Cradle of Filth have become an institution.
With 15 years passing since the band's first release, Cradle of Filth have forged their way as the centrepiece of the extreme metal scene. Of the band's longevity, frontman and original member Dani Filth, who joined the band at the ripe old age of 18, says, "I can get a Cradle of Filth tattoo and not feel embarrassed," with his trademark, self-deprecating English wit on full display.
Through the years, there have been many critically-acclaimed releases, marathon tour cycles and spurts of controversy, simply because the Grammy-nominated Cradle of Filth refuse to blend into the nefarious scene which birthed them. Cradle of Filth welcome raised eyebrows and second looks from those who don't quite "get" what they do.
The band opened doors for a scene that is no longer as fringe or sectarian as it once was. They've taken a sledgehammer and smashed away at new ground. They've maintained a steady pace, while so many of their peers have imploded, crashed and burned.
So, how exactly, has Cradle of Filth managed to outlast 'em all and arrive at their latest album, the controversially dark fairy tale, Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder? Simple. By doing what they've always done and spiking their sonic punch with ethereal keyboards, bloodcurdling screams, riffs that can make lightning shoot from your bedroom walls and a fictionalised re-imagining of a decidedly troubled historical figure from the late Middle Ages: Gilles de Rais. (More on him in a moment!)
"We've survived [all those black metal] episodes because we were more mature than other people were at the time," Dani says. "We're not being big headed by saying that. We were English and had a tract of water separating us from other black metal bands. We're still one of few English black metal bands. We have had line up changes that have helped. Our fans understand that. People want to find a chink in the armour regarding line up changes, but it's utter crap! I think we endure because we explore every facet of our art. We were into this aesthetic before forming a band and I don't think it's a hard thing to do if you are into it. All things that surround the nucleus of the band –the nucleus being the music—like our look, lyrics, how we portray ourselves on stage and our artwork, tie in all these dark elements."
Indeed, Cradle of Filth offers fans a full sensory experience and there are certainly no grey areas in their blend of black metal. It's loud. It's fast. It's hard. It's subversive. Dani continues, saying, "We never shy away from saying or doing outrageous things, but on the flip side, it's never contrived."
One thing that is outrageous but certainly not contrived is the not-for-the-faint-of-heart concept that Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder orbits around. The album is a dark fairytale centering on Gilles de Rais, the French nobleman who carved out his place in history as a brother-in-arms of Joan of Arc, as well as a prolific, sick and twisted serial killer who began his life as a devout, pious man before devolving into full-fledged evil. De Rais, also an alchemist who squandered his vast fortune, was eventually hanged for his crimes against humanity, especially children. This is sensitive material, but Cradle of Filth handle it with signature aplomb. Rather than glamorising or glorifying de Rais, the band found an artistic way to explore his story.
"Read the lyrics," Dani encourages. "It would have been so bloody easy to have gone overboard when writing about his crimes, which was really sick stuff. I would not put my daughter in a role on the record—she does a nursery rhyme and her laughter appears on the album—if we hadn't handled the material with kid gloves. It is a black metal record, after all. But there is no glorification of the crimes. We treat the subject as a dark fairytale. It is fascinating and his story has bewitched many other people. There are at least 15 pieces of work written on him by historians who are as fascinated as we are. We just put it to a soundtrack."
Cradle of Filth chose to create a another concept album after their stint on 2007's Viva la Bands tour. Dani recalls, "We were fired up and we had the skeletal structures to five or six songs. I knew I wanted to outdo our previous efforts. We had a new drummer and the music we were writing was coming from the excitement of the live setting, which can give you that emotion. The feeling of the music reminded me of when we did Cruelty and the Beast, which was 10 years prior. I was pouring through all the notebooks I had kept from investigations I had done into Elizabeth Bathory, who was the conceptual figure of Cruelty, and Gilles de Rais' name cropped up back then. I remember thinking that story would be great to follow up our first concept album, only ten years later, since we didn't want to do two concept albums back to back."
In honour of the tenth anniversary of their first concept album, Dani and his bandmates were more than inspired to revisit that aesthetic territory, which had served them well in the past. "The music had that same magic as when we were writing Cruelty, and it was very symphonic, as well," the singer says. "The more I started reading, the more I realised that this story is better than Elizabeth Bathory's. Gilles was such a well-known man in a more well known part of the world. Elizabeth was Eastern European and not a lot of information survived her. With Gilles, we have the trial transcripts of the man who was essentially the bodyguard of Joan of Arc. He was Grand Marshal of France, for God's sake. The more I read, the more the story germinated."
Cradle of Filth have long been interested in the occult, as individuals and as a band and that's why the story of de Rais was so appealing a person to set to a soundtrack, Dani explains, saying, "The fundamental basis of what we do is turning things into dark fairy tales and romanticising them. Every single line of the album is a part of the story. It's not like we have footage of his dungeons, so we are filling in gaps. Some scholars believe he was framed. He was a man of war in a brutal time. I don’t think we could ever embellish the nasty parts to the extent of reality." In a sense, Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder is like fan fiction of sorts. Cradle of Filth draw their fans and listeners into a story, something that has endeared the band over the years, making the band a "lifestyle" for their dedicated followers. Dani says, "With this record, you can immerse yourself in stories I've written and the music the band has written and you can also go and investigate and find out more for yourself by reading about the case."
In a way, Cradle of Filth studies de Rais because "he was a man of extremes who ended up at the gates of hell," finishes Dani. "He was in love with the whole enigma of Joan of Arc and when she was captured and burned, he saw she was like everyone else and he felt betrayed. Since they had saved France against the English, he got close to God, as close as anyone could at the time. When that was gone, he fell from grace and went the complete opposite way. He was excommunicated and never got into heaven, which back then was the worst thing that could ever happen. He was a marriage of extremes."
Cradle of Filth are a marriage of extremes as well, taking a controversial character in history and fusing his story with thunderous, scarred 'n charred metal on Godpseed on the Devil's Thunder.Promo Live Shots Live at the Kentish Town Forum - 1st December 2008 Live at the Kentish Town Forum - 1st December 2008 Live at the Kentish Town Forum - 1st December 2008 Live at the Kentish Town Forum - 1st December 2008 Live at the Kentish Town Forum - 1st December 2008 Live at the Kentish Town Forum - 1st December 2008 Live at the Kentish Town Forum - 1st December 2008 Live at the Kentish Town Forum - 1st December 2008 Press Other