|TURNAROUND PUBLISHER SERVICES|
the observer Sat 19 June 2010
Cradle of Filth are a black-metal band with strong, and often forcefully expressed, occultist leanings. In 1994 they released their debut album, The Principle of Evil Made Flesh, and swiftly acquired a legion of fans. Two decades, eight albums and many outrages against public decency later, Cradle are one of the most successful acts in British metal; only Iron Maiden enjoy a similar eminence.
Their chronicler is Gavin Baddeley, and he is well qualified for the task, having been ordained as a minister in the San Francisco-based Church of Satan by the sect's founder, Anton LaVey. In the early 90s Baddeley formed the London lodge of the CoS, and since then has become a key figure at the intersection of diabolism and metal music.
His intention in this book is to shine a light on a largely unfashionable subculture. "Using Cradle of Filth's discography as a roadmap, The Gospel of Filth folds out into an atlas of the dark side in all its multifarious forms," Baddeley writes. The rococo prose has a certain fitness for purpose here, given the subject matter, and he backs it up with impressive research on subjects as diverse as Swinburnian masochism and the Cult of the Clitoris (a mythical organisation of perverts controlled by the Kaiser during the great war). It's this tangential material, along with its lavish illustrations, that will make this book a diverting read for those who are not persuaded by songs such as "Doberman Pharaoh" and "Deleted Scenes of a Snuff Princess" that the devil has all the best tunes.
Bands such as Cradle, writes Baddeley, are part of a long British tradition of unwholesome entertainment. From early folktales of ghouls and sprites, through Hammer Horror films and acts such as 80s goth-rockers Fields of the Nephilim, there is a continuum. In England, observes Cradle frontman Dani Filth, "we're living in an open graveyard."
Baddeley also links English black-metal culture to 17th-century libertine the Earl of Rochester and, half a century later, the satanic practices of Sir Francis Dashwood and his Hellfire Club associates. He identifies English metal band Akercocke, who combine a rakish libidinism with a taste for Savile Row tweeds, as the inheritors of this mantle.
In presenting satanism as carnival, as a tongue-in-cheek reworking of evil as spectacle, Baddeley is taking a classic LaVeyan position. But there's a dark side to the dark side, and the scene embraces some weapons-grade crazies. In 1993 two Norwegian black metallers, Count Grishnackh and Faust, were convicted of murder. Faust's victim was a gay stranger who had approached him, while Grishnackh killed a fellow member of the band Mayhem, who had himself allegedly eaten a third band member's brain..
Black metal's Nazi-inflected excesses have been well documented by Michael Moynihan in his Lords of Chaos, but Baddeley makes clear that the English metal tradition is more about booze, birds and bikes than the icy purity of the Aryan flame. In the words of Dani Filth, "it's about being anti, being the adversary, being the wolf". Essentially, he sees himself and his bandmates as traditionalists, doing their bit for Albion. "Cradle of Filth," he says, "are about trying to keep the spirit of this haunted isle alive."
Luke Jennings's memoir Blood Knots is published by Atlantic