By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
Dani Filth ain't that dirty.
While the moniker of Cradle of Filth's front man conjures images of caked sludge living under fingernails, vermin and pus-oozing sores, he's actually just your average married father whose band craft pseudo-operas about the occult.
Also, he's a writer, having already penned the cleverly titled The Gospel of Filth. The book intertwines the history of the band with the history of the occult and features contributions from such luminaries as novelist Clive Barker and actor Christopher Lee. He has also written volumes of poetry—though nothing has been officially published.
And, okay, yeah, when he takes the stage, he usually resembles an evil golem, with his body covered in gobs of greenish mud and other ghastly accouterments.
Is it all just for shock value, or is there something more real going on here? Is he an Alice Cooper/Marilyn Manson type, seemingly calculating each move for effect, or is he really into this stuff?
"It's just something that I've always been into . . . reading about and writing about dark occult topics and 19th-century horror—it's part of my lifestyle," he says. "It's important to me that things have a lot of depth and a lot of scope; the reason we like concept albums is because it's a way of giving the music that sort of appeal."
Still, at their core, Cradle of Filth are a hard-rock band. With punishing beats and heavy keyboard and guitar riffery buttressed by flurries of dour orchestral phrasing, the band's music plays like a soundtrack to a Tim Burton heavy-metal opera. Their latest effort, 2010's Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa, is a concept album detailing the adventures of a female demon named Lilith, who was the first wife of the biblical Adam. The story is complicated, involved and gloomy enough to keep the band's cultish fans hanging on every twist and turn. Playing more like an aural movie, the visual descriptions in the lyrics are brought to life by the exhausting music.
It is the type of effort that would translate well onto the stage, though at this point, there are no plans to go that route. Filth, who is an avid reader, has also considered the possibility of a novel exploring his narratives in greater detail, though that is also on the back burner. "The music is, first and foremost, the most important thing," Filth says. "It sets the tone for the lyrics. It's all one package, and everything carries importance, but our first focus is the music."
To that end, the band have typically sprinkled instrumental tracks throughout the majority of their albums, and they are in the midst of an ambitious instrumental undertaking. Midnight In the Labyrinth, scheduled for release later this year, has the band reinventing tracks from their first four albums in an orchestral fashion, with Filth leading massive choral arrangements.
"It's something we've put a lot of thought into, and with the resources we're now afforded, it makes sense to give it a try," he says. "It'll have elements of Danny Elfman-type stuff with a heavier edge."
For a band like Cradle of Filth to reach the point where they can explore such grandiose projects is an accomplishment in itself. It's not like occult-themed metal is ever going to settle well among the American Idol set. Still, as the band achieve more success and extend their global reach—they recently returned from a headlining tour of South America—Filth and company continue to explore their ambition.
"That's really the reason we started this band in the first place," he says. "We always kind of had this vision: We knew that if we played music this extreme and stayed true to ourselves and what we want to do, we'd be successful. Everyone likes scary movies and reading Harry Potter and that type stuff. It's about capturing people's imaginations."
This article appeared in print as "Rock of Monsters: Cradle of Filth mix the creepy and the crunchy in their operatic horror-metal."