Don’t Laugh – Cradle Of Filth Really Are British Icons

It might be 13 years since Cradle Of Filth fans were arrested for wearing that “Jesus Is A Cunt” T-shirt with its portrait of a nun masturbating – but the Filth, as their fans affectionately call them, are still causing a stir.

Last week their frontman, Dani Filth, was ejected from an online poll where readers of were asked to pick out icons of Suffolk. Filth topped the poll with six times more votes then anybody else, but organisers decided his inclusion would be inappropriate.


Being deemed too racy for a tourism photo shoot isn’t actually pissing on the Alamo or telling a beloved actor you’ve fucked their granddaughter, but it shows after almost 20 years together, the Filth still have the power to upset people.

Dani Filth probably isn’t an icon for Suffolk, but the fact he managed to get so many people to go out of their way to vote for him (even those who did it for a joke) shows that he and his band still matter to a lot of people.

COF are one of British metal’s most consistent bands – and one of the most successful too. They’ve been going for nine albums now and have career sales of over one million. Given that musically they fit squarely in the extreme bit of metal, that’s an impressive feat.

Especially when you call your debut album ‘The Principles Of Evil Made Flesh’, possess a song called ‘Gilded Cunt’, and have a singer whose vocals variously recall a blackened kettle at boiling point, and an Uruk-hai coughing up a cement mixer.

Those song/album titles are of a piece with the band’s habit of fusing high and low culture in their lyrics. You’d think it would all be goblins and wizards, but there’s been biblical themes, an album dedicated to Medieval French resistance fighter Gilles de Rais, as well as whole records inspired by slasher films and Clive Barker novels. Pompous? Without a doubt. But it beats singing about getting pissed every night.

Respect is also due for COF’s no-compromises attitude. Even when they had brief spell on Sony Records in 2004, they refused to bow to commercial pressure. Instead they blew Sony’s budget on an epic meditation on the Milton’s Paradise Lost, complete with an 80-piece orchestra and a series of lavish music videos. Unsurprisingly, they were soon dropped.

Pomposity and preciousness usually go hand in hand, but the Filth have managed to combine a love of theatrics with a decent chunk of self-deprecation. The best example of this came during a Download festival when the band were greeted with a hail of bottles. Rather than recoiling Filth baited the crowd by saying “If you’re going to throw bottles, throw them at our drummer, he’s from Yorkshire, he’s used to it.”

The music they make will never be everyone’s beverage of choice, but for surviving when so many bands have imploded, for sticking to their guns of epic pomposity and for continuing to annoy Daily Mail-readers into their mid-forties, the band deserve props.