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Let’s face some facts here: whether you like them or not, you have to admit that Cradle of Filth is basically a metal institution.


Album Review: CRADLE OF FILTH Hammer Of The Witches

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Let’s face some facts here: whether you like them or not, you have to admit that Cradle of Filth is basically a metal institution. Their name is one of the few from extreme metal that has actually hit the mainstream, if only partially. And Dani Filth is a name that most, if not all metalheads can recognize. This is definitely not without good reason, as everyone seems to have their own favorite Cradle of Filth album(s). But lately, the problem people seem to have is that the band has not released a Midian 2, or an Electric Dusk and her Boogaloo. It’s true that they’re not what they used to be, but that doesn’t mean that we should be dismissing their current releases; enter Hammer of the Witches.

There have been a couple changes in COF’s lineup since their last album. Longtime guitarist Paul Allender has left the band again in favor of another project, White Empress. Now, we have two completely new guitarists, Richard Shaw and Marek “Ashok” Šmerda. This is also the first album that Lindsay Schoolcraft on vocals makes an appearance. Female presence is not uncommon with COF, but we have two new guitarists in the band now, and that is never a small shake up. And this album might prove to be a bit of a turning point for the band, yet again.

If you heard their previous release, The Manticore and Other Horrors, you probably noticed a leaning towards hardcore punk/Goatwhore-ish sorts of sounds. While those sounds aren’t exactly absent, Hammer of the Witches is definitely a heavier, faster and more melodic sound. Of course, this is only when compared to their previous release, but I think that’s actually a pretty important comparison point, and holds more validity than releases that could be decades old.

Songs like “Yours Immorally” and “Blooding The Hounds of Hell” are pretty undoubtedly COF songs. Guitar work isn’t very fast, but driving and very busy, as per usual. Šmerda and Shaw’s duo guitars make a great addition to the sound; Filth’s vocals are still as gravely and shrill as usual, and Schoolcraft’s vocals are a great compliment. And other songs like “Right Wing of the Garden Triptych” and “Onward Christian Soldiers” step it up a little bit and go a lot faster than I’m used to hearing the band. It’s a nice little contrast, which definitely helps drive the album forward.

I will also say that this is also possibly the most listenable COF album I’ve heard in a while. Songs like “Blackest Magick In Practice”, and “Enshrined In Crematoria” aren’t really “extreme” by COF standards. In fact, they lean more towards straight-up melodic death metal, which still isn’t too far from COF’s list of accomplished genres. “Deflowering the Maidenhead, Displeasuring the Goddess” in particular is one of my favorite songs on the album, and has a pretty intense bridge section that had some outstanding influences of even some Swedish death metal. If you like when COF gets a little more melodic, then this song could be your favorite as well.

Now, is this going to be known as one of their best albums? Absolutely not. As vindictive as I sounded in the beginning of this article, I’m not a fool to the band’s drift away from what made them so popular. It was almost like an edge that fueled their controversy and fanbase that doesn’t seem to be present so much in their new albums. To be honest, this is fine with me, because it seems to let more musicianship shine through. Hammer of the Witches is still as dynamic as any COF album: there’s a good amount of slow-driving sections along with hyper, blast-beat led sections, symphonic instrumentals, and Filth’s witch-like shrieks to satisfy any COF fan, if they give it a shot.

Overall, Hammer of the Witches, while probably not destined to be the best Cradle of Filth album, is still good metal from a good metal band. I’m a little more optimistic about their future, especially if this album is a good indicator of what’s to come from them. The new lineup appears to be doing well together, and I feel future releases will only get better.

But then again, what do I know, right?


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