The Cradle Effect
By Pratik Kamat
It was once a bastion of the elite, for a privileged few. If you knew, you knew, otherwise forget about it. The secret handshake, the hooded cape, the long hair, the cross and the torch were all part of the attire. In groups they set out to burn, to destroy, to annihilate that, which was wrong for some 2000 years, and to create a new order; their methods extreme, but desperate times call for desperate measures. They were looked down upon, ‘that’ group in which no one wanted to be, some said. And how ‘some’ were wrong…
Somewhere down the line someone realised that, wait — this could be a money spinning venture — brain-dead teens with lots of free time and money are a prized catch indeed. It’s like the town slut, if you don’t, then someone else will, then why not you? But wait. Some things had to be cleared up first. Grishnackh? Check. Burning church? Check. The cross? Keep the cross, looks cool, man! Remove all the checked items; add some naked girls, garish make-up, and gore, finally garnish with brain-numbing special effects; and voila we have some pseudo-blasphemic gruel that we’re gonna force down the throat of pimply teenagers worldwide, while slyly becoming millionaires. The corporate world is so intelligent, ain’t it?
It was the mid-nineties; the Bay Area brigade had run out of steam, David Coverdale and Vince Neil were content to live off the royalty cheques, everybody knew Schuldiner would never make it big, Halford turned out to be gay and the grunge bubble had just burst following the death of Mr Cobain. The ‘big three’ realised that a new revolution had to be created (sorry to break your bubble Ms Naïveté, revolutions in music are manufactured, they do not ‘occur’). Someone was required who could con millions of fools to part with their dad’s hard earned money by buying a worthless piece of plastic disc, that was as intelligent as the ones buying it.
Enter an unlikely hero. Four-and-a-half feet tall Daniel Davey from scummy Ipswich, turned out to be some kind of a savage messiah to the millions of imbeciles, who, till this day, hang on to Dani’s every word, the same way they did with Cobain (but that’s another story) and indeed will do for many to come. And amidst the in-store signings, million dollar budget videos and the gazillion-piece orchestras, the simplistic and sparse articulations of say a Varg Vikerns, Ihashn or Tom Warrior was lost.
As blasphemous as it may seem, I do admire Dani, for he is a man with remarkable intelligence. We all know that sex has been used to sell everything from submarine sandwiches to nuclear submarines, but bringing in sex to sell, of all things, black metal? Sheer stroke of genius, I must say. By making videos that seem to be a recording of a perverted 13 year old’s wet dream, much like our sleazy remix videos, Cradle of Filth have ensured that the core CD-buying demographic, i.e. the white suburban male teen, would be able to satisfy his ‘basic’ need of porn and music at the same time, hence buying that rare limited edition re-issue digipack of all of Cradle’s uncensored videos did make a lot of sense. (Business sense, that is.)
So that takes us to the root question — what is the Cradle Effect? Well to put it simply it’s the mainstream-isation of extreme metal. It’s about how screeching vocals and a good advertising campaign added to a bastardised form of ‘80s glam can become a mass assembly-line product that everyone will like instantly. And it is not restricted to one band / genre alone, as very soon everybody realised that increasing pop-rock elements in one’s music was the holy grail of achieving mult-platinum success; a feat no extreme band had been able to achieve till then.
The Cradle Effect is how everybody from that lonely compulsive masturbator down the street to the Lincoln Biscuit fan next door have jumped onto the black metal bandwagon to proudly exclaim “Yippitee yee aie yo, look ma, an inverted cross.” The Cradle Effect is how they have been able to convince the world that black metal is for everyone, as it is just music; and about having a good time in a S&M club; there is no ideology or belief system involved anywhere. It’s about how you can call yourself a black metal fan even if the words ‘Hys Lvsett Tar Oss’ or ‘Aske’ do not mean anything to you. But most importantly, it’s about destroying the one thing that made black metal different from hundreds of similar sounding myriad genres of rock; elitism. It was once special because it was not for everyone, and once that thing was destroyed, so was the genre itself.
Not that this bastardisation is confined to one band / genre; the disease has spread to other genres as well. As soon as it became crystal clear that money can be made from extreme metal, everybody from post-’Stormblåst’  Dimmu Borgir to later day Amorphis created albums that are nothing but watered-down versions of what they sounded like when they had some integrity. Although it must be said that at least Dimmu are listenable, but Amorphis never made another album which sounded like ‘Tales From the Thousand Lakes’  (my personal favourite) and for this reason they should not be forgiven. Also, growling vocals have been completely deleted from the Amorphis stable. But far worse is the case of Theatre of tragedy, whose music went from being erotic, melodic Goth to some kind of DJ produced sonic nightmare, so bad are they now that I shudder to even say that I once liked them. Later day Slayer could well be called ‘Slower’ and Metallica — well, that’s just nu-metal now-a-days.
So is CoF responsible for the degeneration of the entire extreme metal scene? No, but they were one of the first ‘extreme’ metal acts to become mainstream commercial acts, and pioneered the excessive merchandising and commercialisation of black-metal, the same way KISS did to heavy metal years ago; and hence can be a used as a metaphor for al that has gone wrong.
The conclusion is quite simple — you can make lots of money out of metal, provided you strip the very ideologies that are inherent to the genre; and are able to create a ‘product’ that looks like metal, but is nothing more than pop cloaked as metal. So contact them remix video girls, dress them in leather and chains, make a ‘black metal’ video, t-shirts, mugs, caps etc, and yeah if you have some time left then make some music too. Don’t know to play the guitar? No problemo, Fruity Loops v3.0 will do that for you. Can’t sing? Then Sound Forge v7.0 is just waiting for you. Yeah, don’t forget to get a good hair-dresser, PR agent and an image consultant. There is a fortune waiting for you out there, but you are still wasting hours practising them Emperor chords. Silly you.http://www.infinitymag.com/webzine/130/the-cradle-effect