Being the new guy in any band is tough; being the new keyboardist in a symphonic vampire black metal band is a whole different beast altogether. And yet since her announcement as the latest member of UK night creatures Cradle of Filth, Annabelle Iratni has shown that she can run with the Devil as well as anyone. In both their 2020 livestream performance and the recent music videos from their upcoming album Existence Is Futile, Cradle have made Annabelle a noticeable focus, making sure the fans see and know her. Now, in the middle of the band’s U.S. tour honoring 1998’s legendary album Cruelty and the Beast, the young musician finds herself part of an undead circus unlike anything she’d ever imagined.
“It’s been a wild ride — I’m not going to lie, it’s been difficult!” laughs Annabelle. “I joined in 2019, and then lockdown happened, meaning I had to keep this massive secret. We couldn’t get together to do promo, and the goal posts kept on changing. And by that time, we’d written an album together, all online. We hadn’t been in a room together as a band. So that was a big learning curve for me — to try and find the groove and find the dynamic and figure out how everyone works, all through the power of the Internet. It was definitely a baptism by fire for me. And I seem to have a habit of that.”
And yet Cradle of Filth’s new album proves just how important Annabelle’s role is within the band’s current incarnation. Existence Is Futile sees Cradle going all-in on their grand, symphonic elements, weaving a sense of baroque darkness effortlessly into their creepy-crawl heavy metal. Even the most ripping tracks on the record are heavy with a sense of dark melodrama and demonic self-indulgence. It’s refreshing to hear a band this seasoned sound so excited by their own music, and Annabelle’s instrumentation is definitely a vital part of that.
“The three instrumental tracks were written entirely by me, and that’s something they didn’t have on the last album,” says Annabelle. “The band really wanted it that way — when I was submitting ideas, they were like, ‘That sounds like an instrumental, let’s do it.’ They’re very distinctly me — sort of cinematic, bringing about the damnation vibes. As those who know me know, I absolutely love [baroque composer] Henry Purcell. I actually have a shirt that says ‘Henry Purcell Barocks,’ because I’m that much of a cool kid. No regrets! Anyway, on the last track, ‘Us, Dark, Invincible,’ which Richard [Shaw, guitars] and I worked on together, I was like, ‘I want a string breakdown. This huge, Purcellian string breakdown. Let’s end it as a funeral dirge. A proper Purcell funeral for Queen Mary.’ I think it’s tasty, and it also ends the album. It brings a new life to Cradle, to have someone with that skill come in and be able to do that.”
How has it been touring America with the band?
It’s pretty exciting — you never know what you’re going to get. America definitely does things bigger and better when it comes to holiday seasons, especially Halloween. I went to a Walmart, and oh my God, your selection is awesome. It’ll be interesting to see how our Halloween show compares in the UK. We were in New Orleans yesterday on our day off, and there’s no way to describe it, you just have to go. I saw this jazz band…it gave me such a feeling of being alive. A lot of it’s new for me in general — I’ve only ever been to the States once, and that was for 70,000 Tons, so it was Fort Lauderdale [WOMP WOMP. -Ed]. So to start in the south…blimey, right in the deep end. All the y’alling, all the yeehawing. I’m such an explorer, and I love places’ food culture. I can definitely say, my waistline is not getting any thinner. My stage dress is feeling a bit tight.
Do you feel the process of rehearsing and refining this album online due to COVID tested you as a musician?
It strangely felt a bit normal! I did my Bachelors and Masters degrees in Music, so being thrown into a situation that felt a bit whoa was quite normal for me. There was definitely pressure for me, I’d say, because this band has been going literally since before I was born, so I had a long line before me. And there’s absolutely no way to prepare for it. There’s no way to prepare for being onstage with Cradle of Filth. It’s not something that you can do in your bedroom — you can’t even visualize it. It was all a very surreal blob of vampire orgies and Internet chat rooms. Wait a minute — oh dear…
Man, that’s a quote to put on your tombstone.
Yeah, like the classic ‘I told you I was sick!’ I want a really extra tombstone. I want to be buried, because I’m very vain, in that I want to exhumed in a few hundred years and mounted in a museum. For those who know me, I absolutely love birds. You’ll see them on my stage gear — I always have some sort of bird thing going on — and I have four birds. So I want to be buried with all the bodies of my dead pet birds, in my Cradle of Filth stage armor, so that if people dig me up, they’ll be like, What the fuck, man, was she some kind of deity? So that’s the plan for my departure from this plain of existence.
That’s refreshing — everyone else talks about getting cremated so as to not take up space, but you’re going old-school!
Exactly! I mean, cremation isn’t THAT good for the environment. I actually read this mortician, Caitlyn Doughty, who does a lot of good thinking about death. I’m reading her new book now, Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? It’s all very fitting with the Cradle persona.
So it doesn’t sound like you were some everyday person before getting this gig — were you a Cradle fan growing up?
It was definitely a band who were on my radar. I wouldn’t say I was a super fan — I couldn’t tell you the list, you know, name what year this album came out, what’s track #4. I knew who they were and their sort of flavor. By the time I was old enough to go to concerts, the only videos on TV were ‘Her Ghost In The Fog’ and ‘Nymphetamine.’ They weren’t ready for ‘From The Cradle to Enslave’ yet! I remember hearing Cradle and thinking, Ah, that sounds like me! This’d be a band I really could fit. I could do that! That was the first time I felt I could belong somewhere in the metal scene. And hey, be careful what you wish for, because here I am!
Have fans challenged you or given you the New Guy treatment?
Honestly, I’ve had nothing negative thrown my way at all. It’s been the opposite — it’s been all love and support. I think having the real [in a stuffy, posh tone of voice] ENGLISH ACCENT definitely helps. I bring back that old-school Cradle vibe, especially as a classically-trained mezzo-soprano. Having those bold, beautiful Cradle parts is something that people have been like, Holy…this is amazing! The response has been absolutely phenomenal, which is great especially because there have been many who have come before. There’s a pressure there, but I’m shocked that it’s been like, You’re the best ever! You’re amazing! You sound like Sarah [Jezebel Deva, the female vocalist on Cruelty… and Dusk and Her Embrace]!
The album’s art and first video go very dark and apocalyptic — was this informed by the pandemic?
Dani had this concept before COVID happened. A bit suspicious, really, isn’t it? Oh no, new conspiracy theory! You’re gonna find I go missing after this! There’s definitely a lot of different flavors on this album. The first two videos that’ve been released — ‘Crawling King Chaos’ and ‘Necromantic Fantasies’ — are so different from each other. I mean, obviously one’s red, and one’s blue, but also one’s hellish and chaotic, and the other’s a love ballad. But each track on this album has its own personality, and can really stand on its own, but has all the elements of Cradle. And now something new, as well, with me coming in and writing and contributing. I’m on every track vocally, but there are three tracks on the album that I wrote from start to finish.
That’s awesome. It sounds like you’re injecting new life into a band who everyone loves.
It’s definitely a new era — it’s like…Coke Zero! The taste you love, but with a new and improved flavor!
Cradle of Filth’s Existence Is Futile drops October 22nd via Nuclear Blast Records, and is available for preorder.
Words by Chris Krovatin