It’s a Monday night in Belfast and the legions are gathering, their faces painted black and white and their armour made of leather and/or PVC. Which can mean only one thing: Cradle Of Filth have returned to the city after a 15-year gap, on the final night of their latest ‘Inquisition’ tour.
Manchester’s Winterfylleth seem an unusual choice of opening act. Possibly the least black metal looking band on the black metal scene, they deliver dense melodies and dark harmonies which belie the earliness of the hour (they go on literally minutes after the doors open) – which in turn leads bassist Nick Wallwork to thank everyone for “coming out at stupid o’clock”. My problem with Winterfylleth is that all the songs sound the same, with no variation in pace or tonality – in fact, if it wasn’t for the gaps between the tracks, and the nature of Simon Lucas’ precise drumming, you would swear it was all one 30-minute long song – which makes them a pleasant enough background listen but a disappointing live experience. Nevertheless, the crowd grows in numbers as their set progresses, and they automatically gravitate towards the front, drawn in by the strange hypnotism of the droning darkwave soundtrack… or perhaps they’re just trying to secure their spot for what is to come a bit later…
And the anticipation for that slowly and inexorably builds until the members of Cradle Of Filth file one at a time onto the sparse stage (their use of DI-d digital equipment means there is no backline), with the crescendo of cheers rising to a climax when Dani Filth bounds on to the stage and then the monitors, opens his arms in the classic adoration pose and then cups his hands to his ears…
A Filth show is a live gothic vampire opera combined with a black metal mass, attended by hundreds of faithful acolytes: this latter is accentuated by the fact that, a few yards away from your reviewer, one fan spends the whole set on his knees in worship mode. And Dani – even though something happening at the side of the stage seems to be bothering him, as he constantly charges off to berate someone in the crew – is in full command of his congregation of blackened disciples, as they in turn bay on his every word, reacting as rabidly as a pack of starved dobermans with several pounds of rotting flesh hanging tantalizingly just beyond their nostrils.
The full operatic width of COF’s material is more than effectively reproduced live to hugely dramatic effect of the kind which would make Jerry Bruckheimer proud. But, it’s not all show, as the musicianship is there to back it up – especially in Martin Skaroupka’s drumming, which is precise, snappy and deceptively complex, and the intertwining guitars of Richard Shaw and Marek ‘Ashok’ Smerda. And when you see him work a mic live you realize how huge a range Filth himself possesses, as he holds it close for the deep, growling darknotes and several inches away for his massive screams, both to equal, esoteric effect.
After a main set lasting just 67 minutes, the band then keep us waiting almost ten minutes for the encore: however, Dani subsequently explains that, rather than being “pretentious fuckers for keeping you waiting”, they got stuck in the venue’s lift – “it says it holds eight people and there were only four of us… that’s what touring America does for you!” The encore turns out to be shorter version of the main set, as they actually perform seven more songs – the highlight being, of course, ‘Nymphetamine’, which is gargantually overblown – just like everything else about COF. But, that’s the attraction of this grandiose black metal theatre.
Setlist: Humana Inspired To Nightmare (intro) / Heaven Torn Asunder / Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids / Blackest Magick In Practice / Lord Abortion / Right Wing Of The Garden Triptych / Malice Through The Looking Glass / Deflowering / Born In A Burial Gown
Encore: At The Gates Of Midian (intro) / Cthulhu Dawn / Nymphetamine (Fix) / Twisted / Her Ghost In The Fog / From The Cradle To Enslave / Gilded C*nt
- Photographs by Marc Leach.
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Winterfylleth play the North Of The Wall festival warm up show at Audio in Glasgow on Friday 25 March, and the Ritual Festival pre-show at Eiger Studios in Leeds on Friday 8 April. They also play Colchester Arts Centre on Saturday 14 May.[flickrapi user=”planet mosh” get=”photoset” id=”72157666049241482″ size=”z” count=”100″]