Tis the season to be manic. But for all those seeking solace (from drudging dead-eyed shoppers; the abomination that is Michael Bublé’s back catalogue repeated ad nauseam) London’s HMV Forum opens its illustrious doors to provide a night of unholy delights that are anything but silent. Since November, Messrs Filth, Allender, McIlroy and Skaroupka have been wandering the continent, preaching the gospel of Filth everywhere from Spain to Sweden. Tonight’s show marks the end of their Creatures from the Black Abyss tour and the band’s triumphant return to UK soil. With blistering support from Rotting Christ (groove-obsessed metal merchants who put the ‘hell’ in Hellenic) as well as God Seed – an intriguing experiment in the extreme from ex-Gorgoroth frontman Gaahl – tonight’s date promises a veritable sack-load of presents for the poison-hearted.
Suddenly the light turns dusky and an ominous wall of noise – colossal as the Tower of Babel – begins to thrum in the background. A witchy voice resounds, croaking out curses like she’s part of some terrifyingly hormonal ritual. Enter Rotting Christ: somewhere within a maelstrom of winding, grinding riffs, caustic snarls and muscular melodies so infectious they should come with a riot warning. “Keep the spirit alive!” cries Sakis Tolis, RC’s uniquely hospitable gentleman vocalist. Yet, loaded with tracks that speak of heroism and tragedy as eloquently as any ancient chorus, their set is enough to render words redundant.
A more insidious beast altogether, God Seed casts its own sinister spell upon the night. Beneath the sinister sheen of the keys – barely-there but lethal as black ice – Gaahl and company unfurl all the hallmarks of the extremist elite. Backed by bracing percussive blasts and riffage that spirals and soars with predatory precision, Gaahl’s performance is nothing short of mesmeric. A carved giant made flesh, Gaahl stalks the stage, fixing hapless bystanders with his hypnotic gaze. A technical fail renders him temporarily mute. Yet, such is the necromancy of Gaahl’s stage presence that few spellbound punters even register the lapse. ‘Carving The Giant’ and ‘I Begin’ are just two of the darkened gems given an airing tonight.
Emerging from swirling veils of smoke, Dani Filth and his black-clad minions set about breaking the spell as only they know how. “Sorry to all those who thought they were seeing One Direction tonight,” quips the band’s saucy, pint-sized frontman. “But we do still go by the name of Cradle of Filth.” For even with new recruit Daniel Firth in tow (“doesn’t he have beautiful hair?” coos Dani with a longing glance at the bassist’s locks), Cradle is an English institution – beloved and maligned in equal measures. And, whatever your opinion of their inimitable theatrical ruckus, there’s no denying that the boys (plus one pure-voiced maiden) are on blisteringly fine form tonight. Like a man half-crazed on electro-cool aid laced with hemlock, Dani stomps merrily across the stage, spitting out lyrics at breakneck speed and shrieking on cue. Awe-inspiring as his energy may be, however, it’s on less raucous numbers that Cradle truly shine. Such diabolical beauties as ‘Her Ghost in the Fog’ and ‘Born in a Burial Gown’ have lost none of their unholy lustre over the years – showcasing the full emotive range and glittering snowflake-fine intricacy of a band too often reduced to Hammer Horror cliché.