Images: Anne-Laure Marie

Words: Trent Cornell

It was only a week ago that news broke of 170 Russell catching fire during a live performance, which sent shockwaves through the Melbourne music scene. Last night, the blaze was reignited with Cradle of Filth burning the venue to the ground… only this time, the flames were metaphorical!

Filth fans came out in droves to catch Dani Filth (lead vocals), Martin ‘Marthus’ Škaroupka (drums, studio keyboards, orchestration), Daniel Firth (bass), Lindsay Schoolcraft (live keyboards, narrative vocals), Richard Shaw (guitars), and Marek ‘Ashok’ Šmerda (guitars) take to the stage, performing the ‘Cruelty and the Beast’ album in its entirety. There was a real buzz of electricity within the atmosphere that quickly engulfed 170 Russell, with drinks flowing and people prominently pushing through the masses to secure themselves a solid view of the stage early. It’s a shame, however, that this energy seemingly disappeared by the time the support act, Hybrid Nightmares, took to the stage.

First and foremost, these guys were the perfect supporting act selection for a Cradle of Filth show. The shifting of growls and earthy vocal tones of frontman Loki were surprisingly pleasant, whilst the instrumental performances each helped to form one hell of a collective foundation. There were definitely some Cradle of Filth undertones with their overall performance, which only helped further heighten their delivery as a whole; but as mentioned, it was bitterly disappointing to see not much energy bouncing off of the walls from the people in attendance. I’d call them fans, but they acted far from it. Don’t get me wrong, there were a select handful of die-hard Metalheads who tried to get things moving, but the vast majority weren’t having it. It’s unfortunate, truly, because these guys deserve a lot more than what they were given.

Time continued to tick on by as the swarm of fans continued to fester, and before long it was time to witness what was, undoubtedly, one of the greatest live performances 170 Russell have hosted. The lights hit and, as if they’d been in a trance throughout the entire set from Hybrid Nightmare, the crowd lost their bearings and became a lot more intense. Each member of Cradle of Filth was met with a resounding combination of cheers and applause from the crowd, culminating in Filth’s appearance, which sent everyone into a frenzy. What’s important to note about this particular performance is the album they’d selected to play in full, ‘Cruelty and the Beast,’ is rather theatrical in its delivery, using spoken word and ambient tones to further push the performance as the telling of a story, rather than just a collection of tracks on an album. Some might have attended with some doubt, or wondering how they would work this into their performance, but all was put to rest as soon as Once Upon Atrocity began.

I have the inclination to say this was more than your typical Heavy Metal concert, but more of a “Night at the Heavy Metal Opera.” Thirteen Autumns and a Widow is definitely the perfect track to demonstrate this; from Schoolcraft’s angelic backing vocals and spoken word that transcend the music itself, to the masterfully produced notes that hang off of every riff played. The tone had been set – this was going to be one of those “once in a lifetime” concerts that you’ll forever regret missing out on!

This continued throughout the album’s progression: Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids, Beneath the Howling Stars, Venus in Fear, The Twisted Nails of Faith, Bathory Aria, Portrait of the Dead Countess, and Lustmord and Wargasm. Why group all of them together, you may ask? The answer is perfectly simple – each track was played with absolute mastery (be it Filth’s vocals, or the powers that be surrounding the rest of the band), and definitely presented itself like a fine win; the longer it settled, the better it began to taste! How can you individually set tracks aside when every single one of them was performed flawlessly? Not to mention their stage presence – they were all well within their comfort zones; whether it be Šmerda tilting his guitar towards the crowd so his adoring fans could stroke the shaft (sounds sexy, right?), or Shaw switching between looking mindless to bursting into manic 360 turns whilst thrashing his guitar, they absolutely nailed hooking the crowd through physicality. This performance was flawless! Now, we might have been finished with the ‘Cruelty and the Beast’ album, but Cradle of Filth were far from finished! Malice Through the Looking Glass continued to showcase the theatrical, opera-like experience that had been demonstrated throughout the night, while delivering something from a different Cradle of Filth era, and the crowd lapped it up! Heartbreak and Seance embodied the familiar magical essence that had flowed throughout the night, with the ballsy tones bringing about a second wind to many who might have been beginning to feel the effects of being smacked around in the mosh pit all night.

Nymphetamine (Fix) didn’t only excite fans but quickly raised its hand as one of the strongest performances of the night. Vocally, Filth and Schoolcraft have been on the top of their respective games the entire night, and this was no different, whilst musically it was almost like a spell had been cast over the crowd; if people were being reserved throughout the show, they definitely weren’t by this point! This definitely transcended to the next song, Saffron’s Curse, which caught many by surprise – whether it was a case of something the fans weren’t expecting to witness live, I’m not sure – but was met with a rapture of cheers and devil horns.

The show rounded out with Her Ghost in the Fog, which was the penultimate performance of the night, in my opinion. At this point, the crowd was already working overtime (especially in the mosh pit, which had a circle running consistently for a few tracks now!) and this set them well and truly over the edge. It was a culmination of the night’s energy, bound into one final assault… and it was fucking brilliant!

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s been made abundantly clear this was, without any doubt, not only one of the best performances Melbourne have hosted this year, but will stand the test of time within 170 Russell as one of the best performances they’ve ever hosted. Magic is the choice word, because that’s what the performance embodied; the vocals, instrumental performances, stage presence, and atmosphere – MAGICAL!