Extreme metal rockers Cradle of Filth are no strangers - by far - to the things of blood and gore and what goes bump in the night. Even so, with the release of their eighth studio album they've decided to turn the macabre up a notch, and to do so have incorporated the help of a serial killer.
Released late in 2008, Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder, is a concept album based on the life of Gilles de Rais, the 15th century nobleman who fought alongside Joan of Arc before becoming a serial killer whose deviance ranged from kidnapping, rape, and sodomy, to mutilation and torture.
Guitarist Paul Allender - and an integral part of Cradle of Filth's song writing process - sat down with UnRated Magazine to talk about shock-rock, martial arts, and sociopaths before embarking on Filth's European and US tour running through the end of February, then on to Australia in early spring.
Allender explains how and why the band chose de Rais for the centerpiece of their new album:
"When we did Cruelty and the Beast it was about Elizabeth Báthory, and we wanted to find a particular person in that similar vein but without going down that road again. And to be honest, Dan [Filth] said, 'We'll do it about this' and he gave me a book to read about Gilles de Rais -- and it was pretty extreme, actually. And he goes, 'It's about time we got the shock-factor back' and I said that's true, that's very true. Plus also to be fair, outside of Europe nobody really knows who he was, so it's a pretty cool thing -- well, it's not cool what he'd done, obviously -- but it's a bit of a different thing for us to do. So people read into it and said, 'Who's this?' And it gave them something to read up on what he'd done and the rest of it, you know?"
Was it difficult coming up with an entire album worth of material devoted to one person?
"To be fair, no, not really because there was myself and one of our friends [Mark Newby-Robson] who's a professional who writes symphonies, and it was the two of us who wrote the whole album, and once we get on a creative role it just keeps going and going and going, and we wrote the whole thing in three months; we just didn't stop, we kept going backwards and forwards all the time. Eventually it was like holy crap, we've got like 15 songs! And that's really good because we've got some left over in case we get asked for computer games or films or whichever."
"I mean, the songs weren't particularly written thinking this one's going to go here or that's part of the story, we basically just wrote the stuff and gave it to Dan -- he wrote the lyrics, and he was the one that actually put them in order. He'd go, 'This song I'm going to write about this part of his life,' and it was him that put it in order. And the good thing about the extra tracks is that Dan's managed to incorporate them into the story as well, even though they're going to be separate on another CD."
And the motivation behind the title?
"Dan came up with that. And when the title of the album would come up it was a bit weird, everybody thought so, but once we got used to it with the concept it makes sense; which is good. But I've no clue what was going through his head when he thought that up," Allender chuckles. "He's been doing it long enough so there's no point in too many cooks spoiling the broth as such."
In a recent interview with Cradle of Filth bassist Dave Pybus, he shared with Melanie "Sass" Falina how the bulk of responsibility in the making of Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder lie on the shoulders of Paul Allender: "...it is kind of Paul's baby now. And in that way he's probably stressed out, but there aren't five people around him all stressed out."
Is that stress a burden to Allender, or something that he thrives under?
"Yeah, it's stressful but I actually get off on it. You know, I actually like being rushed and stressed. I mean, it doesn't do my stomach much good; once I know there's a deadline and it gets near, or somebody calls up and says, 'We've got to get this merchandise by so and so,' which happens to be today -- like I'm going to be doing interviews all day today and then suddenly I get a phone call from management saying, 'We need two shirts today.'" Allender sighs, "You're joking me; you need them today."
Aside from Allender's musical passion and duties he's also an artist. Combining forces with photographer Cindy Frey for a project called Vomitorium: The Dark Art Of Cindy Frey And Paul Allender, and also when needed Allender creates art for the band as well -- but the multiple projects seem to suit multi-talented Allender.
"I've been working all day on two merchandise shirts. And the day goes really quick, the hours just fly by -- but I work really well under stress."
The band's name alone - Cradle of Filth - is enough to rattle some by the ghastly imagery it conjures, but when the lyrics, stage theatrics, and horror-like regalia are factored in to the mix the culmination is not one for the more light-hearted fans of rock and roll. And when the intent is made to push the envelop a bit farther into the realm of the macabre, does there ever come a point where the band wonders if maybe they've got a bit too far?
"No, not really," Allender laughs. "When we played it when most of the stuff was written and the lyrics were down, we were in the studio and listened to it back and we just looked at each other and went, 'Holy crap, this is amazing!' We've never gone, 'Oh, that's gone a bit too far,' or 'That sounds a bit too nasty.' When we do it we try to make it as nasty as possible, we're still Cradle of Filth at the end of the day, you know? And it's really strange because everything just seems to fall into place. Everybody would be running around like headless chickens, like myself, Dan, upper management, other people -- a lot of producers, engineers, everything, and all of a sudden at the end it just seems to come together which is like quite a breath of fresh air actually."
And like most song writers with a new album, when asked what their favorite song is they can't answer -- as if asked to decide which of their children they love more than the others. Allender is no different.
"That's a bit of a hard question because I love all the songs. You put each one of them on and they've all got like hooks in them, you think, 'Oh that sounds amazing! This is really cool.' Then the next one comes on and, 'Oh my god this is brilliant!'" Allender snickers. "I'm still getting used to the actual final titles; I'm still stuck on the working titles. But there's a video track that we're going to be having which has got choirs and stuff in it, and that's going to be excellent. We had a press listening session in the studio and a lot of people said that when these songs come on they could be a soundtrack for The Omen or something, which made me feel really good. That's exactly what we're after. And a lot of people say that this is what the band used to sound like before Thornography and Nymphetamine -- which is another thing that we were after as well, so that's good, you know?"
Was the desire to come back to the band's roots caused by a feeling of maybe leaning too close to the mainstream?
"The word 'commercial' has never really entered my mind. When I wrote stuff it was writing for how I felt at that particular time. This album's gone back to being faster and really dark and extreme, it's just because of how I felt at the time. I mean, I've had a lot of changes in my life and it all started when I started writing this album and hence the reason why it's really dark and angry. I just basically put all that in the music. It is pretty extreme."
An interesting fact about Allender is that he almost listens to no other music aside from his own.
"None at all, really. I'll listen to new bands that come along and think, 'Holy crap, that sounds really good. I might listen to it for a couple of days and then I'll switch off and it won't get played again. What it is, I'm just not into listening to CDs, I don't know why that is -- I tend to watch films more than anything. I'm not really a big film-buff either, I don't really tend to do much I just like to sit and play the guitar. I tend to just try to write stuff, I'm just really into doing art work and writing, really. As a pastime I don't really listen to music or anything like that really. I've got quite a few CDs, my CD collection must equal about 100 but that's it."
"To start off with I was a huge Iron Maiden fan -- massive Iron Maiden fan. I had everything possible, my bedroom at my parent's house, the ceiling and everything was Maiden posters. Everything -- flags, scarves, t-shirts, you name it -- everything was up on the walls. And that's what got me into guitar playing. And because I've never had the gift of working stuff out from record, I've always sat down and written my own stuff in the vein of the bands that I liked at that time. Because I've never really played any covers or worked other people's stuff out I'm wrapped up in my own little world of doing my own stuff -- hence this is really why I've never really had the urge to listen to other people's music. I mean, I listen to some old classic stuff -- I'm really into Motorhead, I love Motorhead. And some of the newer stuff that comes out, this band called Chaosweaver -- we just finished playing a festival in Finland [and] they're a really good band I've just come across. But other than that I don't really listen to much, and when I do listen to other people's stuff it's because they've asked me to do some art work for them or a video for them, whichever, if there's a purpose behind it. I don't put anything on to just sit down and listen to it, I just can't sit still for five minutes."
One of Allender's pastimes, which fits well into his inability to sit still, is martial arts.
"It's basically karate-based, it's a mixture of traditional shotokan, jujitsu, aikido, and there's a lot of ground fighting involved in it. I took some time out from that as well and had done wing chung and seven star praying mantis. I had taken all that and basically turned it into my own fighting form and I was teaching that privately, and I was teaching the local police force. I've been doing martial arts since I was six, and my dad got me into it really because my family's got a whole history of boxers and, I don't know, just never really wanted to box. I wanted to do something that was a bit more graceful. It still hurts like hell, but I wanted something more graceful that really works instead of just like bashing each other's heads in. My dad took me to this karate club when I was six and I was just hooked."
Then Allender adds jovially, "When I start sparring and fighting properly and that's when the adrenalin starts pumping and that's when I'm happiest, really."
Currently, fans can check out Allender's graceful moves on stage with Cradle of Filth, and they'll be playing at the House of Blues in Chicago on January 25.