Cradle of Filth
Hammer of the Witches

There was a time in the late 90s and early 00s where England’s Cradle of Filth were one of my very favorite bands, and whether you liked it or not, they were legitimate superstars in extreme metal. I enjoyed 2000s Midian, 2003’s Damnation and A Day, and really liked 2004’s Nymphetamine, but I never really loved them as I did the band’s first four seminal efforts, The Principle of Evil Made Flesh, Vempyre, Dusk and her Embrace, and Cruelty and the Beast. All arguable classics. Then somewhere around 2006’s low point, Thornographythe band lost their luster and my devotion.

Admittedly, 2008’s Godspeed on the Devil’s Thunder and 2010’s Darkly Darkly Venus Aversa seemed to right the ship, but 2012’s utterly forgettable The Manticore and Other Horrors (so much so I didn’t even review it!) seemed to signal the death knell for Dani Filth. He’d seen his troupe essentially abandon ship, leaving him and drummer Marthus to soldier on with a new line-up of relatively unknown cast members: bassist Daniel Firth of Scottish death metalers Man Must Die, yet another female vocalist/keyboardist, Lindsay Schoolcraft, trying again to replace long-time female crooner Sara Jezebel Diva, long-time Root guitarist Ashok, and an unknown guitarist named Rick Shaw, from UK heavy metal giants NG26 (/sarcasm off). But somehow, Dani Filth has turned this motley crew into something that exudes the energy and vitality of the band’s early years.

No, this isn’t remotely as musically invigorating and sexually charged as the band’s first three albums, but for the first time in a long time, it feels like a Cradle of Filth album (heck, even that classic black/white logo seems to recall the band’s early days). With the legendary tome ‘Malleus Maleficarum’ as the album’s thematic and witchy lyrical base, now-skinny-again Dani is his usual gregarious self, and certainly as screechy as he’s ever been. And of course, the music is the familiar, Gothic, overly-theatrical and synth- drenched black/thrash metal the band has plied for over 20 years now, so at this juncture you either love them or hate them. And after the requisite spooky intro “Walpurgis Eve”, when “Yours Immortally” kicks in with one of Dani’s high pitched screams, dancing synths and rousing riffage, I could not help recall the band’s early sound – there is that sense of energy here.

Now of course, the entire album is not that hair-raising, but it’s often close, and certainly much better than The Manticore. I’d venture to say it’s better than the two prior albums as well. Dani seems invigorated by his new entourage, and COF is now clearly his sole vision. It seems to be back to a more sensual, symphonic/black tone rather than the Gothic-thrash tangent the band veered off on in the mid 00s. There’s more seething tremolo blasts and melodic, dancing, and menacing-but-erotic harmonies at play. And of course, synths and female vocals galore. Lindsay Schoolcraft performs in typically sensual/angelic COF fashion, but she’s understated and less prominent than past femme fatales (dramatic and solo filled “Deflowering The Maidenhead, Displeasuring The Goddess”, “Blackest Magick in Practice”, “The Right Wing of the Garden Triptych”).

“Blackest Magick in Practice” is actually one of the album’s other standouts. melding a sensual sway and tense blasts that recalls Cruelty and the Beast, while “The Right Wing of the Garden Triptych” delivers a raucous sexual stomp, befitting the above video (Marthuus’s strange looks notwithstanding). The album’s title track actually starts as one of the album’s weaker cuts, which had me a tad worried and remembering (or not) the last album, but its 2-and-a-half minutes or so really pick up the mood and pace with a stirring bass break.

The last two tracks before the instrumental closer “Blooding the Hounds of Hell”, could be construed as filler on an hourlong album, and certainly “Vampyre at My Side” seems like a solid but throwaway track. Yet “Onward Christian Soldiers” has the same rousing, redeeming effect as”Yours Immortally” did with the album opener, being the album’s most fierce track and featuring some really nice, furiously sweeping synth work.

It took three years – the longest gap between COF albums – for Dani and Co to deliver their 11th album. And while the band may be less relevant than they were 10 or 15 years ago, Dani and Cradle of Filth are not fading quietly into the night. They’re still lurking in the mist and the shadows, cloven-hoofed and foul throated, ill at ease with their fall from grace and now coiled, freshly envenomed, and ready to ravish those doubting souls out there…..or something.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
July 6th, 2015

Comments

  1. Commented by: Paul

    People often forget how great the debut album was. Back in the day when information was limited to a few scattered articles in magazines, CoF were right at the forefront of second wave black metal along with Emperor. Back in ’95, Principle of Evil and Nightside Eclipse were neck and neck for favourite Bm albums. They’ve become a shadow of themselves and I stopped listening after Cruelty, but it’s nice to hear they still have flashes of brilliance left in them.


  2. Commented by: Dan

    1. Just listening to the single. It really does feel like old CoF.

    2. Root is fucking awesome. I wonder if Ashok had any hand in the songwriting.


  3. Commented by: gabaghoul

    yep agree, this could be their strongest since Nymphetamine


  4. Commented by: jesusgod

    The singer is a juggalo? Nope,this isn’t for me at all.


  5. Commented by: Andrew Young

    This sounds like thr Cradle of Filth I loved in the 90s. I’m definitely glad that Paul Allender has left the band. I just don’t like his riffs much.


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