Teutonic terrors Cradle Of Filth are back with a vengeance, with a new album and yet another line-up. Their newest abomination for Nuclear Blast, entitled Hammer Of The Witches is the band’s eleventh studio album and first with the new line-up consisting of guitarists Richard Shaw and Marek ‘Ashok’ Smerda, bassist Daniel Firth, drummer Martin Skaroupka, vocalist/pianist Lindsay Schoolcraft and the band’s unholy mastermind from day one Dani Filth, who after all these years is still somehow able to hit those earsplitting high notes.
The title of the album was named after the Malleus Maleficarum, a medieval document about the persecution and torture of witches and according to Filth, is not a straight out concept album like some of their previous releases, but admits it does have common themes running though out.
Hammer Of The Witches was aptly recorded at Haunted Grindstone Studios in Britain’s Witch County, were the producer pushed Dani Filth so hard, he had to see a vocal doctor and contains breathtaking artwork by Arthur Berzinsh that is based on the lyrical themes of the album.
After the slow build of instrumental opener “Walpurgis Eve,” the album explodes into the all out sonic assault of “Yours Immortally” and never let’s up from there, Filth’s initial scream proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that his voice has stood the test of time.
The skull crushing double kick & ballistic snare blasts in songs like “Crematoria” and “Vampire At My Side” have to be the equivalent of running a marathon for drummer Martin Skaroupka by the albums end and like them or not, there is no denying the mind boggling levels of musicianship on tracks like “Deflowering The Maidenhead, Displeasuring The Goddess” and “Onward Christian Soldiers.”
Hidden amongst the overwhelming brutality that dominates the album are the beautiful melodic interludes of piano & strings in “Blackest Magic Practice” and “Blooding The Hounds Of Hell.” While the female backing vocals on lead single and video for “Rightwing Of The Garden Triptych” really shine, adding much needed synchronicity and contrast to Filth’s male counterparts.
The song structures on Hammer Of The Witches are epic to say the least and with most songs clocking in at around 6 minutes, you certainly get your money’s worth. In fact, if you get the Deluxe or Limited edition of the album you get two more bonus tracks called “King of the Woods” and “Misericord.”
Here’s the bottom line. After all these years, Filth and company still have a hell of a lot to say and even more to prove. While they might not be reinventing the wheel, if it isn’t broke, why fix it?
Rating: 8 out of 10