Metal as a religion

Cradle of Filth, Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage, Sworn Enemy

Roseland Theater
July 10
7 p.m.
$20 advance
All ages

Britain’s Cradle of Filth came into prominence in the ’90s as part of a metal revival that was otherwise centered on a cluster of church-burning, blunt-weapon-yielding Scandinavian groups like Emperor and At the Gates. While that scene, thanks to the apparently lax quality-control department at spearheading record label Century Media, has become largely laughable, the brand of metal it brought attention to – characterized by the use of keyboards and lengthy melodic lines that invite comparisons to classical music – still thrives in the hands of the worthy.

While many groups among the throng were singled out for their offstage antics and resulting prison sentences, a few, like Emperor, were equally notorious for sculpting dark, intricate masterpieces in their spare time.

Despite similarities in sound, Cradle of Filth stood out from such peers for a few reasons. First, they were British. Additionally, though lineup changes were a constant, the lost members seemed to resurface in other groups – such as The Blood Divine – more often than in courtrooms. Most importantly, while many of their peers failed to move units in America, Cradle of Filth’s elaborate Alice Cooper-style live performances prompted media and fans to associate their group with the equally theatric Marilyn Manson, whose popularity at the time was at its peak.

This happy coincidence, along with the group’s fashion (Crow-esque with long black hair, coats and eyelashes) helped Cradle of Filth ease their somewhat difficult music into American ears. Not only did the group’s image help them to acquire younger fans looking to stir up some controversy, but their musical prowess helped them to impress an older, more discerning audience and to still keep those younger fans as the American goth scene began to lose momentum.

While records such as 1997’s Dusk and Her Embrace and the group’s latest, Damnation and a Day, would pique the interest of any black metal fan, it is their live show that helped Cradle of Filth initiate a buzz, establish an audience and finally gain a reputation as one of the world’s foremost metal acts.

Expect to see blood, hope to see dancers, and know that you will be hearing something a little more intriguing than Gwar through the whole experience. While Cradle of Filth is not ashamed to use gimmicks in their live presentation, they are also devoted to their craft, as their discography of meticulously crafted and thematically cohesive records proves.

Many listeners unaccustomed to black metal sneer at the long keyboard interludes that are typical of the style, likening their effect to “church music,” which is actually a perfect point of comparison for Cradle of Filth and many other groups. From the obscure icons that appear in album artwork and videos to the use of gimmicks in their live performance – flashes of color and movement not dissimilar to those used by evangelist preachers – to the thematic use of assimilated or original mythology to the very language used in the music, Cradle of Filth albums become religious texts. Their fiery stage show uses gimmickry to bring these texts, like songs bearing titles such as “Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids,” to life. The experience could be compared to a meeting of any church. The Christians use baptism in a similar way: as a superficial gesture, a gimmick used to carry ideological concepts into a physical realm.

Some people take the Cradle of Filth experience too seriously, just as some people allow religion to cloud their judgment. But, like any religion, there are important truths to be gleaned from careful attention to the texts. Any Cradle of Filth record is testament to this.