“I can see tomorrow’s headline already,” Cradle of Filth frontman Dani Filth drolly observes as he spills his drink across the stage. “Satanic, Demonic Metal Band Electrocuted to Death in Church!”
He pauses before adding a further witticism; “Sub-header: how ironic.” There is something highly incongruous about Britain’s premier purveyors and gods of extreme gothic rock playing a grade-II listed place of worship; throw in the fact that it is also November 5 and this is a Sunday mass quite unlike any other before. It’s a small wonder nobody turns to ash as they cross the threshold.
Support comes courtesy of Savage Messiah, a band who by mere name are cut from the same cloth as COF. Warming up the night with a tight set full of golden-age shredding and dirty licks, they are playful and blistering in equal measure, acutely aware of the ludicrousness of playing a song called Hellblazer on hallowed ground. Objectively, they are the perfect accompaniment to the headline act; on their own merits, they too are a thrilling proposition.
COF have been turning out high-end occult theatrics for over 25 years now and the Suffolk six-piece have made it into an art. Knowingly aware and gamesome, they play straight to their black-shrouded audience as expected, with all hell’s bells and whistles. Filth quenches the thirst for the occult by taking to the alter shrouded in a druidic cloak, underneath which he sports a full suit of armour – and latterly, offers up goat-headed sceptres to be sworn fealty to in the mosh pits.
Such dark-hearted tomfoolery would be mere dressing without the musical chops underneath, but COF deliver, a positively howling eruption of sound. Touring behind newest album Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay, they are possessed of a phenomenal stage presence. Heartbreak and Séance are fervently epic: Dusk and Her Embrace is beguilingly haunting.
Filth’s voice remains bafflingly brilliant, seamlessly shifting from blood-curdling screams, to apocalyptic roars and back again; he is utterly imperious on the old, bludgeoning riffs of Bathory Aria and the fresher face-melters like You Will Know the Lion by His Claw, he is imperious and utterly transfixing. By the time he has roared into the encore with nostalgic standout Nymphetamine (Fix), the sense of something special has long since passed to honoured, heavy metal transcendency. COF took Leeds to church – this was a requiem few will soon forget.