Music News

Cradle of Filth

Cradle of Filth has been polarizing metalheads for fifteen years. While the British band's fan base goes rabid for its symphonically pomptastic black/thrash song-suites, others just loathe the group. Hardcore black-metal fans resent the act for getting lumped in with their hermetic and surly genre, accurately claiming that no group with such an obvious sense of humor and show-biz aesthetic could be "true" black metal.

Others, meanwhile, think that frontman Dani Filth is a pretentious Limey jag-off and that the music sounds like the soundtrack to a shitty Italian horror movie. But with the help of relentless touring and some genuinely memorable album covers and T-shirts, Cradle of Filth has slowly but surely become an undeniable presence in metal. Much of the band's success is a tribute to the work ethic of guitarist Paul Allender.

"I pretty much wrote all of [Thornography], barring two or three tracks," Allender says. "I wanted to push the band not toward the mainstream, but a bit more of a metal feel. Luckily, the fans have totally accepted it, and it's opened a lot more doors for us. We don't have to stick to the same typical style that was Cradle."

Indeed, the formula of lightning-fast riffs, thundering blast beats and neoclassical flourishes and interludes (frequently provided by real orchestras and choirs, to label owners' dismay) has been expanded to include thrashy, more traditionally metallic guitars. This, in turn, has changed the atmosphere at shows quite a bit.

"There's a whole front row of kids headbanging, which was never the case at any of our gigs before," says Allender. "It gives you a major buzz to be playing and see a whole bunch of eighteen-year-olds swinging their hair around. You think, 'Fuck me, I used to be like that when I was their age.'"

No one's more surprised by this than Allender, who left the group in 1996, only to return in 2000 at the request of his bandmates. Bringing with him an array of visual-art and high-tech skills that he learned in the interim, he was ready to assert himself. "I do all the artwork for all the merchandise. I author and design all the DVDs. I do the website and all the photo manipulation for all the ads and the posters and everything."

Likewise, upon noticing that the group's work habits were just as chaotic as when he left, Allender took charge. "Nothing was getting done on time, and I can't work like that," he says. "I have to be regimented. Things have to fall in a logical order. So when we came to this album, it was like, ŒThat's it, I'm sorry, I can't work like this anymore. I'm taking the bull by the horns, and if people hate me for it, I don't fucking care.'"

Apparently, the only aspect of Cradle's music he has no hand in are the lyrics of frontman Dani Filth. As a result, Thornography is Cradle's most mainstream effort to date. Although still ferocious, the album finds the band straddling the same line between extremity and pop that Celtic Frost did on its classic Into the Pandemonium.

Despite the group's notable accessibility, Allender is pretty sure that Cradle of Filth is forever destined to alienate as many people as it enraptures. Perhaps. But by the same token, with their newfound sense of discipline, he and his mates just might become known for more than a few clever T-shirts.

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Phil Freeman
Contact: Phil Freeman