The band has broken free from its original niche by courting mainstream publicity. This increased accessibility has brought coverage from the likes of Kerrang! and MTV, along with frequent main stage appearances at major festivals such as Ozzfest, Download and even the mainstream Sziget Festival. They have sometimes been perceived as Satanic by casual observers, even though their outright lyrical references to Satanism are few and far between; their use of Satanic imagery has arguably always been more for shock value than any seriously-held beliefs.
Cradle of Filth's first three years saw three demos (Invoking the Unclean, Orgiastic Pleasures Foul and Total Fucking Darkness) recorded amidst the sort of rapid line-up fluctuations that have continued ever since, with the band having more than twenty musicians in its history. An album entitled Goetia was recorded prior to the third demo and set for release on Tombstone Records, but all tracks were wiped when Tombstone went out of business and the band could not afford to buy the recordings from the studio. The band eventually signed to Cacophonous Records, and their debut album, The Principle of Evil Made Flesh, was Cacophonous's first release in 1994. A step-up in terms of production from the rehearsal quality of most of their demos, the album was still nevertheless a sparse and embryonic version of what was to come, with lead singer Dani Filth's vocals in particular bearing little similarity to the style he was later to develop. The album was well-received however, and as recently as June 2006 found its way into Metal Hammer's list of the top ten black metal albums of the last twenty years.
Cradle's relationship with Cacophonous soon soured, the band accusing the label of contractual and financial mismanagement. Acrimonious legal proceedings took up most of 1995, and the original version of the band's second album, Dusk... and Her Embrace was recorded by the Principle... lineup for Cacophonous but scrapped. Subsequently re-worked with new band members for Music For Nations (see below), the embryonic Cacophonous version was eventually released as Dusk... and Her Embrace: The Original Sin in July 2016.
The band finally signed to Music for Nations in 1996 after only one more contractually obligated Cacophonous recording: the EPV Empire or Dark Faerytales in Phallustein, which, it has since been conceded, was hastily written as a Cacophonous escape-plan. Despite the circumstances of its release however, its handful of tracks are staples of the band's live sets to this day, and "Queen of Winter, Throned" was listed among twenty-five "essential extreme metal anthems" in a 2006 issue of Kerrang! magazine. The EP also marked Sarah Jezebel Deva's debut with the band, replacing Andrea Meyer, Cradle's first female vocalist and self-styled "satanic advisor". Deva appeared on every subsequent Cradle release and tour until 2010's Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa, but was never considered a full band member, since she also performed with The Kovenant, Therion and Mortiis, and fronted her own Angtoria project along with Cradle's former bass guitar player, Dave Pybus.
The re-worked and re-recorded Dusk... and Her Embrace followed the same year: a critically acclaimed breakthrough album that greatly expanded the band's fan-base throughout Europe and the rest of the world. Cradle's inaugural album for Music for Nations set the tone for what was to follow. The album's production values matched the band's ambition for the first time, whilst Dani's vocal gymnastics were at their most extreme.
The increasingly theatrical stage shows of the 1997 European tour helped keep Cradle in the public eye, as did a burgeoning line of controversial merchandise, not least the notorious T-shirt depicting a masturbatingnun on the front and the slogan "Jesus is a cunt" in large letters on the back. The T-shirt is banned in New Zealand, a handful of fans have faced court appearances and fines for wearing the shirt in public, and some band members themselves attracted a certain amount of hostile attention when they wore similar "I Love Satan" shirts to the Vatican.Alex Mosson, the Lord Provost of Glasgow from 1999 to 2003, called the shirts (and by implication the band) "sick and offensive". The band obviously approved, using the quote on the back cover of the 2005 DVD Peace Through Superior Firepower.
The infamous "Vestal Masturbation" T-shirt design
In 1998, Dani began his long-running "Dani's Inferno" column for Metal Hammer, and the band appeared in the BBC documentary series Living with the Enemy (on tour with a fan and his disapproving mother and sister) and released its third studio album, Cruelty and the Beast. A fully realised concept album based on the legend of the "Blood Countess" Elizabeth Báthory, the album boasted the casting coup of Ingrid Pitt providing guest narration as the Countess; a role she first played in Hammer Film Productions' 1971 film Countess Dracula. The album led to Cradle's US debut, and Dani claimed it in 2003 as the Cradle album of which he was most proud, although he conceded dissatisfaction with its sound quality.
The following year the band continued primarily to tour, but did release the EP From the Cradle to Enslave, accompanied by the band's first music video, which formed the centrepiece of the DVDPanDaemonAeon. Replete with graphic nudity and gore, the video was directed by Alex Chandon, who would go on to produce further Cradle promo clips and DVD documentaries, as well as the full-length feature film Cradle of Fear.
The band released their fourth studio album in the Autumn of 2000. Midian was based around the Clive Barker novel Cabal and its subsequent film adaptation Nightbreed. Like Cruelty and the Beast, Midian featured a guest narrator, this time Doug Bradley, who starred in Nightbreed but remains best known for playing Pinhead in the Hellraiser series. Bradley's line "Oh, no tears please" from the song "Her Ghost in the Fog" is a quote of Pinhead's from the first Hellraiser ("No tears, please. It's a waste of good suffering..."), and Bradley would reappear on later albums Nymphetamine, Thornography and Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder. The video for "Her Ghost in the Fog" received heavy rotation on MTV2 and other metal channels, and the track also found its way onto the soundtrack of the werewolf movie Ginger Snaps (it would also feature, much later, in the video game Brütal Legend).
Sony interlude (2001–2004)
The longest-ever interim period between full-length Cradle albums was nevertheless a busy time for the band. Bitter Suites to Succubi was released on the band's own Abracadaver label, and was a mixture of four new songs, re-recordings of three songs from The Principle of Evil Made Flesh, two instrumental tracks and a cover of The Sisters of Mercy's "No Time to Cry". Stylistically similar to Midian, the collection was, at the time, unique among Cradle releases in that it featured exactly the same band members as its predecessor. Further stop-gap releases followed in the form of the "best of" package Lovecraft & Witch Hearts and the live album, Live Bait for the Dead. Finally, the band (principally Dani) also found time to appear in the horror film Cradle of Fear while they negotiated their first major-label signing with Sony Music.
Everything in the band is a democracy decision.. Dani has just been painted black in the press...To be honest, to find six people who think along the same lines and share the same interests and like have everything else sort of on a similar level. This band takes up so much time from us, it’s hard to keep everybody focused at the same time and on the same page. So it’s a lot to do with why there have been so many members.
— Adrian Erlandsson, on the working relationships within the band and line-up changes.
Well, it was within my vocal ability to do it, and I wanted people to be able to hear my damn lyrics for once! I didn’t just want to do Dusk… again, same reason that Reign in Blood was made to sound different and clearer. I’d like people to understand what I’m saying, when a lot of the time these vocals can just sound like an orc with nails in his testes. I’ve always been deep into the occult, and would like people to hear these ideas and think about them. The thing is, and it happens a lot amongst our fans as well; especially with this record [Manticore...] I think because it’s grounded, it’s heavy, and it’s screamy and rough and that, but it’s very singy as well and I think there’s a few people that say, "Oh, I want him to scream all the time, I want him to do this, I want him to do that," and they immediately assume you’ve lost your voice when you don’t do it. They don’t seem to sit back and think, "Maybe he just doesn’t want to do it all the time. Perhaps the songs benefit from having this new style." That’s how it was written, that’s how it was addressed, so you kind of dig your own grave. That terminology makes me think, because you’ve done the very high stuff and done the very low stuff, people start, "Well, I want more of this, I want more of that.".
— Dani Filth, on the changes in his singing style.
2004's Nymphetamine was the band's first full album since The Principle of Evil Made Flesh to not be based around any sort of overarching concept (although references to the works of H. P. Lovecraft are made more than once). Cradle's bass guitarist Dave Pybus described it as an "eclectic mix between the group's Damnation and Cruelty albums with a renewed vigour for melody, songmanship [sic] and plain fucking weirdness."Nymphetamine debuted at No. 89 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, selling just under 14,000 copies, and the band's growing acceptance by the mainstream was confirmed when the album's title track was nominated for a Grammy award. The album's track "Coffin Fodder" was referenced in an episode of the Channel 4sit-comThe IT Crowd in February 2006.
Thornography was released in October 2006. According to Dani Filth, the title "represents mankind's obsession with sin and self... an addiction to self-punishment or something equally poisonous... a mania." On the subject of the album's musical direction, Filth told Revolver magazine, "I'm not saying it's 'experimental', but we're definitely testing the limits of what we can do... A lot of the songs are really rhythmical—thrashy, almost—but they're all also really catchy." A flurry of pre-release controversy saw Samuel Araya's original cover artwork scrapped and replaced in May 2006, although numerous CD booklets had already been printed with the original image.Thornography received a similar reception to Nymphetamine, garnering generally positive reviews, but raising a few eyebrows with the inclusion of a cover of Heaven 17's "Temptation" (featuring guest vocals from Dirty Harry), which was released as a digital single and accompanying video shortly before the album. Thornography entered the Billboard chart at No. 66, having sold nearly 13,000 copies.
Long-term drummer Adrian Erlandsson departed the band in November 2006, with the intention of devoting his energies to his two side projects, Needleye and Nemhain. The official press release from Roadrunner saw Erlandsson state "I have enjoyed my time with Cradle but it is now time to move on. I feel I am going out on a high as Thornography is definitely our best album to date". He was replaced by Martin Škaroupka.
Work on the eighth studio album, released in October 2008 as Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder, began early that year following a GWAR-supported tour which took place in Russia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Romania, Slovakia and North America.Godspeed is a concept album based around the legend of Gilles de Rais, a 15th-century French nobleman who fought alongside Joan of Arc and accumulated great wealth before becoming a Satanist, sexual deviant and murderer.Kerrang! preferred the album to the "relatively weak" Thornography, calling it "grandiose and epic", while Metal Hammer said it had "genuine narrative depth and emotional resonance", and Terrorizer called it "cohesive, consistent and convincing". It sold 11,000 copies in its week of release, entering the Billboard 200 at No. 48.
Peaceville Records (2010–2014)
Cradle's relationship with Roadrunner came to an end in April 2010, with the announcement that the band's next album would be released by the British independent label Peaceville Records, using Cradle's own Abracadaver imprint. Dani Filth cited "the artistic restrictions and mindless inhibitions imposed by a major label" as the band's reason for going independent. Early press releases named the new album All Hallows Eve, but by August 2010 the title was confirmed as Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa. Released on 1 November 2010, it is a concept album in the same vein as its predecessor, Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder; this time centring on the demon Lilith, the first wife of the biblical Adam, and also making reference to Greek, Egyptian and Sumerian mythology, the Knights Templar and the Carmelite Nuns. The label referred to it as "a dark tapestry of horror, madness and twisted sex", while Filth called its sound "creepily melodic, like Mercyful Fate or a dark Iron Maiden".Metal Hammer's Dom Lawson felt it was "another sumptuous and spectacular eruption of gothic melodrama, perverted sonic schlock and balls-out extreme metal bombast", and likened it to an "instalment in an ongoing series of novels."
Bassist Daniel Firth in 2015
An EP entitled Evermore Darkly, featuring "new tracks and rarities", was released in October 2011. The package included a DVD with a tour documentary, a live DVD recorded at 2011's Graspop festival and the video for "Lilith Immaculate".
In April 2012, the compilation album Midnight in the Labyrinth was released, featuring orchestral re-recordings of songs from the band's first three albums and the V Empire EP. Dani Filth had described it in the preceding months as "reinventing" the tracks as "full soundtrack quality stuff... with choirs, strings and some narration". This album's version of "Summer Dying Fast" was included on Evermore Darkly as a teaser for the full release (the Evermore track listing subtitles this version "Midnight in the Labyrinth breadcrumb trail"), and "A Gothic Romance (Red Roses for the Devil's Whore)" was released online via Peaceville's website on 4 April. Sarah Jezebel Deva returned to provide female vocals for Midnight in the Labyrinth; her first work with Cradle since her departure in 2008.
In July 2012, the band re-issued its back catalogue from 1994 to 2002, via The End Records.
Cradle's tenth studio album, The Manticore and Other Horrors, was released on 29 October 2012 in Europe, and on 30 October in North America. Paul Allender told Ultimate Guitar that "The last thing we want to do is come out with another album that sounds like the last two. We decided to change direction and go back to what we used to do with the female vocals; all the strong melody lines and harmonies... I've put a lot of punk-orientated riffs back into it again. It's really gone quite dark and pretty hardcore."
Lindsay Schoolcraft in 2015
On 2 September 2013, via his monthly blog, Dani Filth announced the crowd-funded Cradle of Filth comic book, "The Curse of Venus Aversa", and "a career spanning double-disc 'best of'" compilation that is yet to be named.
In March 2014, Cradle of Filth announced the first ever commercial release of their 1993 demo Total Fucking Darkness. The album arrived on CD and limited edition vinyl the following May, on the independent Mordgrimm label. It features all the tracks from the original cassette, plus previously unreleased rehearsal recordings and the sole surviving track from their abandoned Goetia album.
Nuclear Blast Records (2014–present)
In April 2014, Paul Allender stated on his official Facebook account that he had once again left Cradle of Filth, in favour of his new band White Empress. Dani Filth stated about Allender departing the band: "Paul has been enthralled [sic] in his own project and he could not do the tour due to personal reasons. Since then the band has grown as a unit, we were only writing as one guitarist for the last three records and we now have two very competent guitarists. Paul had a very strong opinion about doing that [writing single guitar parts], and we're a two-guitar band. So that may be one of the things that kind of opened the fissure a bit."
James McIlroy also left the band at around this point due to imminent surgery for a spinal injury. Both guitarists were replaced for upcoming tours by Marek "Ashok" Šmerda of the Czech groups Root and Inner Fear, and Richard Shaw of English acts Emperor Chung and NG26.
On 2 April 2014, Cradle of Filth's website announced that they were working on their follow-up to The Manticore and Other Horrors. Dani Filth announced that they expected a Spring 2015 release and that three songs had already been written.
At the moment all six members are working on material.... Everybody has contributed to this from Lindsay the keyboard player, Martin the drummer – everybody has been working very hard. We have to get most of it done by the time we get to Russia, so we have two and a half weeks and I have to finish the lyrics for a few songs but the songs are pretty much there; we just have to move stuff around and put some strange instrumentation.... This album will be very twin guitar driven, lots of very fast melodies a la Dusk... and Her Embrace and Cruelty and the Beast. We are aiming at 16–20 tracks then we will wheedle [sic] them down to make sure we have the best. It is very exciting.
— Dani Filth
Dani Filth and Guitarist Marek Šmerda, With Full Force 2018
On 11 November 2014 it was reported on the official Cradle of Filth Facebook page that they had signed to Nuclear Blast Records for their new album and were expected to begin recording the follow up to The Manticore And Other Horrors later the same month. In early 2015, the working title of the album was revealed as Hammer of the Witches (inspired by the 1486 treatise on the prosecution of witches by Heinrich Kramer). This title was eventually confirmed as official. The album was recorded at Grindstone Studios in Suffolk, England, with a tentative initial release date of 26 June. Over 21 and 22 March the band filmed scenes for a promo video for the song "Right Wing Of The Garden Triptych". The shoot was in the hangar and fire station of former U.S. military base of Bentwaters, with additional narrative scenes (featuring actresses in a bondage setting) filmed on a farmstead near the Imperial War Museum Duxford. The video was directed by Sam Scott-Hunter.
On 21 April 2015, the album's release date was updated to sometime in July, and the band revealed Hammer of the Witches' cover artwork by the Latvian post-modernist artist Arthur Berzinsh. The album was officially released through Nuclear Blast on 10 July 2015. The subsequent world tour included the band's largest set of UK dates for eight years in late 2015, and a set of North American shows in early 2016.