Live Gig Review and Photos by: Zenae Zukowski
There should be a list of “100 bands to see live before you die,” and Cradle of Filth belongs right up there. These Extreme Metallers from the United Kingdom have been raising Horror, blood, cruelty and mayhem since the formation in 1991. A band that has grown to be one of my personal favorites and sadly I have never had a chance to see them live. Therefore, when the Inquisitional Torture tour was announced last Fall in support of the eleventh studio release of Hammer of the Witches I knew that I could not miss this one.
The tour had a rocky start due to visa issues, however, after four show cancelations, they managed to continue through over twenty of their original block of dates. The final evening of said torture concluded in the brutal streets of New York City at Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom. The tour consisted of a unique blend of supporting acts that including the cinematic Progressive – Melodic Metallers from Australia, Ne Oblivicaris, and the Los Angeles Metal band Butcher Babies, where this evening held quite a diverse crowd.
No stranger to the Metal scene, where it was showcased this evening when many fans arrived early to see Ne Oblivicaris. A band that demonstrates passion and determination over being glued to an unwanted career path which was shown when drummer Dan Presland quit his $150,000 paid job to pursue his music career. The same group that managed to earn $86,000 from crowdfunding for a World Tour. It is safe to say that these guys are unstoppable and take music to a new level of seriousness where many should learn that with a resilient amount of hard work, dreams do become a reality. The rest of the band includes Xen on lead vocals, Tim Charles on Violin and clean vocals, Matt Klavins on guitar, Cygnus on bass and Benjamin Baret on lead guitar.
The set was filled with different elements and arrangements consisting of brutal screams, incredible violin solos, and headbanging to the extreme. The classical elements that were used brought in the right vibe for the night as it remained dark and mystified. The band engaged with the crowd while clapping and raising their fists followed by blistering in with Melodical terror. On this evening, the set included tracks “Devour Me, Colossus (Part I): Blackholes,” “Pyrrhic,” and “And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope.” As the performance remained consistently energized, it was the surprising ending when Charles jumped into the crowd for a final crowd surf. Marking it the conclusion of their first North American Tour and first time performing in New York City where many fans begged for an encore. I have been to many shows and never seen anyone ask for an encore during the first opening act. Ne Oblivicaris is a band that should be considered a requirement to listen to as one of the best upcoming Metal bands that are out there right now.
As much as I love the Butcher Babies, it was a surprise to see them as the direct supporters for Cradle of Filth. With that said, it is always a pleasure to watch live. What is interesting about them is that they do not hold back their support for other Metal acts and music icons, most importantly including the late Wendy O. Williams of the Plasmatics. The name “Butcher Babies” originated from the Plasmatics song, “Butcher Baby.” Williams was known for her intense performances along with rebelliously being near naked on the stage. Vocalists Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey honored Williams’ look and legacy during the beginning of Butcher Babies, where now their image now focuses on merciless performances. On this evening, Shepherd, Harvey, Henry Flury (guitar), Jason Klein (bass) and Chrissy Warner (drums) were ready to pump up the crowd.
The set was heavily focused on the new album Take it Like a Man that released during the Summer of 2015. I never know how they do it but, Shepherd and Harvey continued to jump around the stage while not showing any sign of being out of breath nor missing a note. Shepherd demanded the audience to explode into a massive circle pit as I managed to feel a breeze filled with headbangers that were around me. After the first few tracks that included “National Bloody Anthem,” “Blonde Girls All Look the Same,” “The Butcher,” Gravemaker,” and “Igniter,” Shepherd decided to challenge the audience. Warning all that the night was going to get crazier, Shepherd wanted to play a game called “the climb of life.” She informed the security guards that they would have a lot of bodies to catch as she demanded all of the crowd surfers in the room to make their way towards the front. It was during “Jesus Needs More Babies for His War Machine” that had this sea of Metalhead surfers. The set continued to move during songs “Monster’s Ball,” “Magnolia Blvd,” and a mixed medley from Goliath (2013) that consisted of “The Deathsurround,” “Goliath” and “I Smell a Massacre.” However, it was during the final song of “Axe Wound” where Shepherd surprised me as I noticed someone was missing on the stage. I heard her singing as I moved up I saw she joined the circle pit and moshed with the fans. I could not believe it and still do not know how she manages to stay in breath and tune as well as Harvey. Butcher Babies have proved once again that they are an act to see live, as they continued with a mini headlining tour of their own that ends on March 20th in Scottsdale, AZ.
I remember when the Hammer of the Witches banner dropped onto the stage, the packed crowd screamed in excitement, myself included. The energy in the room felt right and somewhat bittersweet for Cradle of Filth as it was the final night of the tour. The band has faced quite a few lineup changes over the years, where thankfully it was only recently that brought in the creative mix of musicians. The latest batch brought in a strong collaborative energy where Hammer of the Witches could have been just another The Manticore and Other Horrors. Luckily, it took many fans back to Midian. This latest lineup of wicked geniuses includes the malevolent king himself, Dani Filth (vocals) followed by Richard Shaw (guitar), Marek ‘Ashok’ Šmerda (guitar), Daniel Firth (bass), Martin Skaroupka (drums) and Lindsay Schoolcraft (keyboard/female vocals).
Finally, the lights dimmed and “Humana Inspired to Nightmare” from Dusk… and her Embrace (1996) chimed in as the band settled into the stage and moved with “Heaven Torn Asunder.” After hearing such classics from the get-go, intensive excitement grew in the crowd. I believe my jaw dropped at the time I heard Schoolcraft open the next “Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids,” which also drove in a steep of crowd surfers. It was a magical moment of haunted darkness as the set moved away from Orchids and into, “Blackest Magick in Practice” from the latest Hammer of the Witches. At this point, I did not care what song they would perform as each track, despite the lineup changes reminded me of the record and Filth’s notorious vocals continued to bleed into the headbangers eardrums. Glorified madness continued as Clive Barker’s gates of Midian (2000) moved in with “Lord Abortion.”
Filth dedicated the next track to the openers of the night explaining how they enjoyed touring with such a diverse group of bands and went into “Right Wing of the Garden Triptych.” I completely lost track of time due to getting lost in the music with the rest of the fans, and it was during “Malice Through the Looking Glass” and the jaded track of “Gilded Cunt” when everyone let loose by headbanging in exhilarating freedom. The set concluded with “Born in a Burial Gown” that held a large circle pit, filling up half of the venue. After this performance, the fans including myself screamed out for more.
The encore felt more of a second act than a brief two song conclusion as we were lucky to have five tracks. It opened up with “Walpurgis Eve,” the opening of Hammer of the Witches and into “Yours Immortally.” Filth conversed with the audience reiterating how wonderful the tour has been and had a great group of bands. He wanted to see action for the next few songs of the night and dedicated the next piece to the women in the crowd and went into “Nymphetamine (Fix).” I do not know if this gimmick happened throughout the tour. However, all of the bands and the crew walked onto the stage for this piece. Many wore shirts with the big letter “E” on it as Shepherd from Butcher Babies had large pink balloon-like gloves as she jokingly punched members on the stage. It was hysterical and showcased the bond that was built during this tour. Assuming that would have been a last great track of the evening as the extended members left the stage, more music continued, and I couldn’t be happier. Moving back to Midian as a personal favorite track of mine went on with “Her Ghost in the Fog.” The set continued with “From the Cradle to Enslave” and surprising many long time die hard fans with the titled track of “The Principle of Evil Made Flesh” from 1994’s debut album.
Cradle of Filth cast a spell that evening, making many fans not want to leave nor have the show end. I remember standing there with a feeling that was bittersweet. It was immensely captivating however, sadly over. Looking back, Cradle of Filth has not performed in North America since 2011. Hopefully, it will be less than five years for them to return. They know exactly what fans want to hear, and understand what should never be performed live. Thank you, Cradle of Filth for haunting many fans with torturous excellence.