Monday, January 24, 2022

Boston Goes to Hell: An Evening with Cradle of Filth, 3Teeth and Once Human

Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth 

Note: The following review was originally written in October 2021 during Cradle of Filths "Lustmord and Tourgasm" Tour for another website. After some logistical/technical issues and delays, it appears here for the first time anywhere. 

When this writer entered the Paradise Rock Club in Boston on an early October night, two things quickly met my eyes: A seemingly endless line to a merch table selling black apparel and an aesthetically pristine Goth girl being led around by a leash held by her male companion. These were welcome sights for three reasons: 1. Goth ladies are lovely, especially on a Saturday night this time of year, 2. Brisk swag sales indicate a rebounding tour industry and 3. The incomparable Cradle of Filth has returned to America.

As COVID-19 continues its grip on Beantown and beyond, a live Cradle of Filth show in 2021 provides both escapism and an inspiring statement on the power of resilience. In regard to the latter, this ever-evolving crew of English extreme Metallers has been at it in one form or another for 30 years now. When I interviewed then-guitarist Paul Allender way back in 2000 shortly after the release of the band’s fourth album, Midian, the group had already reached legendary status for taking the typically abrasive sounds of Black Metal to more musically precise – and often heavily symphonic – levels. More than two decades later, leader Dani Filth and his revolving door of bandmates (including newest recruit Anabelle Iratni on keyboards and vocals) are underground scene survivors who still deliver the absolute best of the genre they revolutionized with 1994’s The Principle of Evil Made Flesh, 1996’s Dusk…and Her Embrace and other seminal releases.

Marek "Ashok" Smerda of Cradle of Filth

As for escapism…well, with a current tour setlist including song titles like “Desire in Violent Overture” and “The Twisted Nails of Faith,” it’s safe to say that attending a Cradle of Filth gig means taking a journey into a fantastical world that is utterly perfect for the Halloween season. Drawing from various high points in its lengthy career (and boasting the added attraction of playing its 1998 album Cruelty and the Beast from start to finish), the group delivered a pummeling performance that spotlighted undisputed classics (“Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids,” “From the Cradle to Enslave”) while introducing enthralling new tracks (“Crawling King Chaos,” the incredible “Necromantic Fantasies”) off its latest (and best-in-years) album, Existence Is Futile. The expert onstage musicianship reached near-Prog levels at various points (especially during an impressive interpretation of Iron Maiden’s “Hallowed Be Thy Name”), while each of the band’s six members provided a lesson on what it means to actually perform on stage. (Full marks to guitarist Marek “Ashok” Smerda for frequently acknowledging and engaging with audience members from his side of the stage throughout the show.) Whether growling from the pits of Hell or spewing spine-shivering shrieks, Dani’s voice – always an integral part of the Cradle of Filth experience – has not diminished one iota over the years. Unlike most decades-old acts, this band has only become more powerful with age.

Daniel Firth of Cradle of Filth 

Although the ghoulish makeup and macabre imagery may entice audiences through the door, it’s the extraordinary musicianship anchoring the madness that truly matters. Cradle of Filth’s greatest attribute has always been its exceptionally crafted compositions. The rest is just the black icing on the cake.

Alexis Mincolla of 3Teeth

Direct support came from Los Angeles-based Industrial act 3Teeth, whose strobe-heavy, potentially seizure-inducing set showcased captivating sounds strong enough to please both older scene veterans who remember when classic Wax Trax! releases were fresh in stores and newer-school fans who first embraced the genre via Rammstein. Looking like a cross between My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult’s Groovie Mann and Tool’s Maynard James Keenan (and sounding like it – with a touch of Rob Zombie thrown in), frontman and former Boston resident Alexis Mincolla engaged his hometown crowd through an onstage persona steeped in dark menace. (Mincolla’s antics paid off, as the crowd’s between-song chats of “TEETH! TEETH!” were often as loud as the band’s music.) How to sum up the band’s image and vibe? 3Teeth is the kind of ensemble you’d spot playing in an underground S&M club in a ’90s-era horror film. That said, the group achieves the rare feat of clearly charting its own creative course while still offering something familiar. Yes, this crew’s music and image give more than a passing nod to the past, but everything it offers an audience is undeniably 3Teeth. Fantastic stuff.

Lauren Hart and of Max Karon of Once Human 

Helmed by former Machine Head/Soulfly guitarist Logan Mader and fronted by stunning singer Lauren Hart, Once Human kickstarted the evening with an all-too-brief barrage of savage female-driven Metal. (Think Crisis or the heavier moments from latter day Arch Enemy.) Based on this writer’s repeated listens to an advance copy of their forthcoming third album, Scar Weaver (out February 11), this current tour could end up being the final time anyone will need to hit a venue super early to catch Once Human live. It is not hyperbole to say that Scar Weaver will be a Metal genre game-changer in 2022. I’m talking a Beneath The Remains-level third album breakthrough here. You read it here first, folks.

Lauren Hart of Once Human