Cradle Of Filth are a British extreme metal band that formed in Suffolk in 1991. The band’s musical style evolved from black metal to a cleaner and more “produced” amalgam of gothic metal, symphonic black metal and other metal genres. Their lyrical themes and imagery are heavily influenced by gothic literature, poetry, mythology and horror films.
The band has broken free from its original niche by courting mainstream publicity, giving the band a “commercial” image. This increased accessibility has brought coverage from the likes of Kerrang! and MTV, along with frequent main stage appearances at major festivals such as Ozzfest, Download and even the mainstream Sziget Festival. They have sometimes been perceived as satanic by casual observers, even though their outright lyrical references to Satanism are few and far between; their use of satanic imagery has arguably always been more for shock value rather than any seriously held beliefs.
Cradle of Filth’s first three years saw three demos (Invoking the Unclean, Orgiastic Pleasures Foul and Total Fucking Darkness) recorded amidst the sort of rapid line-up fluctuations that have continued ever since, with the band having more than twenty musicians in its history. An album entitled Goetia was recorded prior to the third demo and set for release on Tombstone Records, but all tracks were wiped when Tombstone went out of business and could not afford to buy the recordings from the studio. The band eventually signed to Cacophonous Records, and their debut album, The Principle of Evil Made Flesh, was Cacophonous’s first release in 1994. The album was well-received however, and as recently as June 2006 found its way into Metal Hammer’s list of the top ten black metal albums of the last twenty years.
Cradle’s relationship with Cacophonous soon soured and the original version of the band’s second album, Dusk… and Her Embrace was recorded by the Principle… lineup for Cacophonous but scrapped. The band finally signed to Music for Nations in 1996 after only one more contractually obligated Cacophonous recording: the EP V Empire or Dark Faerytales in Phallustein, which, it has since been conceded, was hastily written as a Cacophonous escape-plan.
The re-worked and re-recorded Dusk… and Her Embrace followed the same year: a critically acclaimed breakthrough album that greatly expanded the band’s fan-base throughout Europe and the rest of the world. A concept album of sorts, based generally on vampirism and specifically (though loosely) on the writing of Sheridan Le Fanu, Cradle’s inaugural album for Music for Nations set the tone for what was to follow. The album’s production values matched the band’s ambition for the first time, whilst Dani’s vocal gymnastics were at their most extreme.
The increasingly theatrical stage shows of the 1997 European tour helped keep Cradle in the public eye, as did a burgeoning line of controversial merchandise, not least the notorious T-shirt depicting a masturbating nun on the front and the slogan “Jesus Is A Cunt” in large letters on the back. The T-shirt is banned in New Zealand, a handful of fans have faced court appearances and fines for wearing the shirt in public, and some band members themselves attracted a certain amount of hostile attention when they wore similar “I Love Satan” shirts to the Vatican.
In 1998, Dani began his long-running “Dani’s Inferno” column for Metal Hammer, and the band appeared in the BBC documentary series Living with the Enemy (on tour with a fan and his disapproving mother and sister) and released its third studio album, Cruelty and the Beast. A fully realised concept album based on the legend of the “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Báthory, the album boasted the casting coup of Ingrid Pitt providing guest narration as the Countess; a role she first played in Hammer Film Productions’ 1971 film Countess Dracula. The album led to Cradle’s US debut, and Dani claimed it in 2003 as the Cradle album of which he was most proud, although he conceded dissatisfaction with its sound quality.
The band released their fourth studio album on the Halloween of 2000. Midian was based around the Clive Barker novel Cabal and its subsequent film adaptation Nightbreed. Like Cruelty and the Beast, Midian featured a guest narrator, this time Doug Bradley, who starred in Nightbreed but remains best known for playing Pinhead in the Hellraiser series.
The longest-ever interim period between full-length Cradle albums was nevertheless a busy time for the band. Further stop-gap releases followed in the form of the “best of” package Lovecraft & Witch Hearts and the live album, Live Bait for the Dead. Finally, the band (principally Dani) also found time to appear in the horror film Cradle of Fear while they negotiated their first major-label signing with Sony Music. Damnation and a Day arrived in 2003; Sony’s heavyweight funding underwriting Cradle’s undiminished ambition by finally bringing a real orchestra into the studio (the 80-member Budapest Film Orchestra and Choir replacing the increasingly sophisticated synthesisers of previous albums) and thus marking the band’s belated gestation—for one album only—into full-blown symphonic metal. Damnation featured the band’s most complex compositions to date, outran its predecessors by a good twenty minutes and produced two more popular videos: the Jan Švankmajer-influenced Mannequin and Babalon A.D.
Cradle jumped ship to Roadrunner Records after barely a year. 2004’s Nymphetamine was the band’s first full album since The Principle of Evil Made Flesh to not be based around any sort of overarching concept. Nymphetamine debuted at No. 89 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, selling just under 14,000 copies, and the band’s growing acceptance by the mainstream was confirmed when the album’s title track was nominated for a Grammy award. The album’s track “Coffin Fodder” was referenced in an episode of the Channel 4 sit-com The IT Crowd in February, 2006. Thornography was released in October 2006. According to Dani Filth, the title “represents mankind’s obsession with sin and self… an addiction to self-punishment or something equally poisonous… a mania.”
Thornography received a similar reception to Nymphetamine, garnering generally positive reviews, but raising a few eyebrows with the inclusion of a cover of Heaven 17’s “Temptation” (featuring guest vocals from Dirty Harry), which was released as a digital single and accompanying video shortly before the album. Thornography entered the Billboard chart at No. 66, having sold nearly 13,000 copies.
Godspeed on the Devil’s Thunder was released in October 2008. Godspeed is a concept album based around the legend of Gilles de Rais, a 15th-century French nobleman who fought alongside Joan of Arc and accumulated great wealth before becoming a Satanist, sexual deviant and murderer. It sold 11,000 copies in its week of release, entering the Billboard 200 at No. 48.
Cradle’s relationship with Roadrunner came to an end in April 2010, with the announcement that the band’s next album would be released by the British independent label Peaceville Records, using Cradle’s own Abracadaver imprint. Released on 1 November 2010 – Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa is a concept album in the same vein as its predecessor, Godspeed on the Devil’s Thunder; this time centering on the demon Lilith, the first wife of the biblical Adam, and also making reference to Greek, Egyptian and Sumerian mythology, the Knights Templar and the Carmelite Nuns.
Cradle’s tenth studio album, The Manticore and Other Horrors, was released on 29 October 2012 in Europe, and on 30 October in North America. On 11 November 2014 it was reported on the official Cradle of Filth Facebook page that they had signed to Nuclear Blast Records for their new album. Hammer of the Witches was officially released through Nuclear Blast on July 10, 2015. The subsequent world tour included the band’s largest set of UK dates for eight years in late 2015, and a set of North American shows in early 2016.
Cradle of Filth’s particular sub-genre has provoked a great deal of discussion, and their status as a black metal band or otherwise has been in debate since near the time that the group rose to fame. The band have openly mentioned classic ’80s black metal acts such as Bathory, Celtic Frost and Mercyful Fate among their influences, but Dani Filth, in a 1998 interview for BBC Radio 5 for example, said “I use the term ‘heavy metal’, rather than ‘black metal’, because I think that’s a bit of a fad now. Call it what you like: death metal, black metal, any kind of metal…”.
The band’s style has been described as symphonic black metal, gothic metal, “gothic black metal” and even “dark metal”. However, the band’s evolving sound has allowed them to continue resisting definitive categorisation. They are audibly influenced by Iron Maiden, have collaborated on projects like Christian Death’s Born Again Anti-Christian album (on the track “Peek-a-Boo”) and have even dabbled outside of metal music with dance remixes (such as “Twisting Further Nails” and “Pervert’s Church” which was absorbed into “From The Cradle To Enslave – Under Martian Rule Remix”), although these have fallen by the wayside in recent years.
Appearing on the BBC music quiz Never Mind the Buzzcocks on 9 April 2001, Filth jokingly claimed Cradle’s sound as “heavy funk”, and in an October 2006 interview stated, “we’d rather be known as solely ‘Cradle of Filth’, I think, than be hampered by stupid genre barriers”.
Nominated for Best Metal Performance –
2005 : “Nymphetamine (Overdose)” (featuring Liv Kristine)