I came to London for a 3 week vacation in June 1998 with a couple good friends and plans to see as many bands as we could during that time. The 3 of us weren’t really convinced about being dragged to the Astoria on the 5ht of June (sic) (https://youtu.be/br45DnekML8?t=55) as all we’d ever heard were the couple songs that made it onto MTV in South Africa, and the term ‘Smurf on helium’ was bandied about, but the friend whose floor we were crashing on insisted… so reluctantly we went along. And man am I glad I we did that.

Back to 2019 and the first thing to mention is the venue itself. Entry was really easy with very friendly staff ushering you to your seat after collection of ticket from the box office. Having a clear unobstructed view of the stage from my aisle seat was a bonus. As I’d sat down a couple minutes past 7, I knew I was going to be waiting a little while before Victoria ‘Harry’ Harrison aka Dirty Harry did her DJ Amazonica set, and I really wasn’t too certain what to expect, as I’d gone to her website earlier and watched the video clip for “Don’t Fear the Reaper”. Well… she didn’t play that or anything original, but I’ll come back to her shortly. Immediately recognising the voice coming over the PA as Mighty Matt Mason, he lumbered onto the stage in the near dark to rile up the crowd and prepare us for the set we were about to receive. I’m still not certain whether he was meant to look like Captain Spaulding or Spawn’s Violator in clown guise, with the latter being a better bet considering his potty mouth. Guess I’ll have to ask him to be sure. Now back to the DJ set… Sadly I thought it a bit out of place, sure it made for a really easy clear-up before Cradle of Filth went on, as all they did was pick up a table and that was that. It would have gone down a treat at a club or after party, or maybe even for those on the dance floor, but for those of us seated… not so much. She was entertaining to watch as she enjoyed more of her chosen playlist than I did, but the majority of her cried to rally up the audience fell on deaf ears and sure we all enjoyed hearing the songs we knew and some of her transitions were pretty clever, but unfortunately for me I think wrong time and place for me to get much out of it. Others may have disagreed, but from the faces of those seated around me it was easy to tell they were here for one thing, and this most certainly was not it.

Once the safety curtain was raised and MMM was back to yell “Jesus is a ???” before waving his mic at the audience to get them to respond, which they most resolutely did, but after the 8th or 9th time I was grateful for him to get on with his pre-show entertaining. I was going to say it’s been an age saw I saw Cradle last, but remembered that in August I got to watch their postponed Wacken set, where the most memorable bit of banter from Dani was regarding everyone constantly summoning Thor and then running away when he made his presence known. And that is something they complete refrained from for pretty much the entire ‘Cruelty and the Beast’ set, saving all they wanted to say for the second set.

As “Once Upon Atrocity” blared out of the speakers on ‘tape’ the mighty sextet made their way onto the stage before breaking into “Thirteen Autumns and a Widow” then the spectacular “Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids” followed by “Beneath the Howling Stars”. You forget how long these songs actually are until you watch them being performed rather than just sitting listening to them of your own accord. They had a brief water break while a young lady came on stage to throw about some roses during “Venus in Fear” before they resumed the aural assault with “Desire in Violent Overture” and “The Twisted Nails of Faith” had everyone banging their heads in their seats while those below appeared to be a writhing mass. When you consider that the 3 movements of “Bathory Aria” come in at just over 11 minutes it’s great to see they managed to play “I: Benighted Like Usher / II: A Murder of Ravens in Fugue / III: Eyes That Witnessed Madness” without hitch. Granted Rich Shaw and Marek ‘Ashok’ Smerda have tried to make the leads their own and I guess expecting them to play Gian and Stuart’s pieces was a bit more than I could expect. The short intermenstral “Portrait of the Dead Countess” brought us into the final song of the album where Martin Skaroupka behind his drum screen beat out his blistering blast beats for “Lustmord and Wargasm (The Lick of Carnivorous Winds)” without any bleed.

Thanking us profusely for turning up, they said they’d be back in 15 minutes and true to their word, 15 minutes later MMM was verbally abusing us one more before Cradle of Filth ending our evening with crowd favourites to go with the playing of the spot lit album.

The thunder of “A Bruise Upon the Silent Moon” had them return to the stage to deliver “The Promise of Fever” where Dani’s voice hit all those amazingly high shrieks as if he hadn’t just been on stage for an hour. Slowing things down perceptively we had “Malice Through the Looking Glass” next, where Lindsay Schoolcraft both tickled the ivories with her fingers and our ears with her seductive voice before the pace increased once more and her power-chords came into play. Rich and Ashok were far more comfortable playing their own leads, as was clearly apparent on “Heartbreak and Séance” where they were belted out with perfection. “Nymphetamine (Fix)” went down a storm, as it clearly is a rather well known song and Lindsay made it her own, as trying to recreate Liv Christine’s unique flutter would be pointless. The nuns that came out to have fun during “Saffron’s Curse” didn’t manage to distract the band from their duties and Daniel Firth’s bass drove the rhythm along unperturbed by their antics. The snow storm accompanying “Her Ghost in the Fog” was perfectly timed and immediately brought to mind images from the video for a queen of snows. They ended the evening with an emphatically rendered version of “From the Cradle to Enslave” which as it so happens culminates with the lyric ‘this is the end of everything…’ Using “Blooding the Hounds of Hell” as background music for the throwing of picks and sticks into the crowd, along with the obligatory photos of the band from stage, they bid us all a fond farewell before retiring for the evening.

All in all it was a great evening of entertainment, and maybe I’m getting old, but being able to enjoy the theatrical event that is a Cradle of Filth show from a comfortable seat and an excellent vantage point definitely comes highly recommended.

Review and photos Marco Gaminara