Thursday, November 27, 2003
Music: Antichrist superstars
Cradle of Filth brings black metal to the charts
By Newt Briggs
If it turns out that Christianity is in fact the one true religion, Cradle of Filth and all its fans are probably going straight to hell. Not that the promise of a Christ-free afterlife seems to bother the British metaleers--their own opinions of the sandaled messiah being rather succinctly summed up in the controversial T-shirt slogan "Jesus is a cunt." Besides, if that alone wasn't enough to curse them to eternal damnation, the band pretty much sealed the deal by getting arrested in the Vatican.
"Our old keyboard player used to dress as a vicar--you know, with the collar and everything," says Cradle of Filth bassist Dave Pybus. "Obviously, it's illegal to impersonate a vicar in the Vatican, but I think the real problem arose when he was told to leave and everyone just sort of laughed at the police. That's when the guns were drawn and the band got hauled in."
It's exploits like these--along with a strobe-crazy, gloom-and-doom stage spectacular--that have catapulted Cradle of Filth to the forefront of the black metal scene. In fact, the band's most recent release, 2002's Damnation and a Day, topped out at No. 140 on the Billboard charts (which might not seem like much of an achievement until you consider that it is the first true black metal album to ever crack the Top 200).
Pybus explains: "People are more open-minded these days. They don't want these engineered boy bands and all this fucking garbage they're being force-fed all the time. They're looking for something different, and they should be allowed to go out and express themselves any way they want."
Of course, Cradle of Filth's success has not come without sacrifice (of the work and not the woodland-creature variety). According to Pybus, the recording process for Damnation and a Day--with its 32-piece choir and 40-piece Hungarian orchestra--took more than 10 months and nearly caused the band to break up. At one point, the friction got so intense that something had to be done short of killing each other. The solution, says Pybus, was to throw down a few pints and shoot each other with gas-powered BB guns.
"They're really fucking powerful, man--even the plastic shots will cut your skin from 20 yards away," he says. "At the end of the day, we looked like we had the plague. We had all these little welts and lesions on our skin. It was horrible."
So horrible that Pybus almost lost an eye. "Fortunately, I was wearing glasses at the time, so the pellet hit the lens and not my eye. After that, I said to the guys, `If that would have hit me in the eye, I'd be blind right now. If we're going to keep doing this, everybody's going to have to get some goggles.' So rather than stop shooting, they actually went out and got protective gear. That's how much they liked shooting each other."
Due to stringent customs regulations, the band had to leave its guns behind in England. But to the delight of fans (and the consternation of the moral majority), they've come to the States armed with a truckload of new T-shirts.
Says Pybus: "We've got a new shirt out right now that says, `Your mother should have swallowed.' It's not serious. It's just puns. It's like soundbites on TV except instead of being nice, it's horrible. People love that shit, you know what I mean? A lot of kids want to say something different--not just, `Drink a Pepsi and be happy.' They're pissed off and they want everyone else to know about it. And I guess we provide a bit of an outlet for that rage."