The 25 Most Important Metal Bands of the ’90s: #19, Cradle of Filth
The ’90s: they were the bomb! That’s why MetalSucks will spend the month of March giving snaps to the decade that was all that and a bag of chips by counting down The 25 Most Important Metal Bands of the ’90s. These aren’t bands that necessarily formed in the ’90s, nor are they bands that would turn out to be influential somewhere down the road; these are bands that a) were doing their best work in the ’90s, and b) amassed a devout following during the ’90s. These are the bands that we feel truly defined the decade for extreme music. These are the bands that we feel truly defined the decade for yo mama.
Our #22 entry in this countdown, Emperor, received the following praise from our own Axl Rosenberg in the accompanying writeup:
“In the early ’90s, heavy music was changed forever when a bunch of kooky kids from Norway decided to put on clown make-up, burn down a bunch of churches and generally behave like violent jerks, and make the most frightening racket possible.”
What Emperor did for black metal in the early ’90s, Cradle of Filth did for the burgeoning genre in the middle and later part of the decade: made it cool to a much, much wider audience. And what’s more, in doing so they legitimized extreme metal as a whole.
Simply put, Cradle of Filth made black metal accessible to the masses. Dusk & Her Embrace, their 1996 sophomore album, was the most extreme music teenagers the world over had ever heard. Without the stigma of church burnings and murders dragging them down — and calling the much-less-intimidating UK their home instead of the frosty wilds of Norway — Cradle of Filth were able to infiltrate bedrooms and Walkmans in a way none of their predecessors were.
Cradle of Filth released three demos in the early ’90s, but it wasn’t under Dusk & Her Embrace that they refined their sound and exploded onto the international scene, eventually landing them slots on Ozzfest and other tours and festivals the world over. The increasing focus on symphonic elements in their music was a big part of that, bringing a melodramatic, flamboyant and much more melodic approach to a genre mostly known prior for its abrasiveness. The band’s haunting visual aesthetic played a big part in their success, too; the over-the-top theatricality of their imaging and live shows made them seem scary, mysterious and sexy all at the same time.
What’s more, Cradle of Filth — in the ’90s, anyway — had cred. Long before they became the domain of Hot Topic mall goths, they were the cool band for the extreme metal kids. Those first three albums go fucking hard, dude, melodic synths, occasional clean vocals and all.
In short: if you walked into a metal kid’s bedroom in 1998, it was a Cradle of Filth poster you’d see on the wall, not any black metal band that came before them. Or, likely, after.