For Fans Of
English based veterans Cradle of Filth have always been renowned for their popular brand of provocative, blackened symphonic metal. Their latest full-length release, ‘Hammer of the Witches’, continues to cement (but, perhaps, not improve) their relevance in a genre with a cult (cvlt) following.
The band’s enduring sound, image and/or supposed lyrical themes, dealing predominantly with Satanism etc. (which is for shock value more than anything), is an acquired taste, one that doesn’t always catch on. Upon early impressions, the new record is surprising based on previous material, and that’s where the initial divide presents itself. The album soars open with an orchestral epic before leading into the shrieking, riff driven “Yours Immortally…” It’s definitely Cradle of Filth.
Instrumentally, ‘Hammer of the Witches‘ is solid, full of heavy riffs and decent lead sections that remind listeners of the glory days of symphonic metal. Moreover, the album boasts almost an entirely new recording line-up, featuring new guitarists Marek ‘Ashok’ Šmerda and Richard Shaw, as well as keyboardist/vocalist Lindsay Schoolcraft, whose symphonic influence brings a welcomed, classic gothic feel to the album.
Unfortunately, it’s the vocals, which alternate between unheard blistering screeches and shrieks, that fall flat. If the whole album were sung how vocalist Dani Filth sings the bridge/pre-solo section of ‘Deflowering the Maidenhead, Displeasuring the Goddess‘ then it would have been, overall, more consistent. Yes, raspy refrains are a staple of black metal, but a greater emphasis on dynamics would’ve ensured greater appeal. Fans of the band will appreciate the classic sound of Filth’s delivery and heavy black metal styled vocals, however we can’t endorse it as being anything more than mildly enjoyable. It’s Schoolcraft, with a powerful and heavy yet gentle voice; especially on the album’s first single ‘Right Wing of the Garden Triptych‘, that remedies any underwhelming elements.
Spanning 11 tracks (plus two bonus songs) at just under seventy minutes, the record is a mammoth. This can be a positive thing, if the reception is good from the very beginning but a chore to get through for anyone that doesn’t buy in early. Like a lot of bands in the genre, the full-length struggles to add much consistency between songs. However, there are certain unique moments that separate x song from y song. Overall, the album is respectable, but, instrumental elements aside, doesn’t excel. ‘Hammer of the Witches’ is rife with unique melodies while still carrying a classic symphonic/gothic sound. The aforementioned ‘Deflowering the Maidenhead, Displeasuring the Goddess‘ as well as ‘Right Wing of the Garden Triptych‘ represent the best points. The rest is just so/so.
Fans of the genre and the band should enjoy the latest from Cradle of Filth offering, however it is just not going to be for everyone.It’s broader appeal is lacking this time around. The problem is, ‘Hammer of the Witches’ is decent but nothing memorable.
1. Walpurgis Eve [Instrumental]
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) [Instrumental]
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 [Instrumental]
12. King Of The Woods