There aren’t many characters left in the world of rock and metal, those that we used to call “Rock Stars”, particularly populating those swathes of bands who sit betwixt strata, neither mainstream nor underground, being too extreme to be commercial, yet too commercial to belong to the underground any more.
For here lies the beast that is “He-who-takes-himself-too-seriously”, where frontmen are too concerned with being seen to be intellectual and learned, to present their bands as bastions of intelligence, and by proxy, “cool”.
Both loquacious and mischievous and one of the last of a bygone age of frontmen, Dani Filth is an erudite, self-aware and humorous chap, at ease mercilessly mocking himself and his own vehicle of melodic extreme metal, one Cradle of Filth, often before chuckling to himself.
In terms of speech mannerisms, the literarily savvy Filth orally moves in similar patterns to Russell Brand; selective, creative and poetic in his language. “I’ve backed myself into a corner, lyrically, yes,” conceded the distinctive frontman, “and I don’t think people would appreciate if I did try and simplify things, but I think that’s where my other band, Devilment, come in, it’s the fact there are no presumptions with those guys yet, so that’s like a pressure valve and is something I can do without having to worry about anything like some horrible little internet troll peaking over my shoulder every five seconds…”
Along with Brand, another protagonist who inspires a similarly marmite response, plenty of people love to hate on the ‘Filth. Not that, after 24 years of being the main focal point of such a mixed reaction, Dani gives much of a shit about those trolls any more…
“Fuck, no! There are way too many good things going on with Cradle of Filth for me to give one. I look at it with trite amusement now. I find it hilarious when I read spiteful comments. I actually think ‘You’re sitting down, writing this… what a waste of your time! All the things you could be doing in the world, and you’re spending your time moaning about something you don’t particularly like…’ It’s tragic…”
One of those “good things” is new album Hammer Of The Witches, the bands’ first for Nuclear Blast, and eleventh overall. Now halfway through their third decade, facing taking the band once more ‘round the sun with an impending European tour announced, along with plans to take in both South and North America before returning to play HammerFest VIII, is it no more than just a job? This is surely what Dani Filth now “does”. How does it all feel to be back in the cycle again?
“Having spent the best part of four months in the studio which is tantamount to living in a cocoon, we then emerge this big, horrible Gothic butterfly, then suddenly you’re back into the whirl and rush of humanity again. We were reintroduced the world from the theme of isolation, and being locked away out in the Suffolk countryside to flying out, playing a big festival in the Philippines, I presented a couple of award ceremonies, we’ve been doing summer festivals… Yeah, it’s just the tip of the iceberg at the moment.”
There have always been varied literary references flittering throughout Filth’s lyrics. From tales of Elizabeth Bathory to the Marquis de Sade to Dani’s own Gothic visions, dark romances have played out over the melodic blackened thrash and classic metal tones of the band. But this is a man who writes A LOT of lyrics for every album, for whom the cauldron of creativity must, surely, be in danger of reducing too far, and turning to unusable mulch? “Some of my notes probably aren’t fit for human consumption for a few hundred years” Filth admits, “but while sometimes you have panic attacks where you think “Shit, I’ve just been delivered 3 albums’ worth of material and I’ve literally got no idea where it’s going”, we work really hard on things and it all pans out really well in the end.
“The music suggests the ideology anyway, that’s where you get that epiphany. After 3 or 4 songs, you know the crux of where the album is going. You know, obviously it’s not going to be a reggae tune coming in, but in that respect, I don’t think the well will run dry… Though who knows, I’ve just babbled and totally forgotten what I was going to say, so maybe it will…”
Concepts, lengthy epics and gothic story-telling are all traits that Cradle have become known for… “Well, we’ve become known for quite a few things, not all of them good!” laughs Filth, before continuing to impart details on the cover and the central piece(s) of the album.
“I would say if there was any concept on the album, it’s very medieval. ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’, which will probably delight a lot of traditional black metallists through its title, concerns itself with the crusades and draws obvious comparisons with today’s religious climes and the fact Mohammedans and Christians are still at each other’s throats, so spiritually we’re still in the same cesspit we’ve always been in. I would say, that concept bleeds nicely into everything else.” But with particular regard to Hammer Of The Witches, how does the concept translate across? “It’s a loose concept. One could be forgiven for thinking it was a concept album because the Latvian contemporary artist Arthur Berzinsh, what he’s done to draw it and draw it all together would make you think it was conceptual, but it’s only as conceptual as much as other peoples are.
“The title track is taken from ‘Malleus Maleficarum’ but our interpretation of that, which puts the hammer, the judges gavel, in the hands of the witch cults, practitioners of other-worldly practices!
“The album is testament to that; you listen to it and it sounds like a true Cradle of Filth album. And, at its’ essence you can tell this line up really enjoys playing with each other” concludes Dani, letting out a, um, Filthy laugh…