Black metal is probably the one area of the heavy metal world that I've never really explored. Maybe it's just not my cup of tea, but I was intrigued when I heard that the highly-revered Cradle of Filth were going to be making a stop in San Francisco on their "Inquisitional Tourture" Tour. The name alone caught my attention, but I've always heard that Cradle of Filth can be rather theatrical. As a music photographer, hearing that phrase is music to my ears. Interesting subjects makes for a great night.
I showed up to the venue and, unfortunately, missed the first opening. I was, however, just in time to see one of my personal favorite acts of the past few years, Butcher Babies, take the stage for a soul-crushing opening set. Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey, the band's co-vocalist command a crowd with more vigor and intensity than any pair of frontmen (in this case, front-women) I've seen in recent years. They own the crowd with their every word, head-bang, and scream. The energy doesn't drop for the entire forty-five minute set, and the crowd is more than prepared for Cradle of Filth.
By the time the English black metal band finally takes the stage, the crowd are fueled and extremely excited. They're not the band that I expect. They're not thrash, but they're technical in their playing. The band is adorned in stage makeup (not on a GWAR level, but you get the idea.) Dani Filth (vocalist) commands the room with gutteral growls and high-pitched screams. Drummer Martin Skaroupa remains performing behind a glass shield, almost as if encased like a prized relic. Richard Shaw and Marek Smerda shred on their respective guitars, Daniel Firth crushes raging bass lines, and keyboardist/backing vocalist Lindsay Schoolcraft adds the missing piece of the puzzle to the songs with her beautiful harmonies and haunting synth lines.
Cradle of Filth's hour and a half set showcased material spanning the band's extensive career, with a majority of material coming from Hammer of the Witches ("Blackest Magick in Practice", "Right Wing of the Garden Triptych") and Midian ("Her Ghost In the Fog", "Lord Abortion"). Cradle of Filth proved to be a show that I haven't forgotten since it happened. They were dark, abrasive, and unafraid of being something truly different. A bit refreshing in today's day and age, if you ask me.
This has been another Shameless Promotion.