More than a decade ago, while researching the life of Hungarian blood countess Elizabeth Báthory for his black-metal band's 1998 concept LP Cruelty and the Beast, Cradle of Filth frontman Dani Filth happened to come across some literature about Gilles de Rais. He took a wealth of notes on the 15th-century French serial killer, sexual deviant and Satanist and, at the time, thought de Rais' life would make the perfect subject for his band's next concept release.
Years and years elapsed, and Filth eventually forgot all about his idea to put de Rais' days and nights to brooding, sonically brutal metal — well, at least until just recently, when Cradle of Filth began recording material for their eighth studio LP, Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder, which lands in stores October 28.
"When we came off of the Viva la Bands Tour last year, we were kind of fired up and went straight back into writing," Filth explained. "We tried to get as much writing done before we all went our separate ways for Christmas — bearing in mind that we all live all over the place now. And we came up with this material rather quickly. I suddenly sort of went, 'Oh sh--!' We'd written the skeletons of five or six tracks, but I was a bit stuck as to the direction I want the lyrics to go. I hadn't even given it any thought."
But the feel of the material reminded Filth of Cruelty and the Beast, which inspired him to refer to the copious notes he'd taken 10 years earlier.
"While I was skipping through loads of old books I keep with notes and stuff, I happened upon loads of notes about Gilles de Rais, because when you do a load of research like that, his name cropped up along the way as well," Filth explained. "I remember thinking at the time that this would be a great thing to undertake, but obviously 10 years ago, and right next to the Cruelty album, it would have been too similar a concept, really."
Filth began doing more research on de Rais and, in time, found out he was a much better subject for the concept-album treatment.
"I started investigating [him] more, and the more I read about it, the more I thought, 'Wow, this is even more perfect than the Báthory story, because there's trial documentation,' " Filth recalled of the man who was a onetime brother-in-arms of Joan of Arc. "After her death, everything took a slide for the worse, and in my opinion, it seemed that [de Rais] thought he got as close as he could get to God, bearing in mind that Joan of Arc was perceived to be a messenger for God, and he just went completely in the opposite direction, like a man of many extremes."
Filth was fascinated by de Rais' quick conversion to the dark side and how he'd squandered his vast fortune and later employed alchemists to locate the philosopher's stone so he could turn base metal into gold and replenish his fortunes. "It all just sort of went out of control," Filth said. "So the album tells his story, from his being a very pious man to mixing it up with the devil and, in the end, seeking clemency for his crimes from the Church, because at one point, he'd been excommunicated, which meant, in that day and age, you couldn't actually get into the kingdom of heaven, which would have been a bit of a worry back then. You couldn't really dream something up as severe as his tale."
Cradle of Filth, who will tour the States early next year with Septicflesh and Satyricon, embraced Filth's concept but wanted the effort to be cohesive and coherent. So the band enlisted American actor Tony Todd, who is perhaps best known for his title role in the 1992 thrasher flick "Candyman." Filth wanted Todd to come into their studio to narrate de Rais' story, using actual court transcripts he'd found through his intensive research.
"The narration of de Rais comes from the original transcripts, as he'd voiced it in court before his judges and peers, and it's interspersed throughout the record to give it a moving narrative," Filth said. But, a few lines in to reading de Rais' words, Todd bailed on the project, forcing the band to call on an old friend to fill in: Douglas Bradley.
Bradley, who will always be known to horror fans as Cenobite Pinhead, had worked with COF before, providing narration on three of the band's previous efforts: 2000's Midian, 2004's Nymphetamine and 2006's Thornography. Looking back, Filth said he wished he had some time to explain to Todd just what he'd gotten himself into — problem was, dude just took off and never turned back.
"There was an issue with him in the fact that, when he came into the studio, he just read a bit of what de Rais had said and suddenly walked out," Filth explained. "The thing was, he wasn't actually filled in on what it was all about. He'd obviously heard the band's name and knew that we were a black-metal band and all the horror stories that sort of surround that thing. But when he read some of Gilles' words, he probably thought, 'Oh my God — what is this band advocating?' He wasn't told that this is an in-depth, well-researched record and that we're not glorifying anything. It's just a dark fairy tale. He started reading stuff about beheading children and probably thought that we were advocating that."
The rest of the week's metal news:
Swedish metallers Soilwork have tapped Darkane, Warbringer and Swallow the Sun as support acts on their upcoming North American tour, which kicks off January 30 in Rochester, New York. Dates for that trek are booked through March 22 in Baltimore. ...
It appears those rumors about From a Second Story Window's demise are actually true. The band, which formed in 2002, said in a statement, "With this changing musical market and its inhabitants, it is simply our time to step aside and let the flow continue on without us. It is time for us to venture down new avenues of creativity and to find new things to enrich our lives fully. From a Second Story Window was something that gave us all hope and pride in our small part of the musical world, but with economical woes pulling us down, and changes in attitude towards the entire movement of 'heavy' music, it just seems right to call it quits and move on in our own ways." ...
Bury Your Dead have officially parted ways with guitarist Eric Ellis, claiming in a press release that his departure was due to "medical reasons and personality differences." The band went on to explain that "when a person's attitude and lifestyle change for the worse, there comes a time to let go and move on. A team is only as strong as its weakest link." ... Don't believe the hype. Dillinger Escape Plan apparently aren't looking for a new drummer. Guitarist Ben Weinman has, in his own way, denied recent rumors that kitman Gil Sharone had left the band to return to his former band, Stolen Babies. Weinman told Kerrang! that Sharone "didn't leave and we didn't kick him out. He will be busy, though, working with his other band a lot over the next year, so I am talking to other dudes, both for Dillinger possibilities and just for me to play with, on other creative projects. We still may be touring and writing with Gil, though. Kinda in the air. No big drama though or anything." Now we're even more confused. ...
It looks as though the Red Chord have dismissed guitarist Mike Keller. While the move hasn't been confirmed by the band, Keller, in a statement to Lambgoat said he received a phone call a few days ago "informing me [the band] made a mutual decision to become a four-piece. They offered little in ways of explanation, but I can admit that in the past few tours, I had grown apart from the rest of the band, both personally and musically." While "things ended abruptly, unexpectedly and weirdly," Keller said he's cool with going out on his own. He said he plans to release a solo project called Meek Is Murder in the not-so-distant future. ...
A tentative October 14 release date has been set for Dimmu Borgir's forthcoming live effort, The Invaluable Darkness. The set features two DVDs and one live CD. ... Long-dormant, highly influential hardcore outfit Far are planning two reunion shows — both on the West Coast. They'll be playing under the moniker Hot Little Pony on October 15 in Pomona, California, and October 16 in Los Angeles. It's shows like this that make me wish I lived in California. ... Young Widows will be playing a slew of gigs next month — the first on October 14 in Detroit. They have gigs booked through November 16 in Indianapolis. The band's new LP, Old Wounds, hits stores next week.