Every music nerd has a gap in their resume. No matter how much time you spend dumpster diving in the discount bin of your local record store for that rare split flexi you’ll never listen to, we all have a blind spot: a widely recognized band that completely fits our taste profile, but for whatever reason never made it on our personal radar.
For me, that band was Cradle of Filth. Since the late 90s, you couldn’t throw a rock at a metal show without hitting someone sporting one of Cradle of Filth’s notoriously gory t-shirts whose imagery was so wonderfully explicit that it instantly made the mothers of whoever wore them deeply reflect on that third glass of wine during pregnancy. Despite this rather targeted marketing campaign, I never investigated further. As such, I was excited to finally see what all the fuss was about when Dani Filth & Co. rolled into the Corona Theatre along with Butcher Babies and Ne Obliviscaris.
First up were Melbourne, Australia’s Ne Obliviscaris. The six-piece act pummeled their fans with a unique brand of progressive metal that incorporated elements of melodic death metal, black metal, jazz, and Eastern European folk music. The songs were long, but the level of complexity kept the music from feeling as if it had overstayed its welcome. Tunes frequently alternated between extreme metal blasting and more subdued, down-tempo progressive sections. These shifts were accentuated by the performances of lead singer Xen, who was in charge of providing the brutal, diaphragm-shredding growling, and second vocalist and violinist Tim Charles, who supplied the clean and pretty stuff. And yes, you read the violin part correctly. Look, I know what you’re thinking, but for real, these guys make it work! During “Pyrrhic,” a track from their latest record entitled Citadel, Charles created a magnificently discordant violin lead that fit perfectly with the track’s menacing attack. Could you have recreated that sound with a guitar? Maybe, but why are you so goddamn boring? Seriously, check these fellas out.
Next were Butcher Babies, a newish LA-based five-piece that seem to have quickly become mainstays of the mainstream metal scene. The group opened their set with “National Bloody Anthem,” a cut from their 2012 self-titled EP. Despite the group’s relative youth, duel lead singers Heidi Sheppard and Carla Harvey worked the crowd into a frenzy like seasoned tour pros, all while belting out snarling, powerful vocals. It was evident that this was a band that knew how to put on a live show, so it was a shame that the music felt so underwhelming. While Butcher Babies’ sound incorporates elements of thrash, NWOAHM, and the occasional Djent bass riff, the end product is pretty meat-and-potatoes. Of course, only the bougie-est of bougie fucks would turn up their nose at such a meal, but when metal is going to be straight forward, it’s got to sound dangerous. Despite all the growling and double bass, Butcher Babies’ music felt incredibly safe and predictable. That said, the group certainly knows how to write catchy jams; their fans sang along dutifully while Butcher Babies played through selections from 2013’s Goliath and their most recent full-length Take it Like a Man.
Finally, the time of the night had come for me to end my self-imposed Cradle of Filth ignorance. While the rest of the band looked appropriately spooky in uniformly black outfits and Gothic make up, frontman and band leader Dani Filth’s black and red leather battle armor and classic corpse paint made him look like a Satanic member of the Legion of Doom. Before the band ripped into their first song, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Black metal, NWOBHM, weird, melodic Goth stuff, or maybe Ghost-style Blue Oyster Cult-worship? Once the band had played through a few songs, including “Heaven Torn Asunder” and “Lord Abortion,” it turned out the answer was: all of the above. While this might seem like an awful lot of disparate influences, the group’s sizable musical and song writing chops meld this concoction with a pop sensibility that adds a mischievous, playful infectiousness to even the most destructive tracks. Filth’s piercing scream is tempered by the eerily mellifluous vocals provided by keyboardist Lindsay Schoolcraft, who ads a majesty and grandeur to the music without sounding cheesy. This blend of brutal and mirthful even manifests itself in Filth’s on-stage performance; despite being dressed as the Crown Prince of Darkness, the singer joyfully bounces across the stage during songs, almost unable to contain his excitement. While extreme metal and Gothic elements are certainly at the forefront of Cradle of Filth’s music, the group seems equally influenced by NWOBHM stalwarts Iron Maiden. Guitarist Ashok’s excellent lead work, especially on tracks such as “Yours Immortally” and “Blackest Magick in Practice,” lends a rocking swagger to all the Gothic frostiness.
It’s hard to say why or how we let musical blind spots develop, but after such an excellent experience I can now cross Cradle of Filth off of my list. Ladies and Gentlemen, I have been fulfilthed.
Written by Jesse Gainer
Photography by Isa Hoyos Ishca Photography
*edited by Kate Erickson