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Cradle Of Filth - Hammer Of The Witches (2015) - Review

Band: Cradle Of Filth
Album title: Hammer Of The Witches
Release date: 10 July 2015
Label: Nuclear Blast Records

01. Walpurgis Eve
02. Yours Immortally...
03. Enshrined In Crematoria
04. Deflowering The Maidenhead, Displeasuring The Goddess
05. Blackest Magick In Practice
06. The Monstrous Sabbat (Summoning The Coven)
07. Hammer Of The Witches
08. Right Wing Of The Garden Triptych
09. The Vampyre At My Side
10. Onward Christian Soldiers
11. Blooding The Hounds Of Hell
12. King Of The Woods [bonus]
13. Misericord [bonus]

The notorious British band is back with their highly anticipated 11th studio album! Cradle Of Filth are without doubt one of those most talked about outfits, one of those bands that divided the extreme metal scene into those who love and hate the name just by seeing the logo or hear the name. Yet they have all the credits for being one of the most influential metal bands to come out from UK. There is no need to argue if Cradle Of Filth is still a black metal band or not, I believe that they don't care about this and so you shouldn't, but one thing is certain, Dani Filth and company are making one of the bleakest and most horrifying versions of extreme metal since their inception in 1991. After gaining such a strong base of followers with their two most representative albums, Dusk... And Her Embrace (1996) and  Cruelty And The Beast (1998), the band slowly but steadily, maybe also because of many line-up changes and several dramas, lost the credibility of being such a serious band and I believe it's difficult for a band of such a caliber to retrieve the status from their early days back. Nevertheless, Cradle Of Filth are always present in this or another way in minds of every metal head out there, hence everybody should have some respect towards them. Their new album which once again holds a strong, very picturesque name, Hammer Of The Witches, is without any doubt a masterpiece in its own right and an album that has all the necessary power to put the entity Cradle Of Filth on the deserved place, right to the throne of horror tinged extreme metal, where they once were.

Cradle Of Filth promised to go back to their roots with this new opus and they were not kidding, ok, not entirely, but that scarry gothy feeling throughout the songs is back again. In a way that's the crucial point in Hammer Of The Witches which still mantains the technical factor heard on the previous album, The Manticore & Other Horrors, on a high level, but like it or not the song structures are much more flowing and ambiance is gloomier than on a couple of previous albums. Personally I don't miss the main songwriter Paul Allender that much because it's heard that the band needed some fresh air. The tracks like "Deflowering The Maidenhead, Displeasuring The Goddess", "Hammer Of The Witches", "Blackest Magick In Practice", "Onward Christian Soldiers" with such an amazing riff, guitar play and some breathtaking electronics, or the seminal "Right Wing Of The Garden Triptych" are all true examples of a band in its full songwriting chemistry. Some of the thunderous drum bombardments, ferocious riffs, tight harmonic twin guitar work, a couple of fine leads, tasty malicious, yet atmospheric synths, well balanced and abrasive Dani's representative voice which is much less annoying than it was on a couple of albums before, are all the things put together in a well thought manner that keep the whole album easy flowing, in a way catchy, somehow melodic and the listener is with ease kept focused throughout the whole thing. As well the entry of Lindsay Schoolcraft into the line-up who took over the keys and serves with some intriguing backing vocals that add even more of a dramatic feel is nothing but a surplus, ok, I can't compare her with Sarah Jezebel Deva, who offered some of her best vocal performances right for Cradle Of Filth, but she fits well into the whole spectrum and I wish her vocals could be used even more. The orchestral parts are well hidden in the background, maybe a bit too much for my taste as the ambiance could be even more hypnotizing if those would be more fronted.

The pace of the album is for most of the time very fast and explosive, with numerous thrash metal elements, combined with typical heavy metal tradition, blasphemous blackened lines, symphonic insertions and a couple of gothic metal structures, all well balanced together into one hellish dark entity. The sound of Hammer Of The Witches is energetic, rich, dense, very dynamic, groovy and most of all it's intense. The band continues with its tradition of infusing each album with conceptual elements that embolden the songs' dramatic execution, the album's title gleefully flips the historical script, turning the tables on the gruesome witch hunts of 16th and 17th century Europe and exacting some hard-earned vengeance on behalf of all of those who suffered persecution at the hands of religious zealots during that turbulent period in history. As well the artwork is beautiful, telling a story on its own that fits well together with the whole lyrical concept. Cradle Of Filth's 11th studio album is without doubt a strong player in their large discography, it unites the elements from bands past without losing the modern approach utilized on a couple of previous albums. Hammer Of The Witches is for my taste the best Cradle Of Filth's album since Cruelty And The Beast, even if doesn't reach those heights of Dusk... And Her Embrace for example, it's both a strident reaffirmation of this band's eternal class and a reinvigorated statement of intent from a revitalised metallic force at the peak of their collective powers. The hammer is coming down, hard, and revenge will be sweet indeed.

Review written by: T.V. (with a couple of credits that goes to Oliver)
Rating: 8,5/10

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