To Eve The Art Of Witchcraft (Part 2) – Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth

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2014 saw the departure of Paul Allender from the Cradle of Filthranks 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 thenrejoined 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”

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“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.”

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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?”

STEVE TOVEY

 

White Empress – Rise Of The Empress

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The line between “eclectic” and “messy” is a dangerous one. It’s a popular approach in Metal, and bands like Sigh have always made throwing a pile of disparate sounds and influences into a bag and shaking them up sound easy. On their debut album Rise Of The Empress (Peaceville), White Empress (featuring Cradle OfFilth guitarist Paul Allender), have unfortunately shown us how difficult it can be to get right.

On paper, at least, Rise Of The Empress is an epic-scale clash of symphonic keyboards, Goth-club dance elements, groovy riffs and accessibly vicious Black-ish Metal, topped with the alternatively rocking, commanding and shrieking vocals of the White Empress herself (also called Mary Zimmer). Not the most unique combination, perhaps, but nevertheless an ambitious one, and they’ve got the right ingredients for it. Allender’s playing is as sharp and hook-driven as people familiar with his work in Cradle would expect, and the album is studded with catchy riffs and grooves. The strongest single element, however, is Zimmer’s voice – embracing a range of tones and styles effectively, she comes the closest to giving the album the sense of consistency that it lacks.

If the individual elements are all handled effectively, the problem here (and I’m afraid that it’s a big one) is how they’re put together. Most songs lack individual character – loose assortments of riffs, grooves and keyboard swells held together by their placement on the album rather than any sense of meaningful composition. The album frequently aims for the dramatic, even the (forgive me) “epic”, but without a strong character it generally falls flat, a wall of flashy sound and gestures with no memorable depth behind it.

For all its promise, Rise Of The Empress is ultimately a weak album composed of strong parts, with plenty of individual moments to enjoy but little sense of depth to the record itself. By far the best thing about it is the potential for the future – with a tightening up of song-writing and a greater sense of drama their second album might be genuinely worth paying attention to.

5.5/10

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RICHIE HR

Into Darkness: Paul Ryan of Cradle of Filth

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Total Fucking Darkness transcended the role a demo normally plays, achieving near-legendary status in the murky underground of the early 90s. To celebrate its official release some 21 years later, original Cradle of Filth guitarist Paul Ryanspoke to Ghost Cult.

In the beginning Cradle of Filth was a death metal band. But, just like no good story ever starts with drinking tea, so no good story really starts at the beginning. It usually gets going a little while after that. For Cradle of Filth, one of Britain’s most successful metal exports, things really started to pick up pace 18 months into their existence with the dawn of their third demo tape, Total Fucking Darkness. Affectionately known as ‘TFD’, it showcased a band moving beyond a juvenile but enthusiastic love of Autopsy et al into one embracing black metal influences that were to go on and define their sound, and a young, hungry band undergoing metamorphosis into something special.

Yet, TFD was the unplanned child. It wasn’t supposed to happen…

We were looking at signing to a label called Tombstone” begins Ryan, “and we went into a studio to record the Goetia album, but the label didn’t want to pay for it. Unfortunately at the time, tape was very expensive and we were all from working-class backgrounds and none of us could afford to pay for it, so the studio wiped the tapes.”

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Such a crushing blow would have derailed many a young band, but instead destiny intervened and the group were now heading down their own left hand path… “We had a situation, but we weren’t going to give up” the guitarist confirms.The break that Cradle were dealt was that it allowed a new influx of influences to infiltrate the bands’ sound away from the public eye. “At the time there was such a rich vein of music and new influences kicking around, it was a transition for a lot of people going from death metal into the second wave of black metal. Even though bands like Bathory and Celtic Frost are lumped in with black metal, it was all very separated at the time. It was more looked upon as weird European thrash, it wasn’t called black metal then.”

But black metal was making its’ mark on the hungry band from South East England and tracks like the creeping, atmospheric, Hammer Horror tinged Gothic masterpiece ‘The Black Goddess Rises’, still a classic and fan favourite to this day, were born and found their way onto TFD.

The second wave of black metal that was coming in, we were starting to listen to it. Burzum, demos that you’d pick up through tape trading, Immortal and Darkthrone, and that became a real influence on us, Emperor, in particular. And then when we played with Emperor that opened our mind up to a lot of that stuff. It wasn’t as contrived as ‘we’ve got to do this or that’, it just felt like the right thing to do. And it fun was to put that mask on and go out and play shows and have people looking at you like they didn’t know what the fuck was going on. That was exciting.”

UNBRIDLED AT DUSK

The reason I’m sat in a car after a The King Is Blind (Paul Ryan’s new band) rehearsal with Paul, talking about the events of some 21+years ago, is because as part of the acknowledgement of the 20th anniversary of their essential and classic debut The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh, serendipitously Cradle mainman Dani Filth and the guitarist who departed the band less than a year after the release of Principle… came together, and a conversation led to them pulling together a reissue of the demo that, essentially, spawned the beast that Cradle became.

There’s a little bit of self-indulgence with it (the TFD reissue), but we were aware there was some interest from the old school Cradle fans that they wanted to see some of the earlier material, but we did it because we wanted to do it. Dan and I hadn’t spoken to each other really, outside of bumping into each other at festivals, for 16 years. Then, by chance, we end up having a meal together, catching up, talking a lot about old times and when a mutual friend of ours, (Frater Nihil of Mordgrimm Records, who originally signed the band to Cacophonous for the debut), found out we were hanging out again he suggested the idea of sticking the demo out as he had the master.”

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Rather than just reissuing the original 5 tracks, the ball was rolling with impetus to put out something that would really interest Cradle fans, old and new.

Dan went up in his loft, and I went round me Mum’s and went up in her loft and we literally sat down at the table and between the 3 of us we had quite the horde of old pictures and tapes. And when we sat down with the tapes one of the things that we managed to find was the first track on this release, which was ‘Spattered In Faeces’. The only existing song from the Goetia album was a tape copy that had sat in a shoebox up in Dani’s loft for literally 20 years!

So, what else (quite literally) ended up on the table? “We found a really good rehearsal which had ‘Devil Mayfair’ on it, which was a track that didn’t make it onto ‘TFD’. The intro to ‘Unbridled…’, that sort of backwards intro, is actually that song reversed, but the proper recording of that was lost as well. We also found some keyboard tracks that weren’t used that went on to be used on both ‘Principle…’ and ‘Dusk…’ that my brother (Ben, former Cradle keyboard player) did. So, all in all, we have a good mixture of stuff of interest for anyone that gives a shit about stuff from around that time.

We’ve still got stuff from the first 2 demos, there’s still loads of stuff kicking around” responds the affable Ryan when asked what else was uncovered once the treasure trove had been unlocked. “With the interest that this has had, we fully plan at looking at the first 2 demos.” I mentioned before that no good story starts right at the beginning. That’s because the beginning is always a story in its’ own right. These days, there’s always a prequel…. “We’ll probably look at doing the first two demos together, as it’s a separate period for the band. TFD’s relevant in respect of the fact it’s the 20th anniversary of The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh this year and all the stuff on TFD was the prequel to that album. It’s a bit more its’ own entity than the first two demos, which are much more Death metal. Together I’m sure they’ll make a very interesting release with some of the other stuff we’ve got for it.”

The option to explore more of the unreleased very early material is made easier due the exceptional response to the TFD reissue. Has the level of response taken you and Dan by surprise? “Very much so. We did it initially because we thought it would be a cool thing to do, and we wanted to do it as a collectors thing, but the interest has just snowballed. The pre-sales for it were really good. Initially we wanted to do 666, and if we sold them, great, and if we didn’t then we’d sell them over time, but it’s far surpassed that, and it’s turned into a different beast really.

We did 666 double-vinyls – there’s 222 each of 3 different splatter combinations.” With exceptional artwork from occult painter (and Radio DJ) Daniel P Carter to boot, TFD could be called “Total Fucking Package”… “We also did a limited box set of 66 copies which sold out within an hour when we stuck them online, which is great, and there’s a retail blue vinyl edition and a CD digipack. It’s also on digital, I think iTunes have stuck it out now.”

FRATERNALLY YOURS, 666

While our conversation started off covering the start of the rise of Cradle, it turns to the end of Paul’s (first) journey with the band. Shortly after an absolutely vicious and near legendary headline show at the prestigious Marquee Club, London, back in 1995, where the tension on stage crackled and was palpable even out in the crowd, Paul, along with half the band, and Cradle parted ways.

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How was it meeting up with Dani again? “Yeah, it was really cool. We had bumped into each other on festival fields and locations around Europe over the last 10 years or so with me working as a booking agent, and it had always been very amicable. But that was the first time we’d had a proper chat. It was good. It was just like old times, really. I think, being a bit older, you kind of look back on these things with a much more rounded view. They’ve obviously gone on to have a lot of success, and I’ve been very fortunate with my career as a booking agent (Paul’s roster of bands includes, amongst others, Trivium, Bullet For My Valentine, In Flames, Lamb of God, Amon Amarth and Bring Me The Horizon), so we had a lot to talk about.”

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With the departure of yourself, your brother and Paul Allender (who subsequently rejoined the band in 2000 before leaving again in April this year) after Principle…, how does it feel looking back now? Any awkwardness or bitterness? “It’s interesting, when you’re younger you don’t think of things in long-term factors, you don’t think of the consequences of it, you just do what you think is right. And when we left and did The Blood Divine we were quite happy to just go in a different direction, and we weren’t really paying any attention to anything that was going on with them any more than they were with us.

To be fair, if I hadn’t stayed working in music and hadn’t had the career that I’ve had and been very successful doing it, I might feel very differently about it. But I’ve had my career off the back of being in that band and it’s helped me a great deal. The foresight and insight it gave me was invaluable. Being older and having benefited from it, I can’t look back and not have anything but very warm feelings about it, to be honest.”

I do want to thank the people who’ve been interested in this, and hope they enjoy it as much as I have. It’s been a really rewarding experience, to be honest.”

Total Fucking Darkness is out now via Mordgrimm

Cradle of Filth on Facebook

STEVE TOVEY