CRADLE OF FILTH – “Better To Reign In Hell Than Serve A Slave”

April 25, 2023, 12 months ago

By Aaron Small

feature black death cradle of filth

CRADLE OF FILTH – “Better To Reign In Hell Than Serve A Slave”

Recorded between 2015 and 2019 at different shows across North America, Europe, and Australia, Trouble And Their Double Lives is the first live album to be issued by Cradle Of Filth in over two decades. This extraordinary two CD set features 16 stellar live songs, as well as two infectious new studio tracks – “She Is A Fire” and “Demon Prince Regent”. It’s hard to believe that 21 years have passed since the 2002 release of Cradle Of Filth’s first live album, Live Bait For The Dead.  

“Well, we’ve been somewhat busy releasing other albums,” deadpans vocalist Dani Filth. “That’s how I see it. We just didn’t have the time. And then the pandemic happened, if you remember that thing. It had a knock-on effect for everything; Existence Is Futile was delayed by a whole year. Therefore, our movement from Nuclear Blast Records to Napalm Records was delayed, and we had a bit of a lineup change. So, we kind of hit the reset button on writing. It was like a window, and fortuitously, our sound guy suddenly announced that he had recordings from pretty much a four-year window, which was the Cryptoriana World Tour, and maybe we should do something with those. And, we had a couple of tracks which were originally destined for the new album. That’s pretty much how it came about. If it wasn’t for the window, we probably wouldn’t have a live album for another 20 years.”

The cohesiveness in sound throughout Trouble And Their Double Lives is quite remarkable, given the fact that the material is pulled from several concerts in different cities, performed years apart. Songs were recorded live in Los Angeles, San Antonio, Winnipeg, San Francisco, and Moscow, to name but a few locales. Achieving audio equality amongst all those shows is no easy task. “Well, we left Scott Atkins, the studio producer, pretty much with an unenviable task of wading through all these shows, which must have been hundreds,” admits Dani. “I bet, I literally bet he didn’t wade through many. He obviously looked for ones that he could transcribe, because he’s just getting the signal from the desk. Some gigs are better than others, etc. etc. So, I suppose he honed it down, and then chose from probably 20 gigs, or something like that. The full whack that would just be ridiculous! He obviously had an eye, and an ear, for what he wanted to do with it. But as I say, an unenviable task.”

The album title, Trouble And Their Double Lives, seems to tie into the artwork, which depicts people wearing masks. “Actually, it was always my endeavour, and intention, after Bitter Suites and Live Bait For The Dead, the next live album would be called Trouble And Their Double Lives. It’s all in the title, and it implies that we’re the trouble,” reveals Dani. “Cradle Of Filth are trouble, and we have almost like a secret agent alter ego; a different side to us. Originally, it was going to be very serial killer themed artwork. Then I stumbled upon, online actually, the artist responsible – Chris Perna. He had some new stuff that he was working on, and it just really tied into the title and the whole ideology of a secret cult or society. A hidden brethren celebrating something, much like heavy metal gigs.”

The fact that there’s no track duplication between Live Bait For The Dead and Trouble And Their Double Lives does not go unnoticed. Obviously, there’s 21 years separating the two releases, but classic songs are just that. Yet the new double live album features a tremendous setlist without replicating anything from its predecessor. “Well, it was very difficult. And it was very difficult as well just coming back from the Double Trouble Live co-headline tour with Devildriver in the US, because that warranted us only playing an hour. We would play ‘She Is A Fire’ obviously. So, it just gets harder and harder every album to come up with a setlist. I’m saying this because it was the same with the live record. You want to get a good smorgasbord of tracks from all epochs of Cradle Of Filth. So, Principle through to Vempire, Dusk, Cruelty, Cradle To Enslave – all the way through to Cryptoriana. You don’t want to be concentrating too much on new material, or middle earth material. Different incarnations of the band, fan favorites, and then a couple of tracks that are probably a little bit surprising as well. I mean, we put ‘Bathory Aria’. We could have got away with two or three songs in the amount of time that takes up. But again, it’s a fan favorite, and something people are not likely to expect, which is what we wanted to do.”

For those wondering why “The Death Of Love” and “You Will Know The Lion By His Claw” are listed as bonus tracks, Dani explains. “Well, that’s a very simple thing, and it’s called the record company. It’s because being a double live album, all the vinyl is on two discs. And literally, for sound quality, we couldn’t put any more on. We had to take two off. So, the idea was, if it’s going to be on the CD, then we’ll list it as bonus material; because that’s essentially what it is. You only get it on the CD.” However, those two songs are also available on the digital version. “Well of course yes, that’s just in the ether. It doesn’t exist; much like music. And that’s why we can be robbed by digital streaming, but I don’t want to get into it.”

Trouble And Their Double Lives features two new studio tracks. “She Is A Fire”, which is the first track on disc one, is a love song as only Cradle Of Filth could write it. “Yeah, it’s a good song. Very catchy. We were originally supposed to just do a lyric video for it, and I f*cking hate lyric videos! So lazy! Obviously, I love my lyrics being read, but I just find it so lazy. So, we decided to do something a little bit more abstract, that didn’t feature the band, to accompany it. We chose to play that song live, cause it’s pretty strong. We’ve also got a video coming out for the other track, ‘Demon Prince Regent’, with actual live footage. So, it was like a marriage there. I guess those things are like… they kind of spearhead the release. They let people know that we’re alive and the album’s out.”

Speaking of lyrics, “Demon Prince Regent” possesses a great set, especially the line, “This might be the pit God shits in, but it hides a biding storm.” “Well, just the ideology really of a fall from grace; not necessarily the fall from grace. And I guess building oneself back up in a place you should be trampled down in. But there’s nowhere else to go really. If your back’s against the wall in hell, the only way is up.” That’s followed by the line, “Best to reign in hell than serve a slave,” which it’s safe to say, is a mindset shared amongst the vast majority of Cradle Of Filth fans. “Yes, that’s very true.” 

When writing lyrics, which are always intricate and detailed, Dani isolates himself. “Because I meander, I always have the music first; I never do it the other way around. If I’ve got a strong chorus, then I’ll add to it and what have you. But the words have to fit with the music. So, it is something that has to be done aside; ritualistic almost. I always find myself in my office or take myself away somewhere that’s very atmospheric with no distractions. That’s important, no distractions. Usually, I find it very hard to write lyrics during the day. I usually write very late at night. I get very much into it, but it’s just another facet of the band that I think is important in pursuing.”

Both of the new songs, “She Is A Fire” and “Demon Prince Regent” were created after Existence Is Futile was laid to bed. “They were recorded at the same studio, Grindstone Studios. They were recorded last year. I can’t remember actually when last year, to be honest. May even have been at the tail end of 2021. But like I say, they were from a different lineup. Because since the last record, we parted ways with Richard (Shaw, guitarist) and Anabelle (Iratni, keyboardist). We quickly had to assimilate two more people, but they had to be from the US because we were supporting Danzig last May, and we were kind of left in the lurch. We only had maybe about six weeks, which wasn’t enough time to turn around visas; not for America. So, we had to get Americans in. We looked hard enough with the amount of time we had, and fortuitously we found two really great musicians, really great people – Zoe (Marie Federoff, keyboardist) and Donny (Burbage, guitarist). It’s also fortuitous that this album took care of those two tracks, and allowed us then to press reset on our writing. Subsequently, and this is relevant, we’re about to play Sick New World (on May 13th) in Las Vegas. The moment we come back from that, we’re straight in the studio, laying down the drums for our new album.” That will be album #14. “I wouldn’t get too excited. It’s not going to be released until this time next year.”

Those hoping for a DVD or Blu-ray release of Trouble And Their Double Lives will not have their wish granted. “We’re concentrating on the audio material at the moment. We did two very expensive and luxurious looking live streams, which may, at some point, see the light of day together. The reason they haven’t been released is because people paid for those. We would leave it a few years at least, to help them to enjoy the privilege of knowing that they saw them. But maybe both of those, cause they were lengthy, and very lavish. They were both shot during the pandemic. It was very hard because everybody had to be masked. We had an American producer come in, and he had to quarantine for ten days. It was a real… both of those performances were real acts of love. They were as hard to put together as albums. So yeah, I would like them to see the light of day at some point. Maybe both of those with a live performance taken from somewhere, but there’s no plans at the present because as I said, we’re concentrating on our first proper album for Napalm Records. Subsequently, that’ll have accompanying videos. Next year’s going to be a busy, busy live year for us, playing everywhere.”

It came as a surprise that Nuclear Blast let Cradle Of Filth go. “We’d ended our tenure with them,” states Dani. “We had a three-album deal, and we delivered on it. We were free to move, and you know us, we’re just… it’s like anything. You work at a magazine, you work at a record store, a radio show, whatever. People come and go, and that’s the same with us. The same with our career as well. We want to keep things fresh and exciting for ourselves as well. We felt like we’d done our tenure with Nuclear Blast, we’d been with them like ten years. We felt like we wanted to move on, explore new pastures. A lot of people that we knew at Nuclear Blast actually moved to Napalm as well. All in all, it was only a plus for us.”

Cradle Of Filth currently has sporadic live dates for the rest of 2023. “I think we’ve got about five festivals, because yes, we’re concentrating on the new album. And there’s a lot of personal stuff going on as well. But in September, we’re doing a second leg of the Double Trouble Live in the U.S. for a month, slightly longer. Then we’re hopefully, it’s not confirmed yet, going to – there’s talk of various places which I can’t disclose because again, it’s just talk. But South America hopefully will be one of them. There’s talk about coming to Canada as well at some point. Actually, the last half of the year will be busy, but it’ll be nothing compared to next year, with the release of the record.”

Trouble And Their Double Lives takes the listener back, as well as forward. Older songs performed live, and two brand new studio tracks – people will get a lot out of it, because as a double disc release, it contains so much. “Well, that was the plan. It would have been ridiculous as a… I think there was talk at one point of like, it can only be one CD. We’re like, forget it then. It wouldn’t work with the album title anyways. I hope people enjoy it. I know live albums aren’t generally considered as proper releases, but I hope people do see it as such, and get to enjoy all the other little nit-bits and tid-bits, things that are happening around the band over the course of next year, to prepare the way for the new album, which is… I’m one of probably about eight people who have heard the tracks, and they’re sounding phenomenal!”

Speaking of other tid-bits, there’s now a Dani Filth action figure, which is a whole new realm. “Yeah, it’s strange. It’s a strange feeling, but kind of cool as well.” A lot of metal bands are expanding their marketing these days. It’s a whole new world. “Absolutely. And again, I’m not going to go into the whole scenario of digital streaming platforms etc. etc. But yeah, it’s hard. It’s hard for bands, it’s hard to tour at the moment. With the conflict in Russia and Ukraine, and just the global economy really hitting a hard time. Fuel is up, tour bus hire is up, wages are up; everything is up. And people are starting to cancel tours. The pandemic did a lot of damage, but it’s getting worse. Bands have to tour – they don’t have to tour, but if they want to be a band that survives financially and makes records, is everything people want from a band, they have to make money. Touring is one of the last resources available to them. Album sales have plummeted, obviously. Luckily, the metal fandom is very loyal, and people like collecting stuff. I won’t listen to any album unless I’ve bought it. I know it’s a really weird way to look at it, but actually it isn’t because I get to appreciate a lot more stuff, believe it or not, cause I’m not so fickle about, ‘Oh I’m listening to this, and I’ll just flip to this, and I don’t even know what the rest of these songs are like.’ When I buy a CD, it goes in the car, and pretty much lives there for two months, so I know the album inside out. But that’s just me. And I know a lot of my metal friends are like that. Luckily, we’re in a genre that supports our careers. But live is a very important arena, and I just hope things improve.”   

(Cradle Of Filth photo by Annie Atlasman, Dani Filth photos by James Sharrock)

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