Since its unholy birth in Suffolk, England, in 1991 as a raw, underground black metal band, Cradle of Filth has triumphed over nearly every subgenre of extreme metal. From its breakthrough 1996 release, “Dusk … and Her Embrace,” that exposed the band’s vampiric evil worldwide, 1998’s pinnacle of black metal, “Cruelty and the Beast,” the crushing death metal of “Midian” (2000), to my personal favorite, the gothic metal masterpiece, “Nymphetamine” (2004), Cradle of Filth has spread like a plague over the world of metal. The band has released six more albums, amidst lineup changes and even a side-project called Devilment by Cradle of Filth’s vocalist and sole remaining original member, Dani Filth. Not to worry though, the Cradle will rock. Fans and the media heralded the band’s 2015 album, “Hammer of the Witches,” as one of its best in years, with newer band members—keyboardist/vocalist Lindsay Schoolcraft, guitarists Richard Shaw and Marek ‘Ashok’ Šmerida—injecting new life (and death) into the music. The rhythm section of Martin “Marthus” Skaroupka (drums, keyboards, orchestration) and bassist Daniel Firth round out the current Cradle lineup.
If “Hammer of the Witches” was a return to form, Cradle’s upcoming 12th studio album, “Cryptoriana—The Seductiveness of Decay” (Sept. 22, Nuclear Blast Entertainment) is the gothic metal on fucking steroids that you didn’t know you needed nor were you expecting; a collection of cold Victorian horror tales in the vein of “Nymphetamine” that could have been recorded in a haunted cemetery full of ghouls and ghosts.
Prior to the album’s release, Live Metal’s Jeff Maki talked with the band’s corpse-painted frontman and mastermind, Dani Filth.
LIVE METAL: After listening to the new album, I think this is a record that could really fit well anywhere in the Cradle of Filth discography. Was this your intention to create an album that took the best parts of previous albums and was undeniably Cradle of Filth?
DANI FILTH: Well, I think we have our sound and strengths, although on this record there are things we have done differently. But it’s not the sum of the parts. On this record, for the first time in forever, we haven’t had a big orchestral intro. Instead, we have bigger songs, if that makes any sense. Also, we went back to using a choir, a slightly different choir which concentrates more on soprano. So it sounds quite ghostly and eerie.
And then, “Vengeful Spirit” features (former Leaves Eyes vocalist) Liv Kristine, who was obviously on “Nymphetamine,” but here in a very different context than she was on “Nymphetamine.” And I think that’s why it works, because it’s just not a sense of repeating. She plays a character, the “Vengeful Spirit,” as opposed to her’s in “Nymphetamine,” which is more subtle. And I think her voice worked very well with it.
Possibly one of the heaviest songs we’ve ever written is “Death of a Maiden,” and it’s kind of a different way of going out on an album. It does speed up, but it’s very epic and ponderous-sounding in the beginning.
There’s also more use of that British heavy metal sound, with that twin guitar work prevalent on the record.
Also, there’s a cover version, which unfortunately appears on the special edition, though I don’t really differentiate between a special edition, because they’re all our children. It’s a cover of Annihilator’s “Alison Hell.” We had wanted to record that song for a long while. We bumped into (Annihilator guitarist/vocalist) Jeff Waters on several occasions and said we had wanted to do it and got his blessing. He’s heard it since then, and he loves it. We tried not to stray to far from the path, but we “Cradleized” it. And that’s the second reason: It fits really well with the rest of the tracks.
So there are certain things that we have done that are kind of unique to this album as opposed to other albums, but like you were saying, it does sound like a Cradle of Filth record. And that’s a good thing. (laughs)
So with the new album upon us, besides just getting the songs out there, is there anything that makes you anxious before release? Not just with this one, but with any of them. And what is the one thing you look forward to the most with the release of a new album?
The fans appreciating it, for a start. Getting out on the road, getting to play some of the tracks and fans getting to hear the new material.
I’ve always found the band’s music and your storytelling as a whole to be very complex. So does the idea for the story, lyrics and theme come first, or does the music come first, with the stories and ideas crafted around it?
The latter, because I think it would be quite selfish really. But sometimes it has happened, especially with “Godspeed on the Devil’s Thunder,” where we knew where that album was going right off. But recently, it’s been waiting to see how songs craft out and sit next to each other, and then waiting for a theme to emerge from there.
What we actually did differently on this album was that we went to Burma in the Czech Republic, which is where our guitarist (Marek “Ashok” Šmeridand) and drummer (Martin “Marthus” Skaroupka) live. And it was a bit like team building. We went there to unite as a band and didn’t actually think we’d come away with a whole album, but everybody put so much work into it. After pre-production, we pretty much had 85 percent of the album. Which obviously put a lot on my plate, because suddenly I was dealt with a whole album, rather than just two or three tracks. But it also worked really well, because I had the premise of the record and could tell where it was going. It can be quite difficult when you’ve only got one or two songs, because they can be quite different than the bulk of the rest of the album.
There’s a lot of different material. “Wester Vespertine,” for example, is very different, “Seductiveness of Decay” … they’re all tracks in their own right. So yeah, it was good to actually come away from that whole writing session with a bulk of the album written.
So how much time do you spend on the lyrics? Because I’m sure this just isn’t something you can whip up overnight. It seems like it could have been weeks—maybe months–of writing and rewriting, I’m sure.
Well, yeah, because, obviously, you want to get the cadence right. It’s not just about lengths of words, it’s got to work in context of the music. So yeah, rewrites in there, here, there and everywhere. Even when we get in the studio, songs are rewritten, we pull them apart, like “Vengeful Spirit” to incorporate Liv Kristine, I did a rewrite on “You Will Know the Lion by His Claw” because working with a producer like the great Scott Atkins, he’s not privy to bigging the band up. He’s very conservative, but he’ll say if he thinks you’re shit. He’ll say “it’s shit.” So basically he doesn’t have his tongue up our asses.
But that’s what you need, though, right?
It’s very good, because we work hard, and if we think a song is dragging on a little bit or this chorus needs a little more redefining, then that’s what we’ll do. It doesn’t matter who’s written it, because if it’s good it’s good. And if it’s bad, then there’s no point it putting it out, no matter how much your ego wants to keep it as it is.
So there has been a lot of lineup changes, and, in fact, this is mostly an entirely new band as of 2014. Just how involved were the new members in the creative process of this album?
Actually, it’s strange, but on this album and the previous album, it pretty much worked out to two tracks each, somehow. And that was with some ditched, as well. It wasn’t a case of just of a collection 12 tracks, I think it came out to 14, 15. There were two songs that were developed from “The Hammer of the Witches” sessions that just weren’t quite there at that time: “Achingly Beautiful” and “The Seductiveness of Decay.” When we went to do this record, they just seemed to work better with this one than its predecessor.
So you’ve had two albums with your other band now, Devilment. Did that offspring come from you being creatively confined with Cradle of Filth?
Well, I had some downtime a few years back, and our previous guitarist, Paul Allender, moved to America and bumped into some people who we played soccer with, who wanted to do a band, and I just sort of … agreed to it. Stupid, if I might, after a few drinks, and it went from there.
And yeah, it’s like a pressure outlet. It’s not vastly different than Cradle, but Cradle of Filth spread across the known galaxy. It’s two people from the Czech Republic, the bass player’s from Scotland, and I played with the guitarist, but he lives up in Darbin, I live down south, and Lauren is living and based in Toronto.
(Editor’s note: Devilment is Dani, bassist Nick Johnson, lead guitarist Colin Parks, keyboardist/vocalist Lauren Francis and drummer Matt Alston.)
If you had to choose one Cradle of Filth album that you think you’ll be remembered by—not necessarily what you think is the best album–which album would it be? If your gravestone were to read, “Here lies Dani Filth, creator of what album?”
Actually, on my gravestone it would say, “I told you I was ill.”
I’d say “Cruelty and the Beast.” Next year, we are remixing the album for its 20th anniversary. Sony has now bought Music for Nations, so myself and a producer are going to sit down and remix the album. We’ve done a token mix already. But it’s not about making it sound big and modern, it’s got to retain its atmosphere. So I’m really looking forward to that, and we’re going to do that towards the back end of September (2018). But yeah, I think that’s gotta be the album I would pick.
What has been your biggest high point in a Cradle of Filth, and what has been your biggest low point?
There’s been low points, but I don’t like to dwell on those, and you’ve dizzying highs that you can’t keep up there for the rest of your life. Every album release is a high point because it’s a continuation of your career, and it’s basically bought you some time from the reaper, to say the least. (laughs)
The reviews for this album have been good and very positive about it, so to me, that’s a high point.
I could go for one of my favorite times, which I guess I could probably say when we headlined the B Stage at the American Ozzfest in 2003. It was weeks of just hanging around some good people and great bands. I think Ozzy only did like two shows or one show, so we’d be taken out with Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall and Chimaira, and it was just a big party atmosphere.
OK, Dani, good luck with the new album, I’m really liking it so far. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
The record gets released Sept. 22 by Nuclear Blast Entertainment, and then we’ll be coming back the the States as part of an extensive world tour. I think we’re in the States in March, I believe.
Pre-order the new album here.