You, dear reader, should know at this point that I am most definitely a goth kid at heart, attracted like flies to light when it comes to the theatrical, face-painted, unashamedly over-the-top approach of some metal bands. Cradle of Filth was the first band that led me into such territory, at the tender age of 13 when I got into them via the Lovecraft & Witch Hearts compilation. I’ve followed them pretty loyally since Damnation and a Day, even through the “dark ages” of Nymphetamine and Thornography. Last year’s Hammer of the Witches, though, was insanely good, and upon hearing about the Inquisitional Tourture 2016 tour, their first US tour in a very long time, I held out hope that they’d come near me. Sure enough, a Cincinnati date was right in there and I jumped at the opportunity.
The bill for this show was odd indeed: Extreme prog metal Australians Ne Obliviscaris were slated as the opener, Butcher Babies as the main support, and CoF as the headliner. It seemed like an unlikely, even jarring combination, but all things considered, there was a good flow to the night’s events. Bogart’s, one of the larger clubs in the Cincinnati area, doesn’t bring in a ton of metal shows anymore (ones I care to attend, at least –– the last time I remember being there was 2005 when Opeth was touring Ghost Reveries), so it was a pretty packed house, even on a Wednesday night. Upon entering the venue, though, I was immediately reminded why Bogart’s layout sucks: All the merch tables are set up on the tier directly below the bar (two small tiers of stairs lead to the main floor of the venue), and between all the merch queues being slammed (CoF’s especially) and everyone grabbing pre-show drinks, there was a lot of “‘scuse me, sorry y’all” for me to get a spot toward the back of the main floor. Once there, though, I was pretty firmly planted in that spot for the rest of the night, save for a stop to Ne Obliviscaris’s merch table after their set.
Before we get to the review in earnest, though, an observation: As a southern Ohio native, I’m all too aware of this region’s inability to catch up with what’s happening in the rest of the world. Upon walking into Bogart’s and looking around, I had a sudden realization that I was horribly out of place in my average Joe blue jeans, Borknagar t-shirt, and cheap Wal-Mart coat (it was chilly that night and I wasn’t about to catch a cold trying to look like a cool metal dude), as well as the realization that most metal fans in this area of the country are easily stuck in the early/mid 00s. Here’s a list of things seen that cannot be unseen:
- Three sightings of Tripp/rave pants within five minutes of walking in the venue.
- A guy wearing a Hannibal Lecter mask (yet holding a beer? How…?)
- LOTS of bad corpse paint, including a corpse-painted bald guy (only the face though) wearing an …And Justice for All t-shirt.
- Mohawks of all shapes and sizes.
- The goth couple, adorned in full-length latex coats and platform boots. (No ruffly-sleeve goths, though. That was disappointing.)
- Emo swoops straight outta 2004, as well as skeleton hoodies, tight-fitting beanies, and Aiden buttons/patches
- Long sleeve t-shirts matched with jean shorts or plaid shorts. And more beanies.
- Obligatory old metal dude wearing an Exodus shirt, flannel, worn jeans, and tennis shoes. (As much as that sounds like me, it’s not. But it will be in 20 years.)
- The people who are clearly there for Butcher Babies and have no clue what to do with themselves during the rest of the night.
- Moms who drove their teenagers there and, like me, stick out horribly.
- A guy wearing an ICP shirt, a pimp hat (with the feather!) with JNCOs and –– wait for it –– a red, white, and blue LED grill.
- A guy wearing a captain’s hat and face paint akin to Darth Maul. (I dunno either.)
I think that covers most of it. Now for the REAL review.
I was only vaguely familiar with Ne Obliviscaris‘s studio work before this show, but based on what I had heard, I was interested to see if their live performance would match the precision and prowess of their recorded material, which is some of the most demanding and technical prog metal I’ve heard in some time. It absolutely did, and if anything, exceeded it. Their razor-sharp execution was jaw-dropping, all the more considering the depth and intricacy of their songwriting. Tim Charles’s clean vocals soared in the mix, and his ability to nail the violin parts was admirable. One of the set’s highlights was their bass player’s melodic tapping driving song sections as the guitarists’ impeccable palm-muted tremolo picking followed, perfectly synchronized with the pounding double kick and flashy fills of drummer Dan Preslan. It was an absolute banger of set, mostly comprised of material from Citadel, and their sound mix, though a bit quiet in overall volume, was clear and balanced, with the bass particularly audible but not too boomy. It started the night on a high note, and I was immediately made a fan of NeO from their performance. I stopped by their merch table afterward and picked up a copy of Citadel, and while I didn’t get to talk to them too much (quite a few in line at their booth), they seemed like genuine, excellent guys.
Full disclosure: I am not at all a fan of Butcher Babies and couldn’t figure out for the life of me how they ended up being co-headliners to Cradle of Filth, let alone succeeders to Ne Obliviscaris who blow them out of the water on many levels. That said, I won’t deny that BB were entertaining. While I detest their campy, angsty, heavily marketing-driven music that revives the rotting corpse of nu-metal, they know exactly what they’re doing and know how to work a crowd. They won’t wow anyone with their musical abilities or thoughtful lyrics, but they leverage a crowd’s energy to their advantage. Their set was slickly produced, bordering on arena level at some points, but people were into it and lapping it up. Can’t fault them for that, even if their music isn’t my cup of tea.
Cradle of Filth have been long overdue for a US tour, and it’s always a special thing to see a band that you’ve been following for years. As “Humana Inspired to Nightmare” came over the mains, I anticipated a long, career-spanning set and was thrilled when they opened with a one-two punch of “Heaven Torn Asunder” and “Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids.” The set list was a good balance of classic CoF to the more well-known tracks from Hammer of the Witches, and I commend the band for reaching into their back catalog to beef up an already excellent set list. The theatrics were remarkably toned down (a relative term concerning CoF –– stage wear, leather, and headpieces were still there), which put that much more focus on the band’s excellent performance.
Cradle’s new lineup brought a fever-pitch energy to these old tunes, and Martin Škaroupka’s skill as a drummer, especially live, has to be seen to be believed. Extreme metal drumming for any period is physically demanding, but Martin’s drumming was immaculately tight for the set’s nearly two-hour duration. The rest of the band were likewise in prime condition, and Dani’s performance put the notion to rest that his banshee-like screams are far past their prime. The material from their 00s output had a new urgency — “Gilded Cunt” and “For Your Vulgar Delectation” sounded far better than their respective studio recordings –– and the older cuts from Midian backwards were similarly explosive. “Lord Abortion” and “The Principle of Evil Made Flesh” were absolutely brutal, but their performances of “Malice Through the Looking Glass” and “Nymphetamine” (I’ll be honest in saying I wasn’t thrilled at the inclusion of that one) were nuanced and dynamic, with Lindsay Schoolcraft’s vocals being seated perfectly in the mix. The only real problem with their mix was that Martin’s bass drum cut into the guitars during the faster sections, but otherwise, it was an excellent mix that was helped by Bogart’s excellent acoustics.
Inquisitional Tourture 2016 is done now, but I am beyond glad that I had the opportunity to make it to this show, especially since it will likely be a long time before the Filth crew come across the pond again. I’ve had my share of memorable shows in the past few years, but this night is firmly at the top.
Note: Most of these photos were taken from CrowdAlbum corresponding to the day of this show. Photo credits go to their respective photographers.