Sunday Old School: Black Metal History Month Part 4. Cradle Of Filth
Band Photo: Cradle Of Filth (?)
Controversy is a word that has appeared so many times over the past month’s columns. Whether it be the blasphemy displayed by Behemoth, the violent acts of some Gorgoroth members, or simply the name of Rotting Christ. However, today we’ll look at a band that caused controversy in a different fashion, when they brought black metal into the mainstream. The group labelled responsible for this supposed crime against metal, is English natives, Cradle of Filth. Cradle of Filth were formed in Ipswich, Suffolk, one of the most eastern counties of Britain, in 1991 by vocalist Dani Filth, guitar player, Paul Ryan, drummer Darren White, bassist Jon Pritchard and keyboard player, Benjamin Ryan. By the end of the next year, the band had recorded two demos, "Invoking the Unclean" and "Orgiastic Pleasures Foul," as well as a split release with Malediction. They soon signed with Tombstone Records and recorded their first album, "Goetia," although this was never released owing to the collapse of the label and the recordings being wiped, forcing the band to seek another record company.
Following another demo, "Total Fucking Darkness," which featured their new second guitarist Paul Allender and a new bassist named, Robin Graves, the band were picked up by Cacophonous Records, who marked a first release themselves with the debut Cradle album, "The Principle of Evil Made Flesh." The record also marked the recording debut of their new drummer, Nicholas Barker and featured a then unusual mesh of black metal and gothic influences, which helped grab the attention of critics who heaped praise upon the album.
Although they had not been with the label long, their relationship with Cacophonous was not a harmonious one and the group quickly wrote and recorded a new EP entitled, "V Empire or Dark Faerytales in Phallustein," which allowed them to be released from their contract. Although the band admits the record was a rushed affair, it was very well received with some songs staying in the live setlist for years to come. In 1996, the same year as "V Empire or Dark Faerytales in Phallustein," hit the shelves, Cradle recorded and released their second album, "Dusk… and Her Embrace," for their new label, Music for Nations. The album was something a concept record, dealing mostly with vampires and such themes and was notable for featuring Venom frontman, Chronos performing a speech on the closing track, "Haunted Shores." It was received very well by numerous publications and to date remains one of the most popular albums amongst the band’s fans, although they would soon gain attention for reasons other than their music. When trying to come up with a slogan for a new t-shirt, someone suggested the simple phrase, "Jesus is a Cunt," which was unanimously approved and printed on the back of a shirt which featured a masturbating nun on the front. The shirt has been banned in such countries as New Zealand and some fans have even been in court just for wearing the design. The group continued to arouse uproar using t-shirts when they visited The Vatican wearing shirts which read, "I Love Satan."
Never afraid of appearing in the mainstream, the band also appeared in a BBC documentary called "Living With the Enemy," which along with Dani Filth’s new column in Metal Hammer, helped build anticipation for their forthcoming third album, "Cruelty and the Beast," which was released in May 1998 to a mostly positive response. It was another concept album, this time focusing on the life and legend of Countess Bathory and featured Hammer Horror actress, Ingrid Pitt providing guest narration. The band followed this with their first home video/DVD release, "PanDaemonAeon," which contained four live songs performed at The Astoria in London, as well as their first music video for the song, "From the Cradle to Enslave," for which an accompanying EP by the same name was also released.
They wasted little time in getting to work on new material and on Halloween 2000, Cradle of Filth released their fourth full length album, "Midian," which was based on the Clive Barker novel, "Cabal" and featured another acting guest, this time from Doug Bradley, who appeared in the "Cabal" film adaptation, "Nightbreed." The record was considered commercial by Cradle’s standards and spawned something of a hit with, "Her Ghost in the Fog," which received heavy airplay on music channels. They followed this full length with an EP the next year, entitled, "Bitter Suites to Succubi," a compilation album, "Lovecraft & Witch Hearts," in 2002 and a live album the same year called, "Live Bait for the Dead," as well as appearing in the movie, "Cradle of Fear," before signing a new record deal, this time with major label Sony, becoming one of the most extreme bands to appear on such a large label.
Although some fans were unhappy about the move to a major label, Sony did spend the money on the Budapest Film Orchestra and Choir to record with the band, allowing the band to finally achieve the sound the sound they had been attempting to create with synthesizers on earlier releases. The album itself, "Damnation and a Day," received mixed reviews from critics, who felt that the record was too long amongst other problems. It produced two more music videos from the band, "Babalon A.D. (So Glad for the Madness)" and "Mannequin." The former was a DVD only single and made the band the first to enter the UK top 40 Singles Chart with such a format.
"Damnation and a Day" proved to be their only release with Sony, who the band felt had begun to lose interest and so the band moved to Roadrunner Records, for whom they released their sixth full length album, "Nymphetamine," in September 2004 and entered the top 100 in the United States. Their appearance in the mainstream was increased further when they were nominated for a Grammy Award for the title track. The album itself did not feature an overall concept, unlike all their other albums with the exception of their debut. It brought back actor, Doug Bradley who went on to appear on their next album, "Thornography," which was released in 2006. "Thornography" was not met with many enthusiastic reviews but many critics at least felt it was a half decent effort, though the cover of the Heaven 17 classic, "Temptation," was dismissed as "ridiculous." A deluxe version of the album was released in early 2008 which contained another unlikely cover, this time in the form of the Shakespeare’s Sister hit, "Stay."
Later that year, the band released another full length album, "Godspeed on the Devil’s Thunder," which marked the debut of their new drummer, Martin "Marthus" Škaroupka, who replaced the popular, Adrian Erlandsson. The album was able to break into the top 50 in the United States and received relatively good reviews, especially when compared to "Thornography." The record was notable for featuring the last performance by backing vocalist, Sarah Jezebel Deva, who had appeared on all the band’s albums bar, "The Principle of Evil Made Flesh." It also marked the end of another relationship, as the partnership with Roadrunner came to an end in 2010, leading the band to sign with Peaceville Records, in a joint effort with their own Abracadaver label. The first album to be released via this venture was initially reported to be, "All Hallows Eve," though it soon confirmed instead to be, "Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa." Though it was not hailed as a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, it did garner a generally positive reaction, including from this very site, whose reviewer xFiruath claimed the album was "a return to their 90s form."
More releases soon followed, such as the EP, "Evermore Darkly," which also featured a live DVD of the band’s performance at the Graspop Metal Meeting festival, as well as a second compilation album, "Midnight in the Labyrinth," which hit the shelves in 2012, the same year as their most recent studio album, "The Manticore of Horrors." It received some negative feedback, mostly due to its artwork, as well as from fans who felt the introduction of punk influenced riffs didn’t suit the group, though critically it gained more of a lukewarm response. It seems the band are currently going through their usual flurry of releases which precede a new album, having recently released their own comic book, as well as plotting a new, two disc compilation album, it surely won’t be long before Cradle are back in the studio to record another slab of conceptualised, evil metal music.
Cradle of Filth - "Principle of Evil Made Flesh"
Cradle of Filth - "Dusk and Her Embrace"
Cradle of Filth - "From the Cradle To Enslave"
Cradle of Filth - "Scorched Earth Erotica"
Cradle of Filth - "Her Ghost in the Fog"
Cradle of Filth - "Babalon A.D. (So Glad For The Madness)"
Cradle of Filth - "Nymphetamine Fix"
Cradle of Filth - "The Death of Love"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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