard clamber down towards the barrier and high five punters as if they’re Bruce Springsteen. It’s ludicrous. Unequivocally Cradle Of Filth.
And then we have the setlist. Lord Abortion? Queen Of Winter, Throned? Malice Through The Looking Glass?! Cradle Of Filth: are you trying to make us leave our partners and marry you? Aside from Nymphetamine’s title track, nothing between Midian and Hammer Of The Witches is aired. Which is a shame, because every Cradle album has its merits – even Thornography is packing a barrage of bangers. However, it’s fitting that the band have chosen to do this. Hammer Of The Witches came at a time when their future was in disarray; Paul Allender had left (again) and fans grew weary of the Filth’s recent punk-infused offerings. Hammer Of The Witches rectified this, bringing back the twin-guitar attack of yore and sounding like the ravenous successor to Midian 15 years too late. The new songs slot in seamlessly. Yours Immortally is almost as perfect live as it is on disc, and we’ll hopefully never have to hear For Your Vulgar Delectation ever again.
Climaxing with the unbeatable Her Ghost In The Fog, Cradle are a band reborn. Lindsay is the most fitting keyboardist/backing vocalist they’ve ever had. Drummer Martin ‘Marthus’ Skaroupka is a machine, we’re sure; at times the soundman is so scared, he just lets the drums take over the entire mix. Daniel Firth still looks like a mardy mustard on the bass, but, well, not everyone wants to be Steve Harris. They’re never going to recapture the savage bliss of the early days, but this incarnation is as good as you’re going to get. Still painfully relevant. Still punishingly entertaining. There’s still gas left in the festering arse of this band, and you owe it to Cradle Of Filth – and to yourself – to witness this show.