For quite a long time now, Cradle of Filth seems to have been scrabbling about trying to recapture the magic of their first decade, with varying degrees of success.
Now and then they’ve come close, but it has taken yet another wholesale change to the band’s personnel to find the spark again with new guitar team Ashok and Rich Shaw adding the flair that has eluded them for so long. Some of the soloing on this album is off the hook, easily some of the most scintillating and explosive lead work that has ever featured on a Cradle album. The other newcomer, Canadian warbler Lindsay Schoolcraft, feels more like an integrated part of the band than any of the previous female members since Sarah Jezebel Diva. She certainly has a stronger vocal presence than Ellyllon. This is particularly necessary here because Dani Filth sounds energised again. He knows that he has one whale of a band here with him this time, putting in a breathtaking display of multiple-personality vocal athletics he seemed no longer capable of a couple of albums ago.
‘Yours Immortally’ rips atoms apart as it storms in on blastbeats and howling shrieks, a devastating, expansive, epic Cradle of Filth opener but ‘Enshrined in Crematoria’ is just as good, ablaze with twisted and dive-bombing lead guitars and Filth’s manic vocal. Two songs in and it’s very clear that this version of the band is absolutely on fire lyrically, musically and song-wise. Castle-wall storming riffs, endless drum fusillades and structurally obsessive songs laden with twin guitars – Hammer of the Witches is just like the old days when Cradle crossed their British metal heritage with Scandinavian brutality. ‘The Monstrous Sabbat’ offers a moment of reprieve before another devastating track, this time the titular tune. Then Schoolcraft comes into her own with ‘Right Wing of the Garden Triptych’, where trip-hop beats and New Wave keys meet monolithic riffs as if Voyager were trying their hand at black metal.
Cradle of Filth have had a hit-and-miss career since the glory days of Midian, but Hammer of the Witches brings them back into the winner’s circle. This is a devastating release.
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 Sabbath (Summoning the Coven)
7. Hammer of the Witches
8. Right Wing of the Garden Triptych
9. The Vampyre at My Side
10. Onward Christian Soliders
11. Blooding the Hounds of Hell