Much like a storm cloud over the Download festival, Cradle of Filth have returned this summer with a brand new album, “Hammer of the Witches”, and a brand new line-up in tow. Say goodbye to the sunshine because things are about to get gloomy.
The album title is derived from the English translation of the ‘Malleus Maleficarum’, a tome written in 1486 by Heinrich Kramer which detailed the practices for torturing those who were suspected of witchcraft and demonology.
And while “Hammer of the Witches” isn’t a concept album in the strictest sense, it does take a lot of cues lyrically from things written in the book, which as I’m sure we can all agree is right up Cradle‘s alley.
Album opener ‘Walpurgis Eve’ is the typical calm before the storm instrumental Cradle album opener. It sets the tone perfectly for what is to come, it’s a shame that it is an instrumental as it is named after ‘Walpurgisnacht’ or ‘Witches Night’, a gathering of witches that began in Germany in the 19th century which is a major holiday celebrated in LaVayen Satanism and is the anniversary of the founding of the Church of Satan, I feel like some lyrics or words capturing the imagery that conjures could have been spectacular in opening the album.
‘Yours, Immortally’, the album’s first proper track, shows that the heaviness and speed of years past is back and in full effect. It also displays the pipes of new keyboard player/vocalist Lindsay Schoolcraft as her and Dani Filth perfectly compliment each other on the main hook. As opening salvos go this is as good as they get and is right up there with ‘Cthulhu Dawn’ and ‘Gilded Cunt’ in terms of memorability and brute force. It’s one I’m hoping becomes a live staple in the future.
The three songs that have been pre-released from the album show many of the shades the album is made up from – ‘Right Wing of the Garden Triptych’, with its electronic intro, lush keys and haunting female vocals is the quintessential Cradle single and is a song that you will have stuck in your head for days; it also gives a little vocal shout out to a character from the bands past, for all you Easter egg hunters out there. ‘Enshrined in Crematoria’ will be the song for the guitar players as it features some blistering solo work and some NWOBHM-style twin melodies that show that Cradle can still shred when they want to. ‘Deflowering the Maidenhead, Displeasuring the Goddess’ is somewhat long-winded and drags a little towards the end of its length and I would say is the least accessible song for me personally on the album.
The title track shows off a fast pace and has a thrashier vibe about it that is akin to the ‘Principal of Evil Made Flesh’, which is a nice little callback, as the faster material in the bands catalogue is some of my favourite material by them and it helps to really pull the album together and show that they can switch up the pace as and when it when it is needed.
Cradle of Filth, for my money, are one of the most significant but underrated bands to grace the metal scene ever. When I first got into them as a teenager they seemed like the biggest band in the world because everywhere I went either someone was talking about them or wearing one of their shirts. Quietly over the course of 22 years they have amassed one of the most diverse bodies of work that any band would be proud of, and while some albums are clearly better than others, they have never been afraid to take risks, which is something I have always appreciated about them.
With a brand new line-up breathing new life and pumping new blood into the beast, it feels like Cradle of Filth have made and album that both honours their legacy whilst looking towards their future and an album that feels classic and fresh at the same time.
This is Cradle of Filth firing on all cylinders with an album firmly planted in the black metal roots from which they came, proving not only that they remember where they came from but that they can still do it better than some of the new upstarts on the scene as well.
“Hammer of the Witches” is by far the most complete and definitive statement the band has made since their masterwork “Midian” album 15 years ago, and yes it may sound obvious to say this sounds like a new band but it really, really does in many ways. It feels like a band that has been awoken from a slumber and is ready to take down everything in its path.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Cradle of Filth, and this time there is hell to pay…