It is hard to recall an extreme metal band more villified, more argued over and treated with scorn and contempt than Cradle of filth. Arguably a case of image getting in the way of the music, the unforgiving focus on diminutive frontman Dani Filth’s various <ahem> extra-curricular activities, has long conspired to obscure the fact that at the heart of the maelstrom Cradle of filth are actually a very good band. Ostensibly an extreme metal band, what sets Cradle apart is their innate pop nous that enables them to craft numbers such as ‘from the cradle to enslave’ whilst still retaining that key heaviness essential to a band surviving the ravages of time and fashion. True there have been occasional mis-steps; ‘Nymphetamine’ and ‘thornography’ were over-long and only great in passing, but when you weigh up the gold found in the band’s extensive catalogue (‘cruelty and the beast’, ‘Midian’, ‘the principle of evil made flesh’ and ‘dusk and her embrace’ are all excellent) as well as the recent return-to-form albums ‘Godspeed and the devil’s thunder’ and ‘darkly, darkly, Venus Aversa’, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Cradle have been on the receiving end of far more stick than they deserve even when one takes into account Dani’s marginally irritating personality.
Having enjoyed a brief tenure with Roadrunner, a label far better suited to more mainstream metal acts, Cradle appeared on Peaceville for their last studio effort and it seemed to be a much more apt pairing. Peaceville have long been the guardians of doom, death and black metal and Cradle’s shift to the label felt like a home-coming. The overwhelming success of ‘darkly, darkly…’ has led to this, beautifully packaged stop-gap appearing and it is a treat for Cradle fans everywhere. Entitled ‘evermore darkly…’, the package couples together a rag-bag of oddities, some more inspiring than others, as well as a DVD containing documentary, live footage and a typically engaging video for ‘Lilith immaculate’ – there’s even room for liner notes in the smart digi-book package which also houses lyrics, credits and some typically outrageous artwork.
Of the tracks on offer, the opening is a bizarre spoken word intro (featuring long-suffering Cradle collaborator Doug ‘Pinhead’ Bradley) that recalls nothing so much as a Chris Morris sketch with its odd syntax and unwieldy talk of a pit that spewed forth the sounds of hell. However, this is hotly followed by the astoundingly good ‘thank your lucky scars’, a track that finds the band on quite insanely savage form. Equally impressive are three demos left over from ‘darkly…’ sessions which are of high quality and actually benefit from the slightly more raw feel of a demo than of a finished product. Of particular note is the demo of ‘the persecution song’ – an epic, brutal track that showcases everything that is great about Cradle in full flight, from the razor sharp guitars to Dani’s ubiquitously intelligent and well-penned lyrics.
Of course, this being Cradle not everything is great. Those of you familiar with the special edition of ‘Cruelty…’ or ‘Godspeed…’ will know that Cradle have an irritating penchant for inappropriate trance/dance remixes and even if the track (‘forgive me father’) was reworked by Anthrax’s Rob Caggiano, it works no better here than on any of the other attempts. Of more interest is an extended version of ‘Lilith immaculate’ and an orchestral re-working of ‘Summer dying fast’ which promises to be in a similar vein to My Dying Bride’s recent ‘Evinta’ set. How successful the overall conceit will prove to be remains to be seen, but on this evidence it is not a project without its merits, and Cradle have always had a strong orchestral feel to them, even at their heaviest. At forty minutes it is a relatively svelte Cradle offering, and yet it’s hard to argue with the quality of the majority of what’s on offer (dodgy trance version aside) and fans will lap up the demos and exclusive tracks on offer.
Making the package rather more lavish than it might otherwise have been, the second disc is a DVD offering up a full-length documentary filmed on Cradle’s jaunt through Russia, Ukraine, Germany and Switzerland, a live show filmed at Belgium’s Grasspop festival and the aforementioned video for ‘Lilith immaculate’, an ambitious clip featuring the band’s trademark gore, nudity and lascivious bloodletting. Given that the last live video footage of Cradle to be made officially available was the serviceable but unremarkable ‘peace through superior firepower’ DVD, the live tracks prove to be of particular interest, capturing a snapshot of the band playing to a decent sized festival crowd and thoroughly enjoying every minute of it despite some rather sloppy moments. Happily the sound mix on the DVD captures the band to a far greater degree than either of the previous efforts and while the recording lacks the punch of their studio output (a frequent hazard with extreme metal bands being recorded in the live environment) the guitars come through with greater clarity than on either ‘peace…’ or ‘heavy handed, left handed and candid’ and it’s always fun seeing Dani have a crack at “the pop band on the main stage called Bullet for my Valentine!” before introducing a roaring ‘honey and sulphur’. Highlights include a blast through ‘Nymphetamine’, and the evergreen ‘from the cradle to enslave’ which always devastates crowds and remains a highlight in the band’s catalogue to this day.
The final element of the DVD is an amusing look at the band on the road which is in a similar vein to the band’s previous documentary efforts (that is featuring nudity, violence, profanity and stupidity) and follows the band across Europe and Russia. There’s plenty of footage of the band larking about and it’s always deeply incongruous hearing Dani talking in his natural voice rather than the devilish growl we’re used to. One of the most interesting elements of the video is the continual struggle the band have to maintain production values in venues that often lack the most basic of equipment, and this behind the scenes glimpse makes you realise exactly how hard Cradle have to work as a touring band and how much effort from band and crew goes into making each show something for fans to remember.
Overall this is a worthy stop-gap that will more than tide fans over ‘till the next release. Typically generous, everything from the packaging to the well-thought-out DVD make this a great release to sink your fangs into and the band’s heavy-handed involvement in everything from the DVD to the liner notes give this treasure trove a suitably official feel. A hugely enjoyable offering from an underrated band.