Cradle of Filth keyboardist and vocalist Lindsay Schoolcraft is embarking on a tour as a solo artist. She has booked a round of DJ sets in Sydney, Perth and a world-first solo headline show in Melbourne. Schoolcraft’s solo material is described as a blend of Gothic rock, Nu Metal, and subtle electronics. Her solo band even includes some rock royalty, former Evanescence drummer Rocky Gray! Known for her work the last few years in Cradle, she has contributed to their last few albums, Hammer of the Witches and Cryptoriana: The Seductiveness of Decay, and supported the band on several world tours, including Australia, this past spring. Continue reading
You’re wrong about Cradle Of Filth.
It’s not your fault – the prevailing consensus has been wrong about them for years now. Metal fans pride ourselves on dedication and loyalty, but that comes with a price – we’re extremely quick to turn on any perceived betrayal, and few crimes are less forgivable than a bid for mainstream approval. It’s no exaggeration to state that Cradle of Filth went from darlings of the underground to hated pariahs in a very short period of time, and once that bridge had been burned its effects were projected backwards in time until the commonly accepted descriptions of them (they’re a pop band, they sound like Marilyn Manson, they ripped off bands who in truth were inspired by them) bear no resemblance to the reality. This was never more clear than when the debut by Old Corpse Road – a band unashamedly vocal about their debt to classic Cradle – was praised by the same people who had nothing good to say about the band that inspired them.
Unfortunately for those who still care about them, since 2003 the band have not exactly been making things easy for themselves. Beginning with major-label debut Damnation Of A Day (Sony), their albums have all been plagued with the same flaws – too long, too many filler tracks and not enough of the razor-sharp song-writing that marked their early days. The latest in a long line of releases that promise a return-to-form but don’t quite pull it off, Hammer Of The Witches (Nuclear Blast) walks into all of these traps once again. It’s not a bad album – they’ve honestly never released a genuinely bad one – and it has its share of catchy riffs and passages, but once it’s over it proves itself entirely incapable of sticking in the mind. Compared to its predecessor The Manticore (Peaceville/Nuclear Blast) it’s either more classic or less ambitious, depending on how generous you feel, but the result is the same – an album that sounds like Cradle by numbers, that’s offers little reason to care if you don’t already, and not enough reward if you do.
Hammer Of The Witches is a competent enough album by a band who know exactly what they’re doing, and fans of their most recent material will find something worth listening to here, but those still waiting for a return to former glories may need to finally accept that we’re not going to get it, and decide whether we’re happy to settle for the next best thing. Anyone who wouldn’t understand why Metal fans would defend this band would be better advised to listen to any of their first three albums or the VEmpire EP (Cacophonous) with an open mind to hear what they’ve been missing.
2014 saw the departure of Paul Allender from the Cradle of Filth ranks for the second time in his life; Allender having left to form The Blood Divine after the bands’ debut album The Principle of Evil Made Flesh (Cacophonous). The White Empress six-stringer then rejoined for what is often seen, perhaps unfairly, as the bands last “great” album Midian (Music For Nations/Koch) [I for one have a lot of time for Nymphetamine (Roadrunner) and Manticore (Peaceville) – ST]. With Allender’s departure, so the exploration of a shorter, punkier, more traditional verse-chorus structured album of 2012’s Manticore departed with it.
Cradle frontman Dani Filth then followed up Manticore with the debut album of his other band, Devilment, ten tracks of straight forward Gothic groove metal, resplendent with tongue-in-bum lyrics and simple, catchy slabs of rock club anthems. With his two most recent albums being simpler affairs, the obvious conclusion is that Hammer Of The Witches (Nuclear Blast) is a reaction, with its return to lengthier compositions and a more grandiose presentation, all tied up with some of the bands thrashiest riffs for a while. “I guess so” muses Dani. “We never do two albums the same. It’s definitely a bit more meandering, and I think people like to have that, they like Cradle of Filth to be about storytelling, to be very cinematic, about it being a journey and immersive. I personally like it. Some of my favourite Cradle songs are the ten minute ones – ‘Queen of Winter, Throned’, ‘Bathory Aria’, etcetera”
“The necessity of having to get 2 new guitarists on board, both joining the band at the same time for our tour with Behemoth last year, it’s given them a place almost like Murray and Smith, Hanneman and King” continues Filth, discussing “new” (they’ve been in the band a year, mind) guitarists Richard Shaw (Emperor Chung) and Ashok (Fear). “They’re very competent musicians. Their musicianship is out of this world and I can say that, because I’m a vocalist, so I’m only hanging around them!
“Everybody’s really contributed to this album and on that tour in particular we were plundering a lot of our old material, playing ‘Beneath The Howling Stars’ and ‘Funeral In Carpathia’ ‘Haunted Shores’ and I think that was a good springboard for us to then jump off onto writing this album”
Cradle recorded once again with Scott Atkins at Atkins’ own Grindhouse Studios, in deepest rural Suffolk. Speaking to Atkins, a guitarist himself and formerly of Stampin’ Ground, the producer confirmed the technical qualities of the new pair had hugely benefited the recording process. “Yes, they’re awesome, they’re fans of the band and they contributed well to the record” opines Dani of the guitarists’ contribution to a record that could easily have been a double album. “We were very prolific in the fact that we actually had to drop 3 really good songs which with a little bit more nudging day will hopefully see the light of day.
“Maybe if the album does well, we can extend the touring cycle and get an EP out with those three songs; that’d be on top of the two bonus tracks. We see all of our music as children and we didn’t really want to see those bonus track songs segregated from the bulk of the album, but record companies do as they do.
“We couldn’t decide on a track listing until the 11th hour, so, some people may even prefer those 2 tracks.”
Despite the impact, technical ability and understanding of the legacy of Cradle of Filth brought by the latest through the revolving door of official band members, what would Dani see as the definitive Cradle line up? If there was money on the table… “People have offered us a lot of money to do various things, but it’s just a bit shit really, in my opinion. It’s like going to Martin (Skaroupa – drums) and saying ‘Martin, we’re going about to do a tour, but sorry, you’re not invited because somebody’s given me a fat wad of cash to get Nicholas Barker back in.’
“And as much as I love Nicholas, and what a great drummer he is, it just doesn’t feel right, you know? And that’s one thing Cradle have always maintained throughout the years, thick and thin, whether people love us or hate us, we’ve always done our own thing, and we personally think we’ve done it for the right reasons. The possibilities are endless, People have come and gone and I can’t see it (a vanity tour) happening.
“Unless it was a VAST amount of money, and it got me my second luxury yacht…” chuckles Filth.
“Look, the line-up of Cradle of Filth is the current line-up. Hopefully should the longevity of the album continue, we’ll get in there and do the EP, because we’ve got 3 songs which are great and are only going to the better once they’ve been worked on further. And then we can add a couple of covers to the mix as well, because we’ve been favouring a few songs that we’d just like to add the Cradle touch to.
“But that’s the imminent future aside from the massive touring ahead of us. I’ve got some ideas for that (the tour), but we’ve got to keep them within budget, so the giant robot ripping off the roof of each venue, sadly, doesn’t seem viable…
“I’m a dreamer like that, see… We can only hope, hey?”
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…