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Filth big on face paint and causing furor

Courtesy of Peaceville Records

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“Mainstream” and “extreme” are two words that don’t frequently coexist in the music industry. Yet the publicist for metal band Cradle of Filth, which is playing at the Newport Music Hall tonight, made that claim.

Cradle of Filth is “arguably the most mainstream extreme metal act,” Brian Rocha told The Lantern, without a trace of irony.

The band’s guitarist, Paul Allender, had mixed feelings on the description.

“It contradicts itself really,” he said. “I mean, we’re a lot more accessible than the other bands, if that’s what you mean.”

Allender speaks in a thick British accent, a reminder that Cradle of Filth is from Suffolk, England, not Scandinavia, like most of the “other bands” they are routinely compared to. “Extreme metal” is an ambiguous genre, which draws from many subgenres, namely black metal. Scandinavian black metal bands like Mayhem have earned notoriety for church burnings, killing each other, killing themselves and, although only a rumor, eating bandmates after they have killed themselves.

“Well, we’re nothing like that,” Allender says with the wariness of someone who has heard the question before. “Yeah, we got the costumes and the makeup, but we sound completely different.”

Cradle of Filth has gathered relative notoriety in its own “extreme” way, however. Perhaps the most notable event in the band’s history was its release of its infamous “Vestal Masturbation” T-shirt.

The shirt depicts a nun partaking in such an act, with the phrase “Jesus is a c—” to top it off.

Needless to say, controversy ensued. The shirt is banned in New Zealand, with chief censor Bill Hastings having said “it fuses religion with the most aggressive, misogynistic word in the English language.”

Alex Mosson, the then-lord provost of Glasgow, referred to it as “sick and offensive,” a quote the band borrowed for its DVD, “Peace Through Superior Firepower.”

Allender brushed aside any serious religious or sexual commentary, calling it a successful attention-getting tactic that has benefitted the group.

“It just goes to show how much attention you can get for being offensive,” he said. “I think we’d still be where we are now (without it), but it would’ve taken longer to get here.”

The band’s balance between the “extreme” and the “mainstream” strikes a chord with fans. Jason Jones, a fourth-year in mechanical engineering, said the band’s sound pushes the envelope without tipping over the edge.

“It’s everything that your parents don’t want you to listen to, which is cool,” he said. “But it’s not like you have to be a cult member to get it.”

The band has almost had enough members to register as a cult. There are five members touring right now, but the group has featured more than 20 separate individuals since its inception in 1991. Allender, who has been with the band for most of its existence (with the exception of 1995-99, when he performed in side bands), said the constant presence of him and vocalist Daniel “Dani Filth” Davey keeps things consistent.

“As long as the core element doesn’t change, the band doesn’t change,” he said.

Cradle of Filth’s musical approach differs from the typical approach from more popular metal acts. The band incorporates keyboards, synthesizers and occasional operatic background vocals to lend a thematic element to the music. In 2003, the band recorded its album “Damnation and a Day” with the Budapest Film Orchestra and Choir for a truly symphonic sound.

Although Allender commended the orchestra’s work, he said the likelihood of a similar recording in the future was nil.

“There’s no point in doing it. The studio equipment available now can make it sound exactly the same if it’s done right,” he said. “It’s a waste of money to bring in a whole orchestra.”

At the time, the money was well spent. In 2005, the band earned a Grammy nomination for its track “Nymphetamine,” alongside metal juggernauts Slipknot and the iconic Motörhead.

Regardless of awards or sales, Allender knows that most people won’t look beyond the band’s face paint. No matter. He said the chalky paint and leather outfits were key to the band’s identity.

“Every live show. Any video shoot. Anything to do with the band,” he said. “I can get ready 10 minutes before we go onstage.”

Some might call that dedication extreme.

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