It’s easy to forget that extreme metal hasn’t been around forever; as recently as 1994, it was still quite novel to get a bunch of up-and-coming death and doom bands together on a tour, and sometimes only 50 people went to the gigs, even when it was Anathema, At the Gates and Cradle of Filth. Which is extremely hard to believe, but so it went when the three got together for a German tour in January of ’94 (the actual dates were January 7 to 16, with At the Gates not playing at the last concert and Secret Venom—more details on that below—playing instead).
Not only did the tour contain some incredible British doom, Swedish death and British black/death, it contained incidents involving sneaking across the East/West Berlin border in a car trunk, getting bit by a dog when trespassing for no apparent reason, and allegations of being “Satanic Nazis.”
And blood. Just lots and lots of blood.
We caught up with former Anathema vocalist Darren White, Cradle of Filth vocalist Dani Filth and At the Gates vocalist Tomas Lindberg and guitarist Martin Larsson and ex-guitarist Anders Björler to get the skinny on this most memorable of early-era extreme metal tours.
How did this tour come about?
Darren White: Following the release of Serenades in early 1993, we played a couple of UK tours, did some great gigs in Holland and Belgium with many of the prominent heavy bands of the day, and in autumn we played a couple of great atmospheric gigs in Ireland and three more in Holland. However, we hadn’t played Germany and we hadn’t done a proper European tour. I had been trying to organize a European tour for the band, and although I preferred to get us to support a bigger band, I wasn’t going to turn down a headlining tour of Germany with Peaceville labelmates At the Gates supporting us. Local acts would have opened up for each concert. The promoter hadn’t heard of Cradle of Filth and their first album had not yet been released, but I managed to persuade the promoter to add Cradle of Filth to the bill as an opening act, as we were friends with them and we knew they’d be an unexpected surprise.
Anders Björler: As I remember—and as always, back in the day—it sort of just came out of nothing, and very soon before the tour was supposed to start. We always agreed to any tour anywhere, so we didn’t really check anything regarding logistics, equipment, or travel arrangements. I think we were promised some things by our label, but nothing on paper.
Tomas Lindberg: I don’t have a recollection of this. We had done stuff with both Anathema and Cradle before, in the UK. And it felt like we were more of an English band at the time. Part of the Yorkshire, Northern UK scene, with all the aesthetics and all that. Peaceville might have had a hand in it. There had been a few wet nights out with the Anathema guys before this tour, so we jumped at the opportunity to get out together in Europe.
What are your general recollections of this tour?
White: Insanity, depravity, blood-letting, Slayer and Venom covers in soundchecks, raids and pillaging of service stations. The Dracula soundtrack and Type O Negative, or War of the Worlds and ’80s thrash on the bus stereo. We sang “Horses” a few times together, which we went on to record and include on Pentecost III. Above all, it was our first attempt at playing Germany and we wanted to be as full-on as we could be. Who knows what could happen? At that point the music was my life and I was living like it may be my last chance at it.
Björler: I just have fragmented memories from this tour. It was a long time ago, and there was a lot of alcohol involved. But, I remember Anathema being great on stage, and the shows were great. Everything outside the venue and off the stage was not so professional. I don’t even remember if there was a tour manager. I know Anathema had a crew guy, but his main role was acquiring beer every night. That was his job. They called him the “beer roadie.” Also, we didn’t have any sort of plan on how to get home from the tour, so when we started to talk to the label and the promoter about this around the Stuttgart show, they said that we had to sort that out ourselves. After many additional conversations with the label and other people, I guess the Anathema guys felt sorry for us and decided to pay our train tickets home from the merch money (to be paid back by Peaceville once they returned to the UK). I think it was Danny [Cavanagh, guitarist] in Anathema that helped us out. Can’t remember. Anyway, we went home beforehand, missing out on the last couple of shows. I think we missed out on Eastern Germany and Poland dates.
Lindberg: Well, it has to be general recollections [laughs]. It was a long time ago, and also there was a lot of alcohol involved. But I have a fond feeling when I look back at it. A lot of camaraderie. Wasn’t the beer roadie’s name “Digger”? He was a character. A lovely guy. He did music too, some fucked up techno weirdness, I remember the title “The Big One Has Finally Landed” [laughs]. One morning I found him brushing his teeth with Fanta.
Martin Larsson: That tape actually came back with me to Sweden by mistake. I loved those songs. It was Digger and Duncan [Patterson, Anathema bassist] just fucking around with drum machines and keyboards and whatnot in someone’s bedroom, I suppose. Very hypnotic, mesmerizing stuff, not to mention the kind of stupid I have a very soft spot for. “Drink the Vomit” was another one of my favorites. It’s 20-odd years since I heard it now and I’m still kicking myself for not making a copy of the tape while I had it.
Filth: We were driving across a border, and I think it was through Holland into Germany, or Germany into Holland, and I remember police coming with dogs to search the bus for drugs. We didn’t have any at that point, but one of the dogs went absolutely mental, and was barking at our guitarist, Paul Allender, just mental, at his crotch, and I remember just being absolutely petrified. It was quite a new experience for us, to be stopped crossing a border and have armed police board the bus and search it; it was quite something. I remember in Berlin, one of the members of Anathema getting in the trunk of a Mercedes with a club owner and going across the checkpoint between East and West Berlin, with the wall still being up, to score some weed, and buying it, and coming back in the trunk of a car, which is insane. Absolutely insane. Our bass player got bit by a dog. He went for a walk and for some reason he decided to climb over into someone’s property and a guard dog attacked him. He came back, he had a big bite, and he had to be driven to a hospital to have a tetanus jab.
Why did he go on to someone’s property?
Filth: We don’t know. He was a bit of a space brain anyway.
How familiar were you with the other bands on this tour?
White: At the Gates were labelmates who we had gigged with in 1993 and who were all genuine, nice guys. Being on a bus together like that just made us feel closer. We had gigged with Cradle of Filth a few times and had a mutual respect. Dunc and I were at the sessions for their first album, recorded in Academy Studios, which Dunc and I were already familiar with. I was asked to do some vocal parts, particularly for their song, “A Dream of Wolves in the Snow.” I felt strong enough about the bond to push for their inclusion on the tour. It is interesting the way that the future paths of the two bands would later go on to reconnect in different ways. I could include the three bands, as Adrian [Erlandsson] from At the Gates would later go on to drum for Cradle of Filth.
Björler: We had done some previous UK tours with Anathema, so we knew them well. We also met Cradle of Filth on some UK shows we did. I think they played support on a Liverpool show we did in 1993.
Lindberg: As Anders mentions, we had done stuff together before, and we were part of the same “scene,” so to say, even if our sounds were different. We had the same kind of vision. Anathema has always been a band devoted to realness. We had the same feeling in the music, the same kind of approach to art.
Darren, in an email you mentioned arm slicing on this tour… elaborate please.
White: On reflection, I guess in my head it was a sort of semi-serious pagan heavy metal scarification ritual, the Gods being Hendrix, Plant, Osbourne, Di’Anno and Iommi, as opposed to Apollo, Artemis, Diana or Minerva. First of all, let’s just pretend this is a story that never actually happened: Upon arrival on the continent after getting off the ferry on the way to the first concert it was noticed that there was a Kukri on the bus, which had been officially gifted to my father by a Gurkha. How or why it was there I don’t fully understand, but it was in addition to the homemade Kerry King-style leather arm strap with very large nails that Vinny [Cavanagh, Anathema guitarist] was going to be wearing for the concerts. Maybe I felt jealous. Anyway, it was there and inquiries were made. The myth surrounding the Kukri was explained, that if it is removed from its sheath it cannot be replaced until it has shed blood. It didn’t put everyone off. I woke up the next day with a gash on my arm, which also decorated my shirt-sleeve in a way that conformed with some kind of fantasy heavy metal warrior concept in my head. Health concerns must have been considered futile, as with my blood-decorated German ex-Army surplus shirt I felt ready for the first gig in Essen.
Darren, what’s with the Anathema face paint you guys were rocking on this tour?
White: We didn’t need to do it, and looking back I often think we shouldn’t have done it, as the face paint becomes a focus. What I became aware of from wearing face paint in a concert is that it really empowers the artist because they are separated from the audience by the mask. Hiding behind the mask makes it easier for the artist to become their other character. One problem is that the longer it is done, the harder it becomes to perform without the mask. It started as a one-off thing. On the last gig of a UK tour earlier in 1993 we had played a gig in Cradle of Filth’s hometown and some of Anathema wore face paint in honor of old Frost and Hellhammer and some other ’80s thrash bands who had worn it. By the time of the tour in January 1994, there was a new concept of “black metal” that was being promoted and I felt that the whole scene was allowing itself to be compartmentalized. I didn’t like the idea of division in the rock scene and I felt that young kids coming to the scene were being forced to choose. I wanted to remind people of what I considered to be “true metal.” I was also heavily into the tribal element of open-minded, accepting and non-judgmental extreme music shows—which partly influenced my lyrics for [Pentecost III’s] “Mine Is Yours to Drown In”—and I am always interested in the strength of unity as opposed to the controllability of a divided people.
Filth: The black metal face paint was a very new thing and in Germany it was quite feared at that point. The whole black metal church burnings and murders, Satanic terrorism was kind of feared. It obviously worked its way into newspapers and stuff like that. It was kind of frowned upon; after we played one of the shows, we went to find some food at a bar and had lots of very strange looks, people saying, “Oh, there’s the Satanic Nazis.” It was quite frightening, actually, to be in Germany and to be branded as a Nazi. One of my first trips to Germany, it was quite eye-opening for that.
I understand you enjoyed stealing from gas stations on this tour…
White: The pagan Vikings took from the Christian monasteries. We took from the street-level urban representation of the petro-chemical empire. It did only involve low-level pillaging, I might add. The representatives of these establishments may have been terrified by invasions of hairy, disheveled, unshaven and scruffy, alcohol-fueled foreigners, wearing ripped leather and badly deployed blackened face-paint—but nobody was hurt. The only blood that was spilled was our own.
What were relations between the bands like?
White: We mixed it up together if we had time in soundchecks, we played football together in the empty venue, we stagedived to each others’ gigs. Afterwards we socialized with the most eccentric people we could find; we raided evil service stations together. At the Gates had to leave for home early so missed the final show of the tour at Gera. Secret Venom played instead. Our friend Digger was Mantas, Dunc from Anathema was Cronos, and Paul Ryan from Cradle was Abaddon. All the members of the bands who were not in Secret Venom were at the front of their gig, headbanging. I remember an emotional Nick [Barker, Cradle of Filth drummer] telling me how much he loved Anathema and Dave Lombardo.
Björler: It was a really friendly and inspiring atmosphere, for sure.
Larsson: It was a very easy-going and brotherly feeling between the bands. One time Darren got the idea that he and I should become blood brothers, cutting palms and mixing blood. I’m pretty sure this is exaggerated, but the way I remember it is that he came at me with a big, fuck-off, rusty Crocodile Dundee-knife. Although feeling very flattered, I respectfully declined the offer.
Lindberg: This was the kind of tour that builds bonds between people forever. There is always a big smile on my face when I see any of the Anathema guys, or any of the Cradle guys that were there for that particular tour.
Filth: We got drunk a lot. We got on very well with both bands, because we’d known each other for a while. [At the Gates drummer] Adrian [Erlandsson] obviously joined Cradle of Filth at a later date; he was very young at the time, and he could only speak one word of English, which he kept repeating. I can’t recall which word it was. By the time he joined the band he was pretty fluent in English, but he hardly knew anything at that point on that tour. And we were all on the same tour bus as well.
I understand Anathema had a hand in “corrupting” the At the Gates fellas. Do tell.
White: It may have been suggested at the time but nowadays I am aware that I can’t take credit for other people’s depravities. It can also be noted that the guys in Cradle played a part in some of the corrupting. They had a depth of depravity further than others we knew and maybe this was why we felt kindred. Tomas from At the Gates was already fairly party-ready. I just think that initially he wanted to put on a good impression and when he realized who he was sharing time with he let go. I think you could say that for the others, too. Perhaps the difference in reality is that the At the Gates guys behaved more professionally and waited until near the end of the tour to truly let go.
Lindberg: I don’t know who corrupted who [laughs]. But in general, maybe Anathema were just a bit more over the top when it came to partying. But we sure tried to keep up.
Björler: I remember one night on autobahn, one of the Anathema guys tried to climb through the emergency hatch onto the roof and was nearly decapitated by a bridge. We were all kinda shook up, but he just shrugged it off and continued drinking. I can’t remember who that was.
Larsson: I think it was John [Douglas, Anathema drummer] who was on the roof and another guy halfway up there. Whoever it was, I managed to get a hold of his ankle just in the nick of time and drag him back down into the bus. Anathema also had this thing, they kept shouting “horses” for some reason. We caught on and started laboring with chanting and harmonies. I still don’t know the back story to this but I know that the horses thing ended up on the Pentecost III EP.
Lindberg: I remember that night. But not in a very detailed way. I also have some super vague recollection of us sleeping on the sidewalk somewhere, was it in France? Was it even on this tour? I can’t remember [laughs]. Martin has already mentioned the rusty knife. I have some kind of memory of it being used by the friendly Anathema guys to get money of the tour promoter, but I am not totally sure about this. I do remember Nick Barker falling down the stairs of the tour bus one night, too. We thought he was dead, but he is a strong brother, that one. I have a vague memory of some Slayer cover set being performed by members of the three bands at a soundcheck, too. Could this be right?
What were the crowds like in general for the shows?
White: There were some interesting characters coming to the shows. We already noticed that we attracted not only metalheads but random eccentrics, generally. In the UK we attracted some older hippies to concerts but this tour attracted some stranger characters. The bands have obviously evolved and matured now but at that stage we would often invite the more interesting characters to hang out with us backstage, on the bus, or wherever. A woman announced herself at one concert as a witch; one guy called himself “Ehab, Million Dollar Man,” and bought us food and beer. He said he wanted an ear piercing like some of us, so we took him on the bus and obliged him. He left very soon after. After one concert I was approached by a guy who also wanted to “bleed for metal.” I hope he is okay. I gave his friend my torn Iron Maiden shirt sleeve to use as a tourniquet.
Björler: I remember there were like 200 to 500 people per show. Something like that. But, I was always regarded as pessimistically accurate, so better ask someone else about that [laughs].
Lindberg: [We were] trying to win people over with a frantic, raging stage performance of total over-the-top weirdly arranged death metal mayhem [laughs]. Anathema were killer live, though. A strong live band.
Larsson: It was a struggle for us sometimes. Anathema was clearly the main attraction and to a lot of people, we seemed to be a nuisance at best. In one venue people were waiting for Anathema with their backs leaning against the stage while we were playing. That only made us more determined, though, and I do think we won a lot of people over on that tour.
Filth: Some of the gigs were big. There was the one in Essen with the guy coming up on stage with a knife, and after he’d been taken out by the bouncers being very innocent about the whole thing, ‘Oh, absolutely not, it’s just a prop.’ Some of the gigs were 400 to 500 people, others were very small, like 50 to 60 people. One of the shows, tables were put out to extend the stage; I had a big scream in “Principle” [“The Principle of Evil Made Flesh”] and I literally blacked out on my feet; I just stood there. It took ages, like two or three minutes for things to come back again. I was just standing there like a statue, and they weren’t familiar with “Principle” at that point, so they probably thought that’s how the song went. There were 10 shows, but two of them were canceled, I think due to low attendance.
Did the bands’ sounds blend together well?
Björler: I think it was a good mix of bands. We all had our own unique style and sound.
Lindberg: Yes, as I mentioned earlier, all the bands had a different sound, but the general feeling was the same. We were portraying the same kind of emotional spectrum, just in different ways. So, I could see it as a good tour, with these mix of styles. But we were definitely the odd band out, with our—at that time—fascination for weird time changes and a lot of playing above our technical abilities. A bunch of 20-year-olds trying to be the King Crimson of death metal [laughs].
Filth: It worked well. Anathema were this British doom band, with this aggressiveness about them. At the Gates were Swedish death metal and Cradle were like a bridge between the two of them. And it was at the genesis of three bands’ careers. Anathema and At the Gates had prior recordings, Gardens of Grief and With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness for At the Gates, and Anathema had Serenades and their EP, Crestfallen. At the Gates only really had another two years in their career, but we didn’t know it at the time, and their album went on to influence a whole heap of bands. But, yeah, it was a very formative stage of that particular era, and you had three bands who were pioneers in their fields going out and playing to anywhere from 50 people to 400 people.
Looking back on this tour now, what do you feel its importance is?
White: Its importance personally is clear. It was a very extreme experience that I pushed as far as I could at a time of my life when I was eschewing responsibility for myself. It was very important to the band, as it had been our aim to play those songs to a German audience. We had been playing those songs for a while and had played them in different ways since they were first written; sometimes slower, sometimes more moody or psychedelic; adapting in order to keep the song or the dynamic “alive.” By that stage, we had new ideas and were ready to work on a second album so we decided for this German tour to let it loose and go for it. The importance to the Anathema audience for that tour is that they saw the most metal form of Anathema. We may have took some by surprise with our appearance, but that disturbing image and the down-tuned heaviness was in deliberate contrast with the melody and harmony. We were already experimenting with mood changes from incredibly heavy to really quiet moments and back again. It was in conjunction with being down-tuned to B, playing as slow and as heavy as we could.
For At the Gates, I reckon it wasn’t so important in the grand scheme of things, as they had more significant tours later on. They may disagree and suggest otherwise. I think it was Martin from At the Gates’ first tour, so it would be of great importance to him, I guess. Regardless of how important it feels to the guys in Cradle of Filth, I think they benefited the most from the tour, as they were a UK band getting exposure on a full tour of Germany before the release of their first album. I was in Germany shortly after the release of the Cradle album and its popularity was already very noticeable. I remember hearing “A Dream of Wolves in the Snow” in a huge club with all these metal kids getting into it and no one believing me if I told them it was me! There were not many bands at the time in the scene that had been given that kind of opportunity, even bands who were signed. It is worth noting that they grasped their opportunity magnificently, performing fantastically well, with all their dark intensity and an absolute hunger for success. I don’t really know how Anathema must have appeared, but I know the other two bands were great.
Filth: I think it was very important because it served the fledgling careers of three bands. It’s kind of groundbreaking, I suppose, because it was so long ago, and it was right at the cusp of all three bands getting bigger and branching off into other directions. We played with Anathema a few times after that and At the Gates, but not a long tour together. After that we’d be going out with… I think after that, we went out with In Flames, Dimmu and Dissection supporting. So it wasn’t very long after that things really took off for us, and At the Gates with Slaughter of the Soul, and Anathema, because their career started properly from that point onward.