Cradle Of Filth – “Hammer Of The Witches” (Nuclear Blast)
Cradle Of Filth are England’s premiere black metal band and certainly no strangers to controversy. Back in the early 90s their infamous (and now banned) ‘Jesus Is A C–t’ t-shirts were causing as much rage offstage as the band were causing on it! Signed to cult label Cacophonous and with the potential to rival even Norwegian firebrands Mayhem, CoF’s gigs were riotous affairs that were fueling a burgeoning British black metal scene. However, for reasons that some of those early fans will never forgive them for, CoF themselves appeared to be on their own journey – that of commercial stardom – embracing the mainstream press as accolades were bestowed and questions were raised as to their truly satanic beliefs beyond their make up. Strangely enough, as the underground distanced itself, the band themselves took it all in their stride, evolving over time by bringing in gothic, occult and symphonic elements to complement their sound, along with fresh members while growing all the time. These days only vocalist Dani Filth remains in a CoF which is more internationally diverse as is its style. Still shrouded in occult imagery and capable of ferocious blast beats with a screaming fury that makes Filth’s voice a cornerstone of their sound, CoF today are more of an extreme metal band, happily soaking up their past experiences of goth, symphonic and even melodic death along with their black roots. “Hammer Of The Witches” is the band’s 11th album and sees a return to a twin guitar sound courtesy of new guitarists Ashok and Richard Shaw, both of whom show their quality through their heavy raging riffs along with some dextrous melodies that gives CoF a thick driving sound but one continuously refreshed through their creativity. Filth’s ear shattering 5 octave range screams are relentless throughout the 11 tracks but largely thanks to Lindsay Schoolcraft’s suave keyboards, ranging from catchy harpsichord melodies to passionate atmospherics and her tender femme vocals, songs like ‘Right Wing Of The Garden Triptych’, ‘Blackest Magick In Practice’ and ‘Deflowering the Maidenhead, Displeasuring the Goddess’ are given a real dimension of class – what a lady! With Martin Škaroupka adding in his tasteful orchestrations brilliantly contrasted by the brutality his relentless drum work, “Hammer Of The Witches” does a lot to win back my early respect for the band, albeit this time not for their extremeness of their imagery but more for their enthralling music.