LIVE: Cradle Of Filth w/ Savage Messiah – Academy 2, Manchester 02/11/2017
You know you’re in the right place when a big pair of bloodied breasts adorn a stage, and tonight in Academy 2 that’s exactly what greets the gothy masses – Suffolk’s favourite sons (and daughter) Cradle Of Filth have arrived in Manchester following the release of their latest opus, Cryptoriana: The Seductiveness Of Decay.
As crowd-warmers go, Savage Messiah do a pretty good job. Celebrating a decade of thrashy extremity, the band mix Megadeth at their catchiest with hints of Metallica and Machine Head, raising a suitable amount of hands-aloft hell along the way. Dave Silver is a strong frontman and a bona-fide metal vocalist, leading proceedings with verve as a few hardcore fans flail around at the front in appreciation.
Throughout the years, Cradle Of Filth have been my go-to guys for a bit of outlandishness, straddling themselves between the catchiness of Britrock and the extremity of dark Norwegian fayre quite effortlessly. Dani and co have always nailed that combination of Monty Python humour, labyrinthine lyrical outpourings and heaviosity that few have managed to compete with and now, boasting their most settled line-up in years, the band are assaulting the British Isles in the only way they know how; with riffs, theatrics and more leather than you’d find in a sofa showroom.
Opening with a brutal Gilded Cunt and Beneath The Howling Stars, Cradle show they’re here to celebrate the old as well as the new and an epic outing for Bathory Aria puts Dani’s vocal gymnastics to the test. The impish frontman is on fine form, hopping around the stage like a panda-faced Bruce Dickinson and screaming so hard you worry a lung might pop out of his mouth, whilst Lindsay Schoolcraft is given more of the female vocal parts to sing nowadays (although some are still strangely sampled) and she tears herself into her keys with reckless abandon.
Despite all of this effort, there’s just something about tonight that feels a bit lacklustre. Not helped by a low crowd turnout (a worrying recent trend also experienced by Mutation at The Deaf Institute the previous Sunday), the band do give their all, but the stage seems sparse and effects for such a grandiose band are minimal. There’s no curvy keyboard for Schoolcraft and only the briefest of appearances for Dani’s Skeletor staff, whilst drummer Martin Skaroupka is hidden away right at the back of the stage and behind a screen so you don’t get that organic connection with the rhythm of the songs.
Guitarists Richard Shaw and Marek Smerda absolutely nail each riff, but the sound is strangely muted and doesn’t convey the majesty behind each vampiric tale. Set-wise, it’s a brave move omitting classic Filth such as The Twisted Nails Of Faith, Lord Abortion, The Death Of Love, or even their most commercial moment From The Cradle To Enslave, in favour of rarer songs like Under Huntress Moon, but the tracks that are chosen for tonight are largely well received.
It’s a shame that the little extra spark is missing, as the past couple of Cradle records have been some of their finest to date. Achingly Beautiful and You Will Know The Lion By His Claw slot into tonight’s set perfectly alongside the 21-year-old Dusk And Her Embrace, it’s just that with bands like Ghost now ruling the roost when it comes to showmanship and silliness, the public expect a bit more from such established acts like Cradle.
The band’s encore helps restore some parity, Nymphetamine Fix sending a shiver down the spine whilst Her Ghost In The Fog sounds absolutely monstrous, and as Born In A Burial Gown closes the set there are plenty of happy Filthsters with corpsepaint dripping from their faces. Events have conspired against the band a little tonight, but hopefully they’ll be back soon with nuns on fire, stilt walking goblins and their usual raft of stage furniture to better complement their brilliantly extravagant songs.
Text Nick Spragg, images © John Gilleese. All images are subject to copyright laws. All rights reserved.