Jesus' severed head on a nun's lap and merch that sports the words "Gilded Cunt" define the unholy Cradle of Filth. The most successful British metal band of the last 20 years (according to the only trusted source for all things metal, Metal Hammer magazine) is as extreme and diverse as their fan base, and damned proud of it. Call them goth metal, black metal, death metal, heavy metal or whatever other genre comes to mind--the ever-evolving Cradle of Filth are on tour, kicking ass, and stirring up more shit than ever before.
Their 12th major release, Thornography, showcases the best effort yet by the band, proving to fans and foes alike that they're just as much about the music as they are the image.
Supporting their latest release with the Thornography tour, the always-controversial Cradle was in shit well before the bus left. The album's cover, which features a nun with Jesus' severed head on her lap, was modified to appease censorship demands before being released to the public.
"They refused to have it because the woman's skirt was too short," explains guitarist Paul Allender. "So the head of Jesus in the lap didn't make a bit of difference. It's just the fucking skirt was too short so we ended up making the skirt longer and they accepted it."
This is one of many shock tactics pulled by Cradle, who regularly create new and amusing ways to anger the masses. A shirt that features an exposed nun and the words "Gilded Cunt" has been banned in the United States, but remains on sale in other countries.
"[It's about the] shock factor," says Allender. "We came up with that principle sitting around pissed and then someone said, 'This would be really cool as a shirt!' So we decided we could just piss lots of people off, and now that shirt actually fucking outsells the biggest people you can think of in the States. It outsells fucking Manson and everybody, it's incredible."
Allender, who has been in the band almost since the beginning, credits Cradle's success to the diversity of their sound. The band treats each album as a unique stage of their evolution, and regularly dips into different metal genres in order to consistently bring exciting and new music to their loyal fans. On Damnation and a Day, Cradle brought the 80-strong Budapest Film Orchestra and Choir to the studio in order to replace synthesizers and mark a transformation into symphonic metal--but only for one album.
"It was amazing to work with them," says Allender. "The band at the time was using lots of [synthesizers] and we had real people do it instead of samples, which obviously had a lot more depth and body. A lot of people have said, 'Why don't you do that again?' but we see each album as one particular part in time. We don't want to keep repeating it."
Even more diverse than Cradle's music is their incredibly loyal fan base, willing to follow the band through any genre and likely to the gates of hell. With each album and its respective sound, new minions from various metal legions are recruited.
"At shows, we've got goth kids there, black metal kids there, heavy metal kids there, headbangers, punks, it's everybody," says Allender. "Nowadays at gigs we're starting to see a lot more of the headbangers there as well, so we're playing and kids in the front row are just headbanging to this stuff and it's fucking amazing. It's cool as hell."
Thornography has marked a wildly successful stage of Cradle's life. With its excellent musicianship and edgy tracks, the album has unlocked a hellish musical landscape for the band.
"We wanted it to be a bit more flashy and a bit more metal, and then we're gonna move on," says Allender. "[Thornography] has really helped us. It's actually opened up a lot of doors for us. We've got a lot of faster stuff with the newer stuff we're gonna write, we're gonna mix in. It's another chapter in our careers."
Though ever-changing, Cradle of Filth will continue with their original, gothic-inspired image and performances. Known for their stage make-up, Allender proudly states the band won't drop the habit.
"We use the make-up live, of course we do," says Allender. "We're not gonna drop that ever. It's part of the identity of the band. The new promo stuff is done differently because it's airbrushed and such, but we still wear it all full-on live. It's very much the identity of the band. We can't be called Cradle of Filth and not go on without make-up."