Ahhh...those zany, much maligned British metallers have returned with a new album. "Hammer of the Witches" is the 11th release by COF and it's a huge step up from 2012's "The Manticore and Other Horrors".
The album features the debuts of a trio of new members--guitarists Richard Shaw and "Ashok" Smerda and keyboardist/vocalist Lindsay Schoolcraft. The return of the twin guitar attack gives "Hammer" a much more melodic sound with the aggression that has been a constant for COF with the exceptions of the last three releases. Dani's vocals still sound just as crisp and venomous as they have since the start of the band's career. His high pitched shrill would cause a banshee's blood to curdle and his barked vocals have grown even more sinister and diabolical. Add to that the angelic vocals of Schoolcraft and the band seem to have harkened back to the days of "Cruelty and the Beast". Odd that album comes to mind because Schoolcraft's vocals sound eerily like Sarah Jezebel Deva's, the female vocalist on "Cruelty". Shaw and Smerda provide a much needed dose of melody and twin guitar work that allows the band to return to having the influence of the great Iron Maiden ever present throughout as well as adding some much needed heaviness. Tracks like "Blackest Magick in Practice", "Enshrined in Crematoria" and "Hammer of the Witches" are classic Cradle of Filth with a bit of a modern twist.
I do feel that the album uses the keyboards more evenly as well, allowing the ability to function as either a backing or lead instrument lending itself to the feel of the songs. As always, they provide tons of atmosphere on each track. The production is precise and perfected as has been the case since the band found their commercial success. Why people feel that the band had sold out when they made it big is beyond me but it's clear that there is still plenty of life left in Cradle these days.
With this release, COF will surely regain some of the fans that had grown disenchanted with the recent stagnant sound and garner a whole new legion of fans as well. I have found a renewed love for this band that I hadn't felt in about seven years or so. Clearly, taking their longest break between albums gave Filth and company the ability to refocus their drive and come out with a banger of an album. So, when you pick this album up, don't be afraid of that feeling of nostalgia that plucks at the back of your mind. Revel in and enjoy the splendor of a return to form for this band.
About this Writer: Greg Watson // Greg Watson has been hooked on the loud and heavy sounds since the summer of 1994 when he first heard the opening notes of "Operation: Mindcrime" by Queensryche. Since then his tastes have expanded and grown like the ever evolving heavy metal tree of genres. He has been an active member of Maximum Metal off and on for 10 years. In his spare time, Greg enjoys deciding the fate of his loyal subjects in the realm of Skyrim and secretly playing air keyboard to "Separate Ways" by Journey when no one is watching. He currently resides in Roanoke, VA with his wife and his metal wannabe beagle.
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