The band being reviewed today is quite famous for their use of satanic imagery, arguably more for shock value rather than any serious and/or intentional belief. Started way back in the early 90’s as an extreme metal band, two and a half decades later Cradle of Filth has come full circle breaking through their original niche to a clearer amalgam of Gothic and Symphonic styles of metal as portrayed though their imagery and lyrical themes. This year they give us their eleventh studio installment – ‘Hammer of the Witches’.
Cradle of filth has always been noted for their poetic display in their content with lengthy titles and incredibly elaborate artwork and this record is no different. As stated by founding front-man ‘Dani Filth’ – “the artwork has been done by Latvian artist ‘Arthur Berznish’ and has a lavish depiction of beauty and horror”. Their signature use of eloquent feminine form continues and is rampant throughout with biblical and satanic reminiscence.
The album starts off with a gothic orchestra comprising of piano, violin and operatic harmony in “Walpurgis Eve” which is nothing unconventional to this bands style, and from there on it is absolute malevolence with blast-beat drumming, ear splitting guitar riffs& solos, synth and demonic screaming backed up by clean female chorus. Cradle of Filth has had a plethora of line-up changes during their existence and this time brings yet another with ‘Richard Shaw’ & ‘Marek “Ashok” Smerda’ replacing veteran guitarists Paul Allender & James Mcllroy. ‘Lindsay Schoolcraft’ continuous with keyboard and her beautiful voice, ‘Martin Skaroupka’ remain behind the kit and Dani leading the charge of-course. The album is quite straight forward in classic ‘Filth Style’ as witnessed in “Enshrined in Crematoria” & “Deflowering the maidenhead, displeasuring the Goddess” and it really is fast-paced, dark, and laid out with unexpected symphonic breakdowns which I have to admit are bloody amazing. Lindsay’s synth and soothing vocals complement Dani’s undying energy beautifully yet leaving enough breathing room for the guitars and drums to go mad, occasionally giving even the bass guitar some air-time as heard in “Blackest magick in practice”&“Yours Immortally”. Title song “Hammer of the Witches” & “Right wing of the garden triptych” score on solos & composition giving off a whiff of the kind of stuff you heard in their prime albums. The garden triptych has a riff that instantly gets stuck in your head reminding you of some of the bands classic hits and immediately makes it to repeat mode. This album also includes a few instrumentals serving almost like passages between chapters. It is something this group does very well and have executed this flawlessly in songs like ‘The Monsterous Sabbat” and closing tune “Blooding the Hounds of Hell” which help take the pace off the album and slow things down thus eluding monotony.
Despite having heard this band for plenty of years I was not straight away glued to this record, and this review would have not been the same had I not lent the record a second hearing? It’s not an easy going, anytime-listen-to-album. The band follows a ballad pattern and each and every song is different, as a result there is a lot going on at any given time thus sometimes requiring the use of some of your imagination to fathom the flavors that lie within them. So post my second run if there is anything I have observed in this album is the fact that Cradle Of Filth have not only done justice in making a good album but have been able to capture the magical essence of their classic old stuff and honing the newer elements, thus giving rise to tunes that lie in the balance of the past and present styles of their music. The extremely good mix quality also allows for necessary clarity considering the sheer amount of instrumentation at any given time in any song. Front-man Dani Filth is impeccable on vocals showing no signs of age or fatigue, and new guitarists Shaw & Ashok are splendid with their riffs and solos thus successfully creating an album that lies somewhere between Cruelty and the beast & the successful predecessor of this new record. It possesses the nostalgic whiff of the old without simply recycling good riffs yet sounds solid and modern. Their poetic lyrical and chaotic musical content spliced with gothic symphony is unmistakably signature and despite the evident’ commercially viable’ angle this record should serve to please fans both old and new. For some this album may not be immediately likable and sounds a tad bit generic which I admit as I felt the same initially it still is intense, dark, and may probably go on to become one of their best albums down the timeline.
‘Hammer of the Witches’ may take time to grow on you and I have the following conclusion – Let it! You’re in for a surprise!
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