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Cradle of Filth
Hammer of the Witches
July 2015
Released: 2015, Nuclear Blast Records
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson

At this stage of the game, there aren’t really any tricks left in the bag for Cradle of Filth to pull out and dress up their trademark – and divisive - symphonic black metal stylings. They’ve been audacious (Midian), overblown (Damnation and a Day with its choir and orchestra), overtly grotesque (Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder), covered Heaven 17 and even utilized the voice of “Pinhead” - Doug Bradley - on several occasions.

So when long-time guitarist and compositional co-conspirator Paul Allender jumped ship after 2012's The Manticore and Other Horrors, frontman Dani Filth was left not only with the prospect of overhauling the band's line-up once again, but retooling their sound. It turned out to be the kick in the ass Cradle needed - especially after the lackluster Manticore and its predecessor, Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa.

With new guitarists Richard Shaw and Marek “Ashok” Šmerda, along with newish keyboardist/vocalist Lindsay Schoolcraft, in tow, the band closed ranks, took a step back and streamlined things a bit instead of looking to make some grand orchestral or conceptual statement. Smart move. Hammer of the Witches, Cradle's 11th studio full-length, is the most full-on “metal” album the band have done probably since Midian.

It's certainly their leanest, meanest and and most vicious effort in quite some time, with the usual gothic pomp and classical indulgences taking a backseat for a change, which is welcome. The keys, strings and intermittent operatic female vocals are still there – courtesy, for the most part, of Schoolcraft – but largely on the periphery, as enhancements instead of key ingredients, save for three short instrumentals.

This leaves plenty of sonic space for the dogfighting twin guitars of Shaw and Šmerda, who prove to be a potent tandem here. Where Allender was hamstrung by a revolving door of co-guitarists and often recorded all the parts himself, Shaw and Šmerda make a genuine team. Their hurtling riffs, darting hooks, prominent harmonies and solo tradeoffs – or all of the above, as in the case of “Enshrined In Crematoria,” “Deflowering The Maidenhead, Displeasuring The Goddess,” the title track and the magnificent “Right Wing Of The Garden Triptych” - hark all the way back to the teamwork of 1998's Cruelty And The Beast, which Allender, ironically, was not part of.

The pair follow the twists and turns of Martin "Marthus" Škaroupka's runaway tempos and Filth's breathless caterwaul with dogged precision, giving Hammer a tautness to match its abandon, unlike the somewhat disjointed Manticore. The comparatively unpolished, natural production – to go along with the less prominent symphonics - only add to the album's crunch and grit.

Given the band's recent output, and the loss of Allender amidst the usual lineup tumult, it would be understandable for even longtime fans to have low expectations for Hammer. But the group effort – and the confidence Danni Filth had in the new recruits – pays off here in an authoritative and rewarding album that for once is more bite than bark.
Track Listing

1. Walpurgis Eve
2. Yours Immortally
3. Enshrined In Crematoria
4. Deflowering The Maidenhead, Displeasuring The Goddess
5. Blackest Magick In Practice
6. The Monstrous Sabbat (Summoning The Coven)
7. Hammer Of The Witches
8. Right Wing Of The Garden Triptych
9. The Vampyre At My Side
10. Onward Christian Soldiers
11. Blooding The Hounds Of Hell


Dani Filth - vocals
Richard Shaw - guitar
Marek “Ashok” Šmerda - guitar
Lindsay Schoolcraft - keyboards and female vocals
Daniel Firth - bass
Martin Skaroupka - drums

Next review: » Cradle of Filth - Hammer of the Witches
Previous review: » Cradle of Filth - Godspeed On The Devils Thunder

Cradle of Filth
Hammer of the Witches
September 2015
Released: 2015, Nuclear Blast Records
Rating: 4.0/5
Reviewer: UK Team

Cradle of Filth. The mere mention of these three words conjured up one of two reactions in fans of heavy music; they have always been a bit of a 'Marmite band', almost from their inception in 1991. They have courted both publicity and mainstream attention, changed members more than most people change their socks, added and subtracted layers of their sound until they resemble pretty much nobody else in modern metal, and even put out 'that' tshirt with a masturbating nun on the front and a titillatingly naughty word on the back.

All that aside, they have produced a solidly impressive body of work in their almost quarter-century lifetime. Despite running a fair gamut of record labels and incorporating an often surprising mix of influences into their sound – punk and thrash, anyone? - they have stayed true to their original vision of dark and often conceptually quite gothic heavy metal, featuring the likes of vampires (1996's Dusk...and Her Embrace), Countess Bathory (Cruelty and the Beast in 1998) and the work of Clive Barker (Midian in 2000, from which their best known track 'Her Ghost in the Fog' came).

Armed with a brand spanking new lineup (again), inimitable vocalist Dani Filth and co. have come up with a new album, Hammer of the Witches. Based on the persecution of witches over the centuries the likes of which were listed in the book 'Malleus Maleficum', the band's eleventh album is, in the words of Filth, “payback for decades of torment” of innocent people by the church.

Armed with this rich seam of inspiration, CoF recorded Hammer... in the reportedly haunted Grindstone Studios in Suffolk, added some suitalby gruesome post-modern artwork by acclaimed artist Arturs Berzinsh, and released the album on July 10th, 2015.

The album itself begins on a rather gothy, 'horror movie soundtrack' note with intro 'Walpurgis Eve', before crashing headlong into 'Yours Immortally', which starts off as a fairly straightforward black metal song featuring Filth's unmistakeable vocals and a blistering pace, before adding dashes of melody, classic metal and some beautiful female vocals courtesy of keyboardist Lindsay Schoolcraft. So far, so intriguing...

In truth, pretty much every song on Hammer... is anything but straightforward. There is bleak beauty in several tracks, such as the galloping 'Enshrined In Crematoria' and rather vitriolic closer 'Onward Christian Soldiers'. There's widdly guitar work and a real power metal vibe (check out the title track, as well as the magnificently titled 'Deflowering the Maidenhead, Displeasuring the Goddess'). There's touches of symphonic metal in tracks such as 'Right Wing of the Garden Triptych', with more of Schoolcraft's gorgeous vocals bookending the song, or the menacing 'The Vampyre at My Side'. Hell, there's even horn instruments in the epic outro 'Blooding the Hounds of Hell'!

It has been years since Cradle of Filth could simply be called 'black metal' – if indeed, they ever could. Hammer of the Witches proves that fact beyond a shadow of a doubt. Like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Dragonforce getting together to play Behemoth songs, this album is full of surprising twists, tempo changes and rollercoaster moments. Each track ebbs and flows, often losing all traces of melody a la extreme metal, before reigning it in just in time for an exhilarating finish. Ironically, the most subtle and accessible song on the album is also the highlight: the grim and tragic 'Blackest Magick In Practice', with its childlike choral intro and the addition of string instruments, is haunting and melancholy yet packs a real punch.

If you are already a fan of Cradle of Filth (or are merely curious about them) Hammer of the Witches will both delight and enlighten you. If you're will do nothing to alter your stance. This is CoF doing what they do best: employing an often astonishingly populated roll call of influences and genres to create their unique brand of heavy metal. Like them or not, one thing you certainly couldn't claim is that they're not original.

Review by Melanie Brehaut
Track Listing

1. Walpurgis Eve
2. Yours Immortally
3. Enshrined In Crematoria
4. Deflowering the Maidenhead, Displeasing the Goddess
5. Blackest Magick In Practice
6. The Monstrous Sabbat (Summoning the Coven)
7. Hammer of the Witches
8. Right Wing of the Garden Triptych
9. The Vampyre At My Side
10. Onward Christian Soldiers
11. Blooding of the Hounds of Hell


Dani Filth: vocals
Martin Skaroupka: drums
Daniel Firth: bass
Richard Shaw: guitar
Ashok: guitar
Lindsay Schoolcraft: keyboards, vocals

Next review: » Cradle of Filth - Live Bait For The Dead
Previous review: » Cradle of Filth - Godspeed On The Devils Thunder

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