Words: Alan Daly / Pics: Olga Kuzmenko (Olga Kuzmenko Photography)
I can’t imagine a more appropriate way to spend Halloween night than in the company of Dani Filth and his ghoulish garrison of gothic cohorts. It’s been little over eighteen months since symphonic metal maestros Cradle of Filth made a long overdue return visit to Dublin at the tail end of their Hammer of the Witches tour, and now they are back in the Academy on one of the first dates of a brand new album tour. The Victorian gothic horror inspired Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay was released on September 22nd, picking up where the previous album left off and has been getting favorable reviews from the media and fans alike. In the words of Dani himself, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.
On the road with the ‘Filth, English metallers Savage Messiah, whose career has been steadily growing over the course of their ten-year career, seem to be largely unknown to the Dublin crowd; at least based on the initial reception afforded them. However, the audience quickly warm to their energetic and enthusiastic performance, belting through fast-paced numbers such as ‘Scavengers of Mercy’ and ‘Lay Down Your Arms’. The set is dominated by tracks from their hot-off-the-press Hands of Fate, released just two days ago, and the classic old-school-metal flavored galloping drums and chugging riffs get heads banging and spirits lifted, prompting gestures of approval from the swelling congregation. Frontman Dave Silver offers autographs, hugs, and kisses to punters interested in buying the new album at the merch stand after the show. Fans of eighties thrash should definitely make an effort to check out this band, live or on record.
But of course, on this Oíche Shamhna (or perhaps “All Hallow’s Eve” to those unfamiliar with the true Gaelic origins of this ancient pagan holiday), the main spectacle is yet to come. The Cryptoriana artwork (by Latvian artist Arthur Berzinsh) imposingly and seductively consumes the entire back wall of the Academy stage, and Dani’s bone-laden microphone stand is the focal point of the podium. As the house lights dim and the recorded intro of ‘Ave Satani’ eerily echoes around the venue, Dani’s disciples of darkness join the stage one by one and take their places, backs to the crowd, waiting motionless for him to join them. After an extended pause, the evil one emerges to massive cheers and hollers as they immediately burst into one of their most recognizable hits ‘Gilded Cunt’, setting the tone for the night ahead.
Wearing his iconic face paints, contact lenses, spiked jacket and hooded cape, atop impressively high chained New Rock boots, Filth’s first vocalizations are a guttural growl and his unmistakeable blood-curdling scream. His voice is in great shape, even after countless such screams, and the overall sound quality and musicianship are remarkable throughout the performance. For this reason, it’s always nice to catch the start of a tour, before any damage is done and weariness sets in. Guitarists Richard Shaw and Marek ‘Ashok’ Šmerda seem to be particularly enjoying playing up to the front row fans, making regular eye contact and encouraging interaction.
They progress immediately into ‘Beneath the Howling Stars’ and the more recent ‘Blackest Magick in Practice’ before taking a breather to address the audience. Filth professes his love of Dublin, clarifying that “it’s not just about the Guinness”, and then declares his intention to play something from their “latest musical excretion”. The first new track of the night is ‘Heartbreak and Seance’, which is the lead video release from the album, also directed by Arthur Berzinsh in keeping with the style of his artwork. The setlist touches more than two decades of their career with tracks taken from most albums right back to Dusk and Her Embrace, released in 1998. A special Halloween treat is the epic ‘Bathory Aria’, a track “played for the second time since Neanderthal times” according to Dani (the first being in Belfast the night before). Introducing ‘The Death of Love’, he informs us that tonight is also his 11th wedding anniversary; “You’d get less for murder”, he quips. The second new song of the show is ‘You Will Know the Lion by His Claw’, and it seems to go down equally well with the fans as the earlier material.
Again, Cradle of Filth buck the clichéd three-song-encore trend and instead take an earlier break to return with five tracks, giving the impression of an overall longer setlist. However, the illusion is just that, as there is an early curfew tonight to allow hordes of fancy dressed clubbers queuing outside to attend a Halloween ball here later, “on the only night of the year when Joe Public actually looks like us”, but there’s still time for a few more Cradle classics and a filthy first timer. Unsurprisingly, their Grammy-nominated hit ‘Nymphetamine’ makes the cut, and gets the loudest sing-along of the night, preceded by new track ‘Achingly Beautiful’, and the fan favorite finale of ‘Born in a Burial Gown’. It’s going to be tough to find a way to top this next Halloween!