Cradle Of Filth
have returned with their ninth studio outing, Darkly, Darkly, Venus Avers
. The concept album is the group's most brutal to date and is a much more collaborative effort on the group's behalf. On the eve of the album release, Filth guitarist Paul Allender
spoke to Joe Matera
to discuss the new outing, Satanism and how the group tries to remain fresh and relevant to the metal masses today, while Dani Filth
offers a track by track commentary of the album's themed concept.
UG: Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa is the ninth studio album by the group, is the process getting easier when it comes to making albums?
Even though this is our ninth album, the process is actually getting harder each time. That is because we like to change, not in everything we do, but in trying to do something different with each album to keep it interesting. And I think that is why we have lasted so long to be honest. Recently I read some comments from people that saw the first video that we released from this album, and most of the comments were like, Oh I wish Cradle of Filth went back to the old Cradle blah blah blah' Well, I know for a fact, that if we just stayed exactly the same as our first album - The Principle of Evil Made Flesh - we would not have lasted near as long.
As an artist, one has to keep moving forward and evolving if one wants to remain fresh and still relevant, as staying the same would eventually become sterile and unproductive musically.
Absolutely, otherwise you end up sounding like every other band that only lasts for three or four years then they disappear.
When it came to the writing and recording process, did it differ much from previous efforts?
There was a lot more of us involved this time. This time, instead of me doing it, I got everybody else involved. I didn't want it to sound like a one man band. The last album, it was just me and the keyboard player, we did it all ourselves. And I thought if I was to do it again with this one, it was going to sound like the last album. So I got everybody involved because I didn't want it to sound like the last one. The recording process was different rather than on previous albums where, drums would be recorded first then the bass, then the guitars, but this time, I put the guitars down first and then the drums because the bass player wanted to come up with something different. So he just jammed over it and came up with whatever he wanted to on top of it.
Let's discuss gear, what did you use?
In the studio, I used my Paul Reed Smith guitars with EMG pick-ups, Engl amps, Randall heads with cabs and Mesa-Boogie cabs. It was mainly various combinations of different heads and cabs to find the tightest sound. We didn't use many effects this time as I am not a great person when it comes to effects as I prefer to get a natural sound. Live, it is mainly the PRS guitars with an Engl special edition head and cab. I usually take three guitars with me on the road.
Cradle of Filth have always been embroiled in much controversy regarding its T-shirts, what's your view on this whole matter?
It is only a T-shirt for Christ's sake. It is stupid. You know, at the end of the day if people just stopped paying attention to it the only reason why it got so big is because so many people paid attention to it. At the end of the day if people get pissed off about it and don't want to see it, don't pay attention to it! It'll eventually die down and disappear. It is not rocket science, you know what I mean?
Yeah, I think banning anything only makes it more exciting and desirable
Yeah we purposely released that particular shirt because we knew that everybody would go, Oh my God that's offending' in order to give us publicity. And it totally worked!
The band keeps evolving and is hard to pin down with any specific label. I mean Cradle of Filth have even gone outside of the metal genre and dabbled with dance remixes.
It is part of being a band. Just because you play in a metal band doesn't mean to say, you have to specifically stick to that genre of music or have less respect for other genres. That is the whole point of being a musician that you try your hand at anything and you're not tied down to one genre. I have had some kids come up to me over the years who want to be in these true black metal bands, and they'll go, oh no we're not going to play this, we want to be in band like so and so' And fair enough, you've got your idols or the favorite band or type of music, but if all you're going to do is play one part or style of music and not take your blinkers off, how the hell are you going to evolve and get signed?
When it comes to the group's satanic imagery, is that all part of a public image' or is it something the band are serious about and adhere to in their personal lives?
We're nothing like that [satanic] at all. We're not part of any form of religion whatsoever because at the end of the day, if you're part of the Christian faith or whichever faith you follow, even if it is the satanic side of things, at the end of the day, you're still following something which means, you're just sheep. We're just putting on an image that goes with the music. You have to have an image nowadays anyway, because there are so many bands out there. You have to almost create a sort of dreamscape for people. When I was a kid I massively into Iron Maiden and every time I used to get one of their albums, I used to constantly look at the album cover, back and front, read all the lyrics and would play the album like thirty times in row. I got completely lost in a fantasy world. And that is what we do too. We create a fantasy world where people can escape into. Which is why our art work is like that, and our image is like that and our music is like that. When we were in Europe recently doing interviews, somebody asked, oh so you don't actually wear your makeup walking around and stuff like that?' Of course not! I mean we'll get made up for signings and stuff like that because you've got to look like what you look like on the album for record signings, but to walk around like that with makeup on and go shopping?, come on
How does it feel to be the most successful British band after Iron Maiden?
"If we just stayed exactly the same as our first album - The Principle of Evil Made Flesh - we would not have lasted near as long."
It still hasn't sunk in. We've always been likened to Maiden. A few people have described us as Iron Maiden on crack. The whole band was totally into Maiden when we started and we thought we could do the same thing but we didn't want to because there was a death metal scene happening right around then. So we decided to get into that and mix it up with the Maiden stuff we liked and put lots of horror like keys and stuff on top of it and that's how we started.
What do you say to those that proclaim that the genre of extreme metal today has run its course especially since in many cases it has diversified itself to the point that it may not recognizable any more.
There is such a huge gap, for more stuff like what we're doing again. The whole place is saturated with stuff like power and light where you have really extreme vocals and then sing in the next breathe. But that is just gay as fuck! It really is. But that has been done to death because they eventually thought it was commercialism, and all of a sudden kids have latched onto it right away and now there is so much of it around. Listen to any radio or go see a gig, they're always mixing all those extreme vocals with those nice gay vocals, it's just a fuckin' joke. At the end of the day the two don't fuckin' work.
Do you think extreme metal has suffered a lot in the wake of the attention it garnered from the Norwegian church burnings?
I must admit, because of all that, we and everybody else all got tainted with the same brush. But at the end of the day, if it wasn't for that, the whole scene wouldn't have been recognized, I mean it would have but it would have been slower. But because of that whole thing that went on, they even make films about it now and books are released on it too. Obviously it was bad when it was happening but obviously for the scene now, it's been good because it got really commercialized. I never thought in '94 and '95 when we were touring off the first album how big it would get. We were hearing about it, we knew half the people that were burning the churches anyway, but we didn't agree with it, but we didn't know then that it would escalate as big as it is now into the whole scene that we're part of now which is massive.
Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa - Track by Track by Dani Filth
This album is Cradle at our most sinister and darkened fairytale; a gothic horror- themed slay-ride of fervor and perversion: yet amidst the orchestral melodrama and lush, cinematic production, there sits stalwart, a ravening beast of furious riffing, flesh ripping vocals and monstrous, unstoppable percussion.
'Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa'is without doubt the fastest and most brutal album we've created to date. As an acquaintance of the band so aptly noted, this is like 'Iron Maiden on crack in a graveyard of angels!', and with an as-near-as-dammit release date of All Hallows Eve 2010, we are snarling at the leash to get out to all our fans across the world and play this shit live.
The Cult Of Venus Aversa
'Midnight strikes, the candles sputter
Muttering their reeking spells
I snuff their tongues, my heart a-flutter
These words I speak are gates to Hell'
The storm-clouds open on our story and the curse is running. An unseen narrator casts a sinister warning of a dark secret that has aligned itself within the mythistory of this tale. It is a story that he alone must tell to be rid of its terrible curse
Knight Templar, deserting the Ninth crusade to pillage their way slowly back to England, purchase feudal land with their ill-gotten treasures in the county of Shropshire. There, beyond the forest to the east of the village of All Hallows Fair, they build their religious stronghold, a vile and despicable sect dedicated to the worship of the desert god Baphomet. It is during one of the nightly orgies in homage of the beast that an ancient and far greater Evil is unleashed into their temple, that of the thing's Mother, lured from the abyss by rites of lust and degradation ultimately, a virgin sacrifice.
Wrapping her sumptuous legs around their pagan idol, Lilith; Adam's first consort and mistress of Hell, slithers from centuries of imperious disinterest, to once again inflict her whims upon an unsuspecting world...
One Foul Step From The Abyss
The Feast of Fools, 1308.
Time crawls on and Lilith's presence hangs like a brooding cancer in the air.
Lurid manifestations, strange howling in the woods, a deep sense of foreboding and dark erotic dreams all beset the village whilst, reclining in her inner sanctum of black fire and marble, Lilith is worshipped and obeyed.
That is until another girl a daughter of the local gentry is abducted, for only then, with a large armed force provided by King Edward II, will a torch-lit mob dare to march on the Templar's lair. What they discover there unhinges even the most stoic of minds; a harem of both male and female devotees, all in midnight obeisance to a beautiful vampyric creature that shines like the stars. A bloody pitched battle ensues, but the Templar stronghold is eventually overrun by the sheer mass of opposing numbers.
The Cloud-racked moon above turns a full shade of murder.All are put to the sword, including most of the servants, but of Lilith herself, there remains no earthly trace of her body. Convinced she has been driven back to the abyss that spawned her, the King gives over the deeds to the already hefty coffers of the Church. So begins the nightmare...
The Nun With The Astral Habit
Years have passed. All Hallows Fair.
A convent for Carmelite Nuns resides where the Templars once worshipped their illicit Queen, now widely regarded as The Retreat Of The Sacred Heart. Presiding over this small but elegant part of Eden, is the Abbess Dubois, strict of rule in her quest for perfection under the eyes of God. Her object of concern comes from a new arrival to the convent, Victoria Varco, heiress to a Moldavian fortune, who, despite suffering many terrible deeds, including the murder of her lover and their ill-gotten child, has been forced into a life of celibacy for blackening her family name.
The Abbess will not tolerate her darkening the peace of her halls, attributing to her the growing sense of unease and midnight activity in the convent, and punishes her accordingly, privately relishing the mental torments of the captive girl. She is regularly flogged red.
For Victoria, terrible cloistered dreams swiftly turn to nightly flights of erotic fantasy, at first indulging herself with a beautiful mystery woman, and then, like tumbling further down the rabbit hole, as the bejewelled woman herself, making passionate love on faraway dunes to a shadowy stranger.
In truth the woman is Lilith, attracted to Victoria's darkness in this restored oasis of light, and through sexual union with her lover Lucifer, the Crawling Chaos, she makes fertile the seed of his design, and the girl wilfully becomes her pawn.
So, lost to her new-found nocturnal pleasures, Victoria, the young, frightened Nun, bequeaths her hand in acquiring a powerful Templar treasure, a golden necklace located somewhere in the labyrinthine convent walls.
Retreat Of The Sacred Heart
"This time, instead of me doing it, I got everybody else involved. I didn't want it to sound like a one man band."
Delirious with ecstasy, the heady opiate of Victoria's new obsession finds her growing further from her sisters of small mercies. High on September fires that have burnt away all restraint, she is unrepentant and alive again, a wicker-man resurrection in the broken piece of mirror that is her only possession. Vanity becomes her nemesis, for there, in the hungry whirlpools of her eyes, Lilith too gazes out upon a new world.
A world ripe for subservience and domination.
In the grip of inner fervour and the nights spent at the bosom of a goddess, a dangerous romantic liaison flares up between Victoria and a man who comes from the village to aid the Nuns with the labour of harvest. His name is Isaac, strong and handsome, but a mute, though his tongue does provide her with other uses.
Ancient as the mountains she might be, Lilith is not a patient Mistress. Railing in her onyx astral palace and withholding her favour, Victoria is pressed to enlist Isaac in the search for the missing Templar necklace, eventually pushing him to the lavish bed of the not-so-angelic Abbess Dubois.
With the threshold between worlds grown to its thinnest and the late Summer air laden with vice, Lilith knows her time is at hand, Victoria her host, all the more beautiful for her sweetened infidelities.
The gates to hell are truly opening.
The Persecution Song
Victoria's erratic behaviour is unhinging obedience in the convent. In the cloisters Demons are envisaged everywhere. A purging of religious fervour ensues. Blame descends on the strange, once-melancholic Nun, whose nightly rites of sexual passage have been observed and at times, similarly enjoyed. Her hormonal impurity is seen as a beacon for sin, an invitation to past masters, thus in order to subdue the brushfire panic rising in her flock's throat, the Abbess orders Victoria's midnight abduction.
Dragged to the miserichord drenched in profanity, she is stripped and forced to endure all manner of degradation before the real torture begins. The pain drives her to the very edge of sanity, the complicit Nuns under Dubois' instruction, fuelled by tales of what the convent used to host, are fanatic and utterly methodical in her abuse. They seek to drive the demon from her.
Still Victoria is resolute. She will not break on their wheels and will not give up her secrets to the needles or fire. Foul are the retorts that fly from her mouth. The mouth of a whore. Her Goddess taught her well, the exorcism fails and possession remains.
Not wishing for her perfect rule to become unstitched, the Abbess finds herself with precious little choice. Blazing with zealotry, Victoria is taken out to the blasted oak, a site of ancient punishment and is hanged from its leering boughs. Lightning tears the sky, the convent's dark windows stretch and laugh and the small conspiratorial group hasten back through the night to their chambers, leaving Isaac, (oft seen as a mute, pliant fool by the nuns), entrusted with the digging of a grave, unaware of his forbidden feelings for the girl. Obsessed with the beautiful dead nymph, he is heartbroken by events and through a silent flood of tears, swears swift and fastidious revenge.
A love song. Of sorts.
An unearthly storm ensues, as if the heavens themselves are condemning the tragic actions of this night. Isaac, stealing from the convent under cover of the tumult and with his heart fit for breaking, hurries to free Victoria of her grave, cursing the firmament and heaving her makeshift coffin through the ensuing sludge to the Chapel, where he might once more gaze upon her Angelic face.
He regales the corpse with kisses and regrets, pledging his love and recalling onelate Summer day when he tended her weeping wounds after a particularly savage flogging. He forgives her her trespasses despite the suspected catalogue of sins, believing her affection for him shone far above that of her master, the Devil's. And with that he produces a golden necklace, two writhing snakes within whose opposing fangs resides an upturned crescent moon. It is the Templar treasure Victoria and her Mistress so badly sought that he gently clasps about her cold, dead, slender neck.
As he sits and holds her lifeless form by candlelight, admiring the splendor of the treasure against her flesh, he is transfixed by her beauty and the smooth sumptuous curves the lightning that cuts through the window highlights beneath her gossamer winding shroud. Thunderstruck, an act of utter madness ensues, as possessed by a sudden raging desire, he falls upon her, making love to her corpse in a frenzy of blissful abandonment.
Suddenly on the cusp of his passion, Victoria's eyes flicker open with a dark renewed light as she grips him tight and starts working towards her own sinful pinnacle. And those eyes do not lie Lilith, Queen of Hell, is reborn.
A Hymn to her.
Fire is all around. The belfry is in uproar as Isaac and what was once Victoria consummates her carnal empowerment, him a bedazzled fawn, her a bucking silhouette set to flame. As she explodes she drops to suck hungrily from his throat, and swiftly sated on fresh blood, her transformation from girl to Goddess is finally complete.
She is naked save for the necklace, yet it fails to stop her from entering the now-burning convent and murdering every last Nun with unimaginable cruelty.
A true martyrs' death awaits the Abbess though. She is impaled upside-down, arse to mouth and her face set aflame. A very fitting end.
Fleeing the carnage in a delirium of ecstasies as the villagers of All Hallows Fair once again pour to atrocity, they eventually take shelter from the rain in a barn far from the pyre that is now the Retreat Of The Sacred Heart.
It is here that Lilith addresses the bewitched mute, finally revealing her true nature, that only now powerful enough to seek her interests in the affairs of mortal kind, she has arisen, having waited for decades to engage the perfect host for her re-emergence.
Victoria had been steered to become her private vessel. It was only a question of time and the retrieval of the hidden Templar necklace that prevented her from splintering the mirror back into this world. And now she is free, Isaac will learn to worship at her feet, as she intends the whole of existence to. In return, he will have for a lover a Goddess, a woman of unimaginable power and beauty, and together they shall walk the world a blaze of razors.
Isaac is far from disagreement, seduced by a voice that is part precious jewels and shimmering, ethereal fire.
A new Eden awaits.
The Spawn Of Love And War
"'Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa' is without doubt the fastest and most brutal album we've created to date."
The narrative soon drifts to being the precedence of Isaac and his poetic rantings on Lilith's power.
Infatuated by his consort, his tale is a constant tirade of bewitchment and worship, of living in the sinuous shadow of the snake, of being subject to all of life's most ardent seductions: Wealth, power, youth and beauty, whilst hers is a story that reveals the origins of the treasure so profusely sought after and stolen from the Abbess by Isaac's very own prying hands.
Legend speaks of the necklace being given as a wedding gift to Harmonia, the first -born child sprung from the illicit union between Aphrodites ( the Goddess of Love) and Ares (the God of War), by Aphrodite's estranged and jealous husband, the blacksmith Hephaetus. It was forged to keep the wearer eternally beautiful and young, yet it came at a terrible price; all owners were smitten with a curse that decimated countless generations. During their retreat from the Holy land, the Templars settling at All Hallows Fair raided a temple at Delphi in Greece, where the necklace was taken from an elite sect of priests, sworn at all costs to its protection. For the Knights it was considered just another trinket of war, such was the Templar's sole interest in the continued praise of their idol Baphomet.
Lilith's prize is an eternity of youth and beauty, Isaac's is the return of his speech and a world at his feet. It is not all bad, he sits at her breast through the machinations of her growing empire, documenting her ascent to the favour of world leaders, and the sole head of countless illicit occult organisations.
Her voice is like a serpent behind everything, privy to every carnal desire, every sin, and therein lies is a portent to the weak. Isaac speaks of the many seductions of her lascivious power and it is a warning levelled intently at the listener.
Her nightmare kingdom is arriving.
Harlot On A Pedestal
Documenting the centuries in her opiate embrace, Isaac has seen a great many things that has sent his mind reeling; horrible, disturbing things that are at times at odds with his spellbound infatuation with Lilith. He has witnessed the incredible power of seduction, of greed, of manipulation, not only from the Goddess, but of the mortal entourage which slathers about them, craving her indulgence, across all continents. He recalls ancient memories of Eden before the Fall, of Sheba, of Egypt, of court life and favours beyond physical and spiritual compare.
He drinks the champagne, one eye on the wine turning black. On the swell of her New Order.
Warm waves of desire wash over him in her presence, but also undulating pangs of nausea and regret. The eternal, dreamlike party is taking its toll as Lilith dominates more and more, high-heel deep in enslavement and depravity, yet her very presence fills him like a sweet caressing drug. His life unfolds as a conflict of opposites, he is madly in thrall to the Goddess, yet a hammered conscience finds him growing weary of the orgies, the intrigue, the bloodlust and riches. Of indeed worshipping such a creature.
Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned)
Isaac seeks repentance, begging forgiveness from a higher counsel for the life he has led in Lilith's arms, for he has felt the bitter prick of thorns in her garden of delights. He is only too aware of the coming storm, of the disaster facing Mankind once her blasphemous dark age has been fully ushered in.
In his heart a battle rages between good and evil, love and hate. He succumbs and then triumphs, rises and falls on the tide of her voluptuous whims. Lilith's voice is sweet and anodyne. She is the ultimate seductress and with her words, the honey dripping from her fluid lips, she has always managed to sway his aversions, to sustain his purpose with her. This is a song for anyone crushed beneath the heavy burden of shame. Is guilt so justifiable if one loves the addition? Or is the love affair with danger worth the guilt?
Beyond Eleventh Hour
The eleventh hour, representing the fate of Humankind one foul step from the abyss, passes by as Lilith unveils her Satanic mandate. The path is well and truly paved for the ascension of her true consort, Samael, Lucifer, Choronzon; the Devil himself.
The future is also revealed to Isaac, a road on which he believes he is neither slave nor saviour, but Master of his own destiny, whilst the Goddess becomes all the more maniacal, terrifying in her address and aspect. Torn between two worlds, his mind, already hardened from centuries of indulgence, observes his Mistress aloft on the cusp of her final victory, all pawns in place and no place for him.
He goes before her throne on the astral plane, pledging his eternal love, but no longer his servitude to her unholy cause, leaving swiftly as her storm clouds roil in turmoil behind him.
It is here that we are led to believe Isaac's part in this story ends, whether by the Demon's charity or via her vengeful wrath. The truth is far darker, for his story has merely been a ruse to bide time for Lilith to sink her poisoned teeth into the listener's psyche, for unbeknownst, she has always been one kiss shy from your throat. And now that she has you wrapped in her possession, she will come for you in dreams, making you one of her many sordid playthings. It is then that she'll reap your soul, for Isaac is the narrator of this story, her herald and her consort.
And amassing their children, their perverse kingdom of darkness is hastening to arrive.
'Midnight strikes, the candles sputter
Muttering their reeking spells
I snuff their tongues, my heart a-flutter
These words I speak are gates to Hell'
Interview by Joe Matera