For most, the arrival of 31 October means sugar and scaring the neighbourhood kids, but for a few others it sometimes signals a certain biennial event – a new album release from the masters of symphonic, black, theatrical and horror metal, Cradle of Filth.
This latest release has taken the band in a different direction. They’ve stripped back to the basics, toned down their theatrics and incorporated a heavy hardcore punk vibe into the ‘90s black metal music they’ve resurrected on this album. The Manticore And Other Horrors has been hailed their best release since Midian (2000) – and guitarist Paul Allender tends to agree.
“It was a conscious effort to put the groove and real attitude back into it again. [On the last few albums] I felt that everything was getting over-produced, so I wanted to get it right back to basics,” Allender says.
And back to basics they went. Allender and drummer Martin Skaroupka wrote and recorded the majority of the music. Originally they wanted to record it on cassette tape, but the trouble of finding a studio that actually had a tape deck and wasn’t going to charge them the earth was too much. So they stayed in the 21st century and recorded digitally, but avoided cutting and pasting wherever they could to avoid that over-produced sound.
Scott Atkins, their producer, also had a huge influence from his studio on the other side of the world and he was the main drive in pushing the band to get back to basics and bring out an album that was brilliant and unable to be dismissed as another ‘run of the mill’ Cradle Of Filth creation.
“He was definitely pushing us to do something old school, because the last two albums, while they have had good reviews, there has nothing where people have gone ‘holy crap, this is amazing.’ So we sat down and spoke about it all and I started writing some riffs and song ideas that he was loving and it all went from there.”
The album treats the listener to lyrical themes based on mythical beasts, demons of a personal nature, tales based on erotic literature, spooky fairy-tales and the spine-chilling horror that Dani Filth has become known for.
Just as Dani Filth keeps his influences for his lyrics close to his black little heart, Allender says that his own songwriting is a very isolated process.
“I always get asked, ‘oh how did you come up with that riff or this song,’ but you know, I will just be jamming to a drum beat and then all of a sudden this idea comes out and it just grows. I always lock myself away when I am writing as well, I don’t have any influences or music on or anything, it all just comes out and I am like, ‘fuck yeah, that is awesome, or nah scrap that one.’”
So aside from the seclusion when writing an album, how does it happen that Cradle Of Filth have (with the exception of Damnation And A Day in 2003) released an album every two years and – especially recently – managed to time each release on Halloween. Was it a happy coincidence or just the way of the world of recording?
“No, it is just a happy coincidence!” Allender laughs, “It is like an endless ground hog day for us. We write, record, tour and then go back into the writing process. But it is a complete coincidence for the Halloween timing.”
And have the band ever considered doing a Halloween concept album?
“Cradle Of Filth on the cover dressed as pumpkin heads and everything, that would be great But we haven’t, no. But!” Allender laughs.
Allender believes that The Manticore And Other Horrors is full of treats for the fans, especially with songs like his favourite, ‘For Your Vulgar Delectation’, which is a song that really incorporates that heavy punk vibe that Allender is so fond of.
‘It’s punk as fuck – I love it. Though I do use the term punk loosely, I think kids these days call it hardcore,” he laughs, “But it incorporates where the bands original roots come from.”
“Some fans will be like ‘where is the recent stuff and the symphonic stuff?’ but at the end of the day, we have done that to death already.”
Allender says he already betting on which songs will be crowd favourites, identifying Frost On Her Pillow and The Abhorrent as winners live.
“People are going to love those songs, and I think they’ll really love the short film clip we just shot for For Your Vulgar Delectation, it’s a zombie film and it’s pretty cool. There are some awesome special effects. We were setting people on fire, zombies were coming out of graves and there were guts and blood everywhere. You are going to love it!’ Allender enthuses.
But don’t be fooled, just because Cradle Of Filth have shot a zombie film doesn’t mean they believe the world is going to end in December. They have too many plans for the years ahead to have the world end on them now.
“Yeah right! What a load of crap!” Allender laughs, “My other half was like, ‘you better be back before the world ends.’ I said, ‘I will be back, but the world isn’t going to end so don’t worry about it!’”
Cradle Of Filth have introduced new bass player Daniel Firth into the fold on the new album. Cradle Of Filth and Dave Pybus parted ways and when they needed a new bass player it was producer Scott Atkins who introduced Firth to the band. Firth was already recording another project with Atkins when Allender mentioned that they needed another bassist, so it was perfect timing for both parties.
‘When we needed another bass player Scott said ‘I have a brilliant guy here. He sounds the same as Dave, he plays the same way and has the same feeling. I really think he will be on the ball for it.’ I said ‘alright, yeah,’ but then we didn’t even see him during the recording process. The first time we actually met him was at Wacken this year! It was quite funny when he got on stage, he didn’t know us really and he said ‘I have never been on this side of the stage before, what do I do?’
‘Just cry and hope for the best’ I told him!’ Allender laughs.
But after the set Firth was hooked and is now a permanent part of the dark little family that is Cradle Of Filth.
Cradle Of Filth are currently on tour throughout Europe in December before they return home for Christmas and a well deserved albeit short break before they head out on the road again.
Allender says they are very keen to get back to Australia and tour here, but they aren’t sure when it will be on the cards.
“It is down to the promoters and booking agents at the moment and it is completely out of our hands unfortunately. We would love it though, it would be cool as hell!”