An Early Evening With Decadence: Cradle of Filth, Nachtmystium, Daniel Lioneye, and Turisas @ The Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, February 26th 2011
Live review by Jonathan Smith; concert photos by Albert Mansour
The evening began with confusion over set times, a lot of traffic, and missing an anticipated performance by the opening band. By the night’s (very early) end, however, I was reminded that sometimes it’s nice to be surprised. My first time seeing Britain’s Cradle of Filth had been in the winter of 2009, and their performance at the Sound Academy had been underwhelming. However, after hearing that they were coming back to Toronto, I decided to attend again and see if they would leave a different impression upon me. Sure enough, the good feelings that I had toward them after their show this time around was enough to make me not even mind waiting for the bottle-necked crowd to navigate the twisted halls of the Phoenix.
I arrived inside the auditorium just in time to hear Finnish folk metallers Turisas praise the quality of even the cheapest of Canadian beer, right before they launched into a rousing rendition of “Battle Metal.” The sound quality was crisp and clear, and all the nuances of the instruments could be heard. As expected, the band itself was decked out in red face paint and furs. Leaving the stage, they promised to soon return (and they probably meant it given the popularity of their sub-genre). The follow up was Daniel Lioneye, a side project spear-headed by H.I.M. guitarist Mikko “Linde” Lindström. Seemingly the less known act on the bill (or maybe just among the crowd I know), the second Finnish band of the night made a seemingly sincere effort to make an impression. However, most of their set was marred by an obnoxious amount of bass that, from my position in the center of the venue, drowned out most of the guitars. Vocalist Manu possessed a most charming accent, but his singing was of a fairly standard death/thrash variety that failed to elevate the performance.
The final opener was Nachtmystium, an act that is by now no stranger to Toronto bills. They couldn’t help but seem like the odd ducks of the evening, and it was a position the band seemed to embrace. Their performance was as blisteringly loud and professional as one would expect, with the band playing prominent cuts from last year’s Addicts as well as offering select songs like “Hellish Overdose.” However, their set’s quality was somewhat tempered by the fact that it also came off as overly efficient and even somewhat clinical. The most interaction Blake Judd offered the crowd was to ask who was leaving the show after their set to see Motörhead, the other act playing in Toronto that night (a question that produced only some enthusiasm). Those there simply to see Nachtmystium were likely to have been disappointed by the briefness of their set, but perhaps that same crowd was among those following the band to the Kool Haus to see Lemmy and friends.
Cradle of Filth took to the stage at around 8 PM. Opening with two older cuts, “Heaven Torn Asunder” and “Funeral in Carpathia,” it was immediately clear that their priorities were different this tour. Largely missing were the small gang of female singers and the stage theatrics that had accompanied previous tours; instead there was merely the band (with Dani Filth ever the active frontman who constantly wound his way through his more imposing bandmates) and a video screen. Though initially the sound mixing was incredibly rough, things soon cleared up and it was clear that Cradle was making the music their priority. The set list focused remarkably little on the latest album given the tour’s theme, and instead covered a much wider variety of songs from throughout the band’s career. “Lilith Immaculate,” “Honey and Sulphur,” and “Under Huntress Moon” represented the newer albums, while choices like “The Principle of Evil Made Flesh” and “Ebony Dressed For Sunset” were among the older songs.
It was surely the band’s wide appeal that accounted for the fact that the final crowd was one of the most varied I have seen at a Toronto metal show, ranging from the expected gothic teenagers to long-haired metalheads to a couple of older men wearing plaid and what looked remarkably like trucker hats. Confirming once again the band’s self-awareness, Dani Filth’s comments about Cradle’s “musical excrements” were matched by his nods to the band’s commercial popularity (“Nymphetamine Fix” was described as something to be gotten “over with” so that more old-school songs could be played) and his occasional moments of modesty (he thanked the crowd for spending their money on the band during times that “are tough”). Throughout the set the band playfully offered their “wink, wink” invocations of decadent themes and gothic aesthetics. However, even as yet another topless succubus was displayed on screen, I was left to wonder whether their relatively stripped-down performance was due to a desire to simplify things, or whether these tough times aren’t just affecting metal’s fans. Regardless of the reason, it was as obvious as ever that while Cradle’s brand of metal is far from being earnest, what is earnest is their desire to put on an entertaining and professional show. Whether this is enough is left to the individual, and I was convinced to consider seeing them again the next time around.