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Members include Paul Allender, guitar; Dani Davey (born in England), vocals; Robin Eaglestone, bass; Adrian Erlandsson (born in Sweden), drums; Martin Powell, keyboards; Gian Pyres (born in 1973 in London, England), guitar. Addresses: Record company--Koch Records, Lochhamer Strasze 9, 82152 Planegg-Munich, Germany, website: http://www.kochrecords.com. Website--Cradle of Filth Official Website: http://www.cradleoffilth.com.
European gothic-metal group Cradle of Filth has openly courted controversy with its elaborate stage shows, gory videos, and lyrics drawn from nineteenth-century English poetry. Its attacks on organized religion, particularly evident on its promotional T-shirts, have also branded the band as an attention-seeking outfit. While band members admit that the sloganeering markets them effectively to its core audience of disaffected youth, they nevertheless insist that the band's showmanship and musicianship come first. "It amuses a lot of people," former keyboardist Les "Lecter" Smith explained in a Burn the Sun online interview. "If you want to like Cradle of Filth, then you can like it for whatever reason you want to. If you like it for the image, do." He added, "[We're] a bit of a mishmash of weird things which shouldn't be together like orchestral keyboards, real extreme vocals, numbing drumming. Yes, you've got to be careful that you don't turn it into a marketing exercise, because the business people out there, who you've got to deal with, want to do that.... They just see dollar signs."
Formed in 1991, Cradle of Filth joined a rising tide of gothic-metal bands that included acts such as Stabbing Westward, Nine Inch Nails, and Marilyn Manson. From the start, the band's lineup was in constant flux. Founding members included Dani Davey on vocals, Paul Ryan on guitar, Benjamin Ryan on keyboards, and John Richard on bass. Robin Eaglestone, who joined initially on guitar, left the band for a short time but later came back on bass to replace Richard. With Paul Allender coming on board to handle guitar duties, the band also recruited drummer Nicholas Barker--and all of this before they'd even secured their first recording deal. As Eaglestone joked in a Burn the Sun interview, "We've always been a little bit of a revolving door, people leave." Later, the band added Swedish-born gothic metal veteran Adrian Erlandsson on drums, London native Gian Pyres on guitar, and Martin Powell on keyboards.
After a series of demo recordings, Cradle of Filth signed with Cacophonous Records in 1994. Its first album, The Principle of Evil Made Flesh, came out later that year. The album featured typically dark lyrics by singer Davey, many inspired by literary texts. In addition to the music's macabre nature, the band also made headlines for using a reported one hundred gallons of stage blood in one of its first videos.
Adding to the upheaval brought on by their numerous personnel changes, Cradle of Filth was also having trouble with its record label, Cacophonous. Most of the tension revolved around financial issues, and the band decided to search for a new label after its second recording for Cacophonous, an EP released in 1996 as Vempire, or Dark Faerytales in Phallustein. Signing on with the Music for Nations label, the band also secured a distribution deal with Mayhem/Fierce Records for the United States. The band released two more albums under this arrangement, Dusk and Her Embrace in 1997 and Cruelty and the Beast in 1998. When those labels went out of business, the band lost its access to the North American market and once again had to search for a distributor. Eventually, the label signed a deal with German-based Koch Records before securing a long-term agreement with Epic Records that allowed them to release albums in the United States on its own label, AbraCadaver Records. The first album released under this unusual arrangement came in 2001 with Bitter Suites to Succubi.
Like other gothic bands, Cradle of Filth built a reputation for provocative and elaborate concerts. Typical stage sets featured the band members in corpse-like makeup, a dazzling light show, and female dancers to interpret the music. While the band set out to shock audiences, however, it did not always achieve the desired results. Jon Fine of the Village Voice called one Cradle of Filth show an example of "how the music can get smothered under the weight of its stylization." He continued, "There's not much distance between Cradle and Marilyn Manson: the musical reference points are different, but at base they're candy bands putting on goofy costume shows that could only be threatening to clueless parents."
For their part, the band's members were undaunted by reviews that accused them of meaningless posturing. Hoping to broaden their fan base in America, they even commenced an abbreviated but no-holds-barred series of four concerts to connect with its fans. "We lost a lot of money on that," Lecter told Burn the Sun, "but it meant we could put the shows on, the proper show. The thing is a lot of bands lose in America. It's the downfall of a lot of European bands, because you're back at the beginning again. You get used to building up a certain level in Europe, and then you've got to start again and build up a following in America.... We just couldn't afford to do it, but we needed to do the shows." The managing director of the band's British label, Epic Records, agreed, telling Billboard in July of 2001, "I was particularly impressed with their work ethic. Too many British acts are lazy when it comes to breaking new territories--not this band." Such praise might have seemed out of place, given Cradle of Filth's image, but it demonstrated the determination of the band to reach commercial success.
For the band's third album, 1998's Cruelty and the Beast, songwriter Davey drew inspiration from the life of a medieval Hungarian countess, Elisabeth Bathory, who went on a murderous spree in a quest for eternal youth. As a concept album, Cruelty and the Beast's highlight was a 13-minute long song, "Bathory Aria," that featured a spoken interlude by actress Ingrid Pitt, who portrayed the countess in a horror movie. Davey admitted to Debbie Sellnow of the Rock Brigade website that the album was "more twisted" than Cradle of Filth's past efforts. In support of the album, the band toured the United States on its first full-fledged North American tour and released a home video, Once Upon Atrocity. The band also enjoyed the revenue from its licensed merchandise, which included T-shirts with slogans that mocked mainstream religious beliefs.
Cradle of Filth continued its turn toward more melodic material for the 2000 release Midian. When asked if the album represented a bid for mainstream acceptance, Paul Allender defended the band's direction in an interview with David Wilson of the Sound 420 website: "We are writing for ourselves. We don't write for anyone else, but we are prepared that other people like the music that we write for ourselves. When you start off as a young band you are going to be playing all over your instruments and we have just gotten a lot older and a lot more mature, that's all. We don't ever sit down and say, 'We have got to write this song and it has to be four and a half minutes long.'"
In 2001 Cradle of Filth toured the United States again. The highlight of the tour was the premiere of a Cradle of Filth horror movie, Cradle of Fear, directed by Alex Chandon. The movie had its North American debut in New York City in July. The following month the band kicked off a European tour with a lineup that included Pantera and Slayer. Although it had not achieved the multiplatinum sales of rival gothic-metal bands such as Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails, Cradle of Filth took satisfaction in the near-million copies of albums and home videos that it had sold in the decade after the band came together. As Davey concluded in his interview with Sellnow, "Obviously we're reaching more people.... There's no reason why people shouldn't like us. If there's a lot of people who read Stephen King novels and get a kick out of that, there's no reason why they couldn't get into us, who are real, living characters."
by Timothy Borden
Cradle of Filth's Career
Group formed, 1991; released first album, The Principle of Evil Made Flesh, 1994; released Dusk and Her Embrace, 1997; Cruelty and the Beast, 1998; Midian, 2000; and Bitter Suites to Succubi, 2001.
- Selected discography
- The Principle of Evil Made Flesh Cacophonous, 1994.
- Vempire, or Dark Faerytales in Phallustein (EP) Cacophonous, 1996.
- Dusk and Her Embrace Mayhem/Fierce, 1997.
- Cruelty and the Beast Mayhem/Fierce, 1998; reissued, Koch, 2001.
- Midian Koch, 2000.
- Bitter Suites to Succubi AbraCadaver, 2001.
- Billboard, August 1, 1998, p. 17; July 7, 2001, p. 49.
- Times (London, England), January 26, 2001.
- Village Voice, November 3, 1998, p. 130.
- "Cradle of Filth," Sound 420, http://www.sound420.com/david/cradleoffilth.html (February 12, 2002).
- "Cradle of Filth: From the Bowels of the Abyss," Burn the Sun, http://www.burnthesun.com/reviews/cradleoffilth_interview.htm (February 12, 2002).
- Cradle of Filth Official Website, http://www.theorderofthedragon.com/docs/bio.htm (February 14, 2002).
- "Cradle of Filth: The Real Beast," Rock Brigade, http://www.rockbrigade.com.br/pages/artigos_english/cradle.htm (February 15, 2002).
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