|Band:||Cradle Of Filth|
|Title:||Hammer Of The Witches|
Here we go again. Each time Cradle Of Filth announce a new album is the same old story. I start with high hopes, then the first songs come and cloud the issue, I begin to think that it would be better not to review it, sometimes I even believe that I should avoid it for my own sake. And of course I end up listening to the album, which destroys my initial opinions and never makes me understand why Mr. Filth and his still evolving team always manage to trap me in this hell.
I can beat around the bush as much as I want, but I can't deny it: they have been the starting point for my journey into extreme Metal and this is a valid reason to keep following them despite continually alternating between good works like "Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa" and not really interesting ones such as "The Manticore And Other Horrors". With this new release, their line-up changed once again, this time quite flagrantly: first of all, Paul Allender left the group for the second time and got replaced by two guitarists, Rich Shaw and Marek "Ashok" Šmerda; another new arrival is the keyboard player Lindsay Schoolcraft, who also does backing vocals; bassist Daniel Firth's presence has been confirmed definitively (in the previous albums he was a guest), while drummer Marthus keeps supporting his leader just like he has been doing in the past years.
With this premises, I naturally thought — actually, hoped — that there could have been a change from "Manticore" and there are many differences indeed. If we had to make a comparison, I would say that it is more similar to "Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa", but it is more aggressive without disdaining melodic passages. The two guitarists do a great job replacing Allender — who wasn't really at his best in the previsous album, to be honest — creating riffs true to Cradle Of Filth's style which are really one of the best features in this album. Right from "Yours Immortally" we can notice how the guitars sound strong, with a kind of energy and dynamism that bring some freshness in a sound we got already used to; especially in songs like "Blackest Magick In Practice" and "Hammer Of The Witches" (even more in its second half) the alternation between catchy and aggressive parts is very effective. Same goes for their solos, particularly the more headbanging ones in "Enshrined In Crematoria" and "Deflowering The Maidenhead, Displeasuring The Goddess"; this song leads us to the other positive element of this album: Lindsay Schoolcraft. She uses her own experience in the symphonic field — there is also a cover of "Nymphetamine" by her — to bring back one of the features that have always made Cradle Of Filth's album unique; the atmospheric passages of that song, the collaboration with guitars in "Blackest Magick In Practice" and "Right Wing Of The Garden Triptych", the slightly epic parts in "Onward Christian Soldiers" are just some examples that show how her entrance in the band is absolutely positive.
Precisely for the arrive of this new member, this time Marthus could focus on his drums and it is surely a good thing, thinking of the result of his efforts in "Manticore". We already know his style in Cradle Of Filth and his performance is decent, thanks to his abilities to extol the power of the aggressive parts and to adapt to the many rhythm changes; his work is similar to the one in "Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa" and "Godspeed On The Devil's Thunder", so you should know what to expect. Daniel Firth's bass should be noted too: in the previous album he was almost nonexistent, while in this one he had the chance to influence mroe the final result.
Despite being the (small) pillar of the band I always leave him till last, I'm not forgetting about Dani Filth though. I'll put the nostalgia for the good old days aside, it's clear that he took a different path; his voice is similar to the ones in the most recent releases, usually not too high-pitched but with some sharp screams to make them more varied. Finally, the lyrics: this album is based on "Malleus Maleficarum" (which means "Hammer Of The Witches"), the famous document about the persecution and the torture of the witches; even if they are not the best lyrics by Mr. Filth, their words blend smomothly with the music. What I found interesting it the creation of music which in many occasions sounds feminine, just like in "Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa" which was based on the story of Lilith; many passages seems to have the gentleness, the kind of energy and the emotionality of the women which are the main part of the concepts of these two albums.
All in all, the big changes on the line-up brought some positive elements in the band, which apparently can still make music worth of the name that produced it. As usual, the audience will be splitted in the ones who think that Cradle Of Filth died many years ago, he ones that think that they revived and the ones that liked every album of theirs, more or less. Thinking that "Hammer Of The Witches" could change this situation would be unrealistic, so depending on the category in which you identify you will find this album great or you will just have another disappointment. What do I think? In my opinion, together with "Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa" which I mentioned a lot of times in this review, this is their best release of the post-"Midian" era.