These are heady days for those of us who wear our devotion to metal like a badge of honour. The deafening beast of the dark depths has lived to roar and rampage again and the scene has never been in a happier or healthier state. But don't be deceived. Metal never really went away. In fact, its current fortitude stems entirely from the bands that never surrendered; those brave, liquor-soaked men whose total disregard for the vagaries of fashion and finance kept them glued to the grindstone through metal's mainstream wilderness years. Now, as seems wholly fitting, the greatest of these are finally reaping their rewards and hitting new creative peaks as they surge unstoppably onwards and upwards. And, as it was in the beginning, so shall it be in 2006.
Just as the gravel-lined, turd-stained streets of urban England gave heavy metal to the world back in the late '60s, so that small country with the big voice continues to be the place where the world's finest dark metal band rest their weary, alcohol-ravaged heads after another sonic killing spree. Love them, hate them or both, Cradle Of Filth is back again to fondle you while slitting your throat. Thornography has arrived.
Recorded at Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire, England, with renowned metallic production genius Rob Caggiano (Anthrax, Bleeding Through) and mixed by Andy Sneap (Killswitch Engage, Arch Enemy, Trivium) at Backstage Studios, Derbyshire, Thornography is the band's seventh full-length studio album and their second for Roadrunner. The follow-up to 2004's widely acclaimed and Grammy Nominated meisterwerk Nymphetamine it's a scintillating and terrifying collision between the familiar and the unexpected. It's the dark, destructive and unsettling sound of a globe-conquering heavy metal band at the height of their sick, twisted powers, and the continuation of a proud, priapic and unhinged legacy that stretches back nigh on 15 years.
When Cradle Of Filth released their now legendary debut album, The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh back in 1994, the notoriety surrounding the Black Metal scene - and its spiritual epicentre in Oslo, Norway, in particular - was reaching fever pitch throughout Europe. These legions of the damned and disgusted took metal further into the abyss than it had ever been before, stripping away its worldly concerns and reducing it to a pure and chilling core of impenetrable black menace. Cradle Of Filth were undoubtedly inspired by this sea-change in metal's ongoing evolution, they had their own plans for disseminating their own distinct, gothically-erotic propaganda and swiftly defined their own left hand path. Their disdain for playing by the rules was startling in its intensity from the very start.
Throughout the '90s, Cradle of Filth - led by vocalist, lyricist and crypt-crawling master of ceremonies Dani Filth - beavered tirelessly away, producing a series of peerless extreme metal classics that drew from an endless, dizzying array of inspirations and influences while always maintaining that instantly recognisable heart of filthy darkness. The brutal and brief Vempire mini-album and the lustrous, lascivious Dusk & Her Embrace (both 1996) began to reveal the band's great sonic range. Later taking into account the slithering concept piece Cruelty & The Beast (1998) and the Clive Barker-inspired Midian (2000) - not to mention their excursions into the visual realm of film and promo- the Cradle Of Filth sound showed itself to be a many-headed creature. It was one that took delight in confounding both the purists and the critics who continually assailed the band's motives and creativity even as their fan base expanded and their status soared. With a line-up that seemed to be constantly changing - thanks, perhaps, to the cobweb-encrusted revolving door that rumours suggest marked the entrance to the band's rehearsal space during this period - the music was never allowed to stagnate; fresh blood and its revitalising effects remained a permanent weapon in the boys' macabre arsenal.
As the 21st century dawned, Cradle Of Filth unleashed the epic, ambitious Damnation And A Day - a sprawling, theatrical masterpiece that has yet to be truly recognised for either its semantic depth or its thrilling levels of metallic artistry. Quietly walking away from a fractious partnership with their previous label, the band eventually found a logical home with Roadrunner Records. It was a match made in hell that spawned what was, until now, almost certainly the strongest collection of songs in the Cradle canon, the mighty Nymphetamine. Wildly varied and as heavy as anything the band had ever recorded, it was widely hailed as a triumph and led to yet more gruelling treks around the world, where their rabid fan base lurks in every shadowy corner waiting for their latest fix of barbaric drama and blood-soaked belligerence.
And so to 2006, where Cradle Of Filth find themselves in the enviable position of being in a league and class of their own. Having long since outstripped the achievements of their one-time contemporaries, the band is now firmly entrenched in a rich vein of form. The current line-up of Dani Filth, guitarists Paul Allender and Charles Hedger, bassist Dave Pybus and drummer Adrian Erlandsson is the most solid and powerful in the band's career and Thornography is the resounding, conclusive proof. With songs as brutish, bombastic and diverse as "Libertina Grimm," "Tonight In Flames," "Cemetery & Sundown," "I Am The Thorn," "The Byronic Man" (featuring HIM's Ville Valo on guest vocals) and a deranged cover of Heaven 17's '80s pop gem "Temptation," the world's biggest and best extreme metal band have never sounded so exhilarating, so vital, so venomous...
"There are a lot of characters on this album," says Dani Filth of the new opus. "There's no central concept. It's more along the lines of Nymphetamine in respect of diversity of content, both lyrically and musically. We spent the whole summer of 2005 working really hard on writing the material and making sure it was the best of songs we've ever written - which undoubtedly it is. It's obviously our best material thus far. It's far more rhythmic and catchy and easily the heaviest thing we've done, especially on the production side of things. And there's a real retro feel to the record, in terms of style. It's slightly experimental for us and a lot of people will be surprised I think at the level of diversity we've managed to achieve with this, especially having worked with other musicians and having our first band instrumental included (Rise Of The Pentagram). We started to write and got into a habit of coming up with tons of stuff. Everyone would be working on ideas and we'd pool it all together in the dank confines of our rehearsal room. We kept stirring the cauldron and adding or subtracting accordingly. Thus each song has its own sound and feel in relation to the concept behind each track. And as per normal, it's all in good taste!
For example, Libertina Grimm, (which concerns itself with a haughty little vivisectrix and her dissonant life of crime) meanders through a succession of twists and turns as if to mimic her dark, labyrinthine obsessions with the dead, before finding foothold with a real primal, sex-laden hook. She might be mad, but before all else she's groovy!"
Louder, harder, faster, heavier, darker, catchier - the unstoppable force that is Cradle Of Filth slithers menacingly forward, crushing the opposition and striking warped, blackened glee into the hearts of misanthropes and malevolents the world over. The nightmare continues...may we never wake up!
DOM LAWSON, June 2006