Things could be worse for Cradle Of Filth. The Suffolk-based extreme metal act have just hit a huge milestone in their careers and are about to embark on an historic tour. ‘The Manticore & Other Horrors’ is the Filth’s tenth record since their formation in 1991 and they’re soon to promote it live with a mammoth European tour alongside God Seed and Rotting Christ. I had a chat with Dani Filth about the new album, the band’s penchant for a good story and why criticism has followed them since day one.
“I’ve always joked that if I and Paul left the band, the logo would probably get up with its own legs and attach itself to some other poor muppet!”
Frontman Dani Filth can enjoy a joke when reflecting on his 18-year stint as the mastermind of legendary extreme metallers Cradle Of Filth. The wailing banshee has put his lifeblood into the band, often receiving a hostile reception for his troubles. Change is a familiar concept for Cradle Of Filth, both in their music and membership, meaning that a fair share of negativity has been thrown their way. Some simply despise change while others fear what reputation they’d have for embracing an entity unafraid to push the envelope, embellish theatrics and find their own identity set apart from the sullen-faced black metal that dominated extreme music in the ‘90s. Regardless of the pretentious witch-hunt, Cradle of Filth have reached a milestone. Album number ten has arrived and as Dani Filth explains, the band won’t bow to any pressure for a return to the old days.
“The fire is still the same,” Dani says. “A lot of the attributes from this record are prevalent in a lot of our earlier stuff. The music is not the same, but I really despise people who say ‘I want a second ‘Dusk… And Her Embrace’ and ‘I want this or that’. That’s a long time ago and at the time, the person who is saying it might not have even been in their mother’s womb! That time has been and gone. That was a unique period of the band and then we moved on from there, from the next album and so on.”
The British act are not taking any steps backward, even if fans begged for it. Truth is, Cradle Of Filth aren’t afraid of losing fans, and if anything, shedding members of their audience is a not just a side-effect of their ambitions but a necessary process for artistic development. Love them or loathe them, this serpent will slither a path that marks its own lines in the sand, leaving any unwanted skin behind. Still, there’s sustenance to be had from this discarded skin; nine albums of it in fact. But whether you’re nostalgic about the frantic death metal influences of debut album ‘The Principles Of Evil Made Flesh’, emblazoned by the symphonic ambitions of the late ‘90s or captivated with their new boiling pot of modern extreme metal, Cradle Of Filth haven’t stopped creating, regardless of the often unfair criticism.
“Quite frankly, back then there was still an apathy towards the band,” Dani says. “Very much so between ‘VEmpire or Dark Faerytales in Phallustein’ and ‘The Principle of Evil Made Flesh’. It became a bit more wicked and a bit more screamy. Whereas some people are saying ‘well, it’s not as screamy as it used to be’, back then they were moaning about it. It’s a no-win situation. When people say ‘he’s lost his voice’ or ‘the guitarist can’t do that’ – it’s not that at all. Vocally, we’re trying to – especially on this [new] album – harmonise screams, sing notes, still be extreme and hear all the words. Again, with guitars and drums, we’ve purposely done this because this is the Cradle Of Filth that is now; this is the avenue that we are exploring.”
The on-going musical exploration continues this very day with new album ‘The Manticore & Other Horrors’. It’s the band’s tenth full-length output and whilst it has the unmistakeable Cradle Of Filth scent marked on record, it has newer elements bonded within it that make it different to previous attempts. The most significant developments are guitarist Paul Allender’s NWOBHM-styled soloing and Dani’s more melodic vocalising that he briefly experimented with in last album ‘Darkly Darkly, Venus Aversa’. The changes are noticeable to any avid follower of the band. Another key change for the band is the exit of Dave Pybus and the introduction of new bassist Daniel Firth, who stepped into the fray at the recommendation of album producer Scott Atkins. The band parted company with Pybus because he “hadn’t really written anything for the band for a few albums” and eventually took the opportunity to tour with one of his long-time favourite bands; Prong.
But one thing that has remained constant is Filth’s appetite for the erotic, lycanthropic and exotic. The idea for the central piece of the new album came from a mythical beast called the Manticore; a legendary Persian creature with the head of a human and the body of a lion. The choice of topic goes a little deeper than first thought and essentially shows that Dani’s vibrant enthusiasm for storytelling is still there.
“I was really fascinated by this character called the Manticore and always attributed and gave it Lovecraftian value – being this sort of strange, alien, mythological being. I really liked the misinterpretation of it and the allegory they gave towards the back end of the 19th Century when they likened it to Queen Victoria’s rule over India. They regarded Great Britain as being this filthy, poisonous Manticore. The inspiration came from the song itself while it was being created. It had this vibe to it that reminded me of ‘Doberman Pharaoh’ from ‘Damnation and a Day’ and that was another song that had a traditional, ethnic worldliness to it. It just came about from there and it instantly felt like a title track. That’s how the album ended up as ’The Manticore and Other Horrors’. It was sort of a figurehead; as you get tales like Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Raven and Other Stories’ – it’s much the same likeness in that this album is like a collection of themes orbiting a main one rather than a concept album like the last few records were.”
Although Dani turned his back on the prospect of another concept record, the change of heart revitalised him. “I think this album was a breath of fresh air for the fact the last two records were chronological themed albums from A-Z. Stories ran concurrently throughout, which makes it harder to juggle songs around at any later stage once they’re set in stone. This album has almost been like a compilation. It’s been a lot easier and a breath of fresh air in both respects, especially lyrically because it meant that I could just play around with whatever. I think it’s just the fact that people have so long associated Cradle Of Filth with concepts and over-arching themes that even the idea of tying it to anything came to mind.”
The Recording of ‘The Manticore & Other Horrors’ was relatively painless too. The process was split in two. While Dani could record at his local studio, guitarist Paul Allender, drummer Marthus and new bassist Daniel Firth were able to record with session keyboardist Caroline Campbell and guitarist James McIlroy at Grindstone Studios in Suffolk with producer Scott Atkins. It essentially made their schedule less hectic and cut recording time in two.
“It just felt that we had this artistic freedom and because it was so hot-on-the-heels of the last record and the fact that we put out ‘Midnight in the Labyrinth’ – the sort of fan-based orchestral album – earlier this year. It felt like weren’t in any rush to put something out, but we were still creating. It was a tightly-knit album because of the writing process being quite condensed. It worked really well because we’d worked really hard on it, but it didn’t feel like that. It just felt like a nice atmosphere.”
‘The Manticore & Other Horrors’ has not only been the refreshing album conceptually, but it could well be a sign of new things to come in the way they divided the studio work. “Some of the good attributes that came off the record may well assimilate,” Dani says. “It was a process of elimination after [doing] live recording. After 18 years of releasing records – by the time we get to our death-beds, we probably might have got it right.”
Until that time, who knows where Cradle Of Filth will take us. Expect the unexpected perhaps. But are there really any musical boundaries for Dani and the band? “Well, I wouldn’t do reggae,” he laughs. “That would be horrible! Evidently I don’t think we’ll go down the happy-hardcore route, although that’s what I think some people expected us to do when we signed with Sony Music for ‘Damnation and a Day’! I think they thought we were going to turn into a metal Backstreet Boys! [laughs]”
Next, Cradle Of Filth head out to Europe for a big tour with God Seed and Rotting Christ. But Dani promises next year that after their tour ends in the US around February time, a full UK tour will be on the cards.
Cradle Of Filth, God Seed and Rotting Christ play the HMV Forum, London on 19th December.
‘The Manticore & Other Horrors’ is out now on Peaceville.