Cradle of Filth are the United Kingdom’s most successful underground metal band, having sold over a million records in the first ten years of their existence alone (Fielder 2001: 49). Over a career that has progressed through ten albums and three decades of touring, the band has acquired a reputation for shock and controversy.
The recent emergence of “affect” as a key term in cultural and communication studies has provided new vocabularies for describing dimensions of experience previously neglected in analyses focused on wider questions of social identity and structural inequality. Yet at the same time as it has opened up productive new avenues of theory and analysis, questions of “affect” have been incorporated somewhat unevenly within the cultural study of popular music, due to the unease that growing interest in the experiential dimensions of cultural experience may ultimately eclipse more practical material and sociological concerns.
Its history throughout the past four decades has been one of significant commercial success, but it has also constituted a primary target for many different forms of attacks and criticisms, stemming from a variety of sources, including journalists and critics, parental associations, religious groups or even political figures. As passionately supported as fiercely condemned, heavy metal has hardly been able to generate indifference; on the contrary, reactions to it have been quite as extreme as the music itself, hinting that there is probably more to it than many would wish to acknowledge.
Gore and pornography is by no means a new combination in entertainment. Despite the wealth of literature examining this union in cinema, however, relatively little exists in regard to the blending of carnage, gore and pornography within music. Nonetheless, this “carnography”1 has played a formidable role in the lyrical and artistic content of many musical acts, often manifested in horrific depictions of sexual violence that far exceed anything that could be represented on screen.
The prehistory of Therion lies in the band Blitzkrieg. The band was formed in 1987, in Upplands Väsby in the county of Stockholm, Sweden, with high school students Christofer Johnsson on bass and vocals, Peter Hansson on guitar, and Oskar Forss on drums. Influenced by thrash metal bands such as Metallica and Slayer, but reportedly sounding more like Venom and Motörhead, the band did only two shows, both at their high school, before splitting up in 1988. Later the same year the three young musicians again joined forces to form the band Megatherion, this time influenced by the death metal band Celtic Frost in terms of both the music and the name of the band itself. Christofer Johnsson had switched from bass to guitar and the trio was soon joined by bass player Erik Gustafsson, who had previously played in the death metal band Dismember. The band name was shortened to Therion, at the suggestion of Erik Gustafsson, and the demos ‘Paroxysmal Holocaust’1 and ‘Beyond the Darkest Veils of Inner Wickedness’ were released in 1989. The demo ‘Time Shall Tell’ was released on vinyl by local record store House of Kicks in 1990. It caught the attention of Deaf Records (a record sublabel of Peaceville Records) who subsequently released Therion’s debut album ‘Of Darkness’ in 1991.
Germany is rather known for their old-fashionable thrash metal, crossover gothic metal or modern electronic dark wave that plunges the scene through successful heartbeats. Formed in 2014, Erlangen, Bavaria-based Alkaloid on the other hand, surfaces as a powerful and extreme musical manifesto that dwells the ascertainment of musicians such as frontman, vocalist and guitar player Morean (currently in Dark Fortress, Noneuclid), guitar player Christian Muenzner (currently on Spawn Of Possession, and former Obscura, Necrophagist), guitar player Danny Tunker (current Aborted, and former God Dethroned), bass player Linus Klausenitzer (current Obscura, and Noneuclid), and ultimately, founder Hannes Grossmann (current Blotted Science, and former Obscura, Necrophagist) compose this single collective.
Music’s “malleability” has always facilitated its export and import from one location to another. Indeed, such processes are central to the creation and dissemination of new musical forms. Yet in our contemporary globalised world, such processes occur ever more extensively and rapidly giving rise to new forms of appropriation and syncretism. Record companies from the developed world find new audiences in the developing world. Musicians from the West appropriate non-Western music, sometimes collaboratively. Non-Western musicians and musicians from subaltern groups within the West create new syncretic forms drawing on both Western and non-Western music. The resulting “global ecumene” produces considerable “cultural disorder” whose results cannot easily be summarised.