Review Summary: Who saw this coming? Cradle of Filth return with a new line-up and a renewed vigor that has lead to their best album since Midian.
Cradle of Filth have been operating without a firm direction for the better part of fifteen years. Ever since Damnation and a Day
, they have been trying to figure out how to blend their goth-inspired black metal with a more mainstream, guitar-dominated, approach – and they’ve never quite got it right. This revelation shouldn’t come as a surprise; if we’re being honest, Paul Allender, Charles Hedger and James McIlroy were never really prolific riff-writers. In the beginning it didn’t really matter because they had a really talented drummer and everything was immersed in a layer of keyboards. Unfortunately, they eventually lost that drummer and made the unwise decision to devalue the role of the keyboards. This change left the guitarists carrying the workload; leaving fans with a handful of bland releases that lacked the creativity and energy of the band’s pre-Sony days. Fortunately, after nearly fifteen years of marginal releases, Dani Filth has returned the band to what made their first four albums great. As should be expected, this has led to their best album since Midian
Ever since ‘Cthulhu Dawn’, it has been tradition for the opening track to be one of the more aggressive songs on the album, and ‘Yours Immortally’ continues that trend. The song opens with a break-neck tempo and a dual guitar harmony that is mirrored by the keyboardist, and even in the opening moments the leap in quality is obvious. Unlike the previous 15 years of releases, though, the quality doesn’t diminish after the ferocious opening track. The follow-up song, ‘Enshrined in Crematoria’, brings back memories of ‘Nocturnal Supremacy’ before smoothly transitioning into a modern Midian
sound that contains one of the coolest solos of the band’s career. Essentially, there isn’t any filler on Hammer of the Witches
. Each song has enough fresh ideas that the album never really blurs together. If I was to make a ‘fan’ comparison, I would describe this as a blend of Midian
and Cruelty and the Beast
with the diversity and melody of Dusk and Her Embrace
. If that description seems like a stretch, you obviously haven’t heard Hammer of the Witches
While it is likely that Dani Filth set the direction for the album, credit must be given to the new guitarists and keyboardist for taking that direction and running with it. These two new guitarists are easily the best at writing actual riffs that Cradle of Filth has ever seen, and they can rip out the solos whenever necessary. They’re also just about as proficient at the dual guitar harmonies and melodies as (the much-missed… until now) Stuart Anstis and Gian Pyres of the Dusk/Cruelty
era. The same kind of praise could be heaped upon the band’s new keyboardist, too. She is just as good at filling the empty spaces, creating atmosphere and giving the songs a soundtrack-ish feel as Les Smith (Cruelty and the Beast
) was. Basically, this might not be Cradle of Filth’s best line-up, but it’s damn near close. Even Dani’s vocals sound re-invigorated.
If your expectations for a truly great Cradle of Filth album have slowly eroded as each post-Midian
release failed to meet the standard, it’s time to get your hopes up. Cradle of Filth have come back with an album that should thrill fans that have been craving the dark, gothy, black metal that embodied the band’s first four releases. Hammer of the Witches
is more than just a nostalgia release, though. The new members have injected a renewed life into a band that had started to sound like it was going through the motions. Hammer of the Witches
is the post-Midian
release fans have been asking for while retaining the riff-oriented sound the band have been attempting for the past 15 years – only this time they’ve actually pulled it all off.