Cradle of Filth_Hammer of the WitchesBritish goth-metal mainstays Cradle of Filth have had a bumpy ride since the new millennium came about. I’ll admit to checking out after 2000’s Midian, and from what I’ve seen, between members jumping ship en masse, half-inspired songwriting, and bad dance covers, I didn’t really miss much. Sure, I’ll check out the occasional song here and there, but for the most part, Cradle of Filth seemed to lack the ferocity that made the period between 1996’s Vempire EP through Midian such incredible albums. It doesn’t help that half of the band up and left between 2012’s The Manticore and Other Horrors and now, including long-time guitarist and songwriter, Paul Allender. With yet another new line-up and with the chips stacked heavily against them, does Hammer of the Witches, an ode to the Malleus Maleficarum, return them to the forefront of extreme gothic metal, or should we just burn this shit to the stake and be done with it?

After a very atmospheric intro in “Walpurgis Eve,” “Yours Immortally” blasts forth, and immediately you notice some major, welcome changes. Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka cements himself as a worthy follow-up to previous drummers like Adrian Erlandsson (At The GatesParadise Lost) and Nick Barker. Dani Filth’s screams, though still annoying shrill and overbearing when he hits the higher registers, are kept at a pretty comfortable mid-range, allowing for not only the enjoyment of the listener, but also enabling him to enunciate better, making his usually poetic lyrics easier to discern. But the biggest change is with new guitarists Marek “Ashok” Šmerda (ex-Root) and Richard Shaw (NG26). To put it simply, the two more-than-competent guitarists injecting some much-needed new (tainted) blood into the Cradle. There are twin-guitar melodies everywhere, recalling great memories of masterpieces like Dusk & Her Embrace. Hell, even Daniel Firth puts in a great bass performance with a good flourish near the end. Cradle, at this point in time, needed that shot in the arm in a huge way. In fact, I came away from this song very, very impressed, and I haven’t felt that way in a long time with their output.

By and large, this is a very guitar-driven album. There are no shortage of hooks, such as the main riff on “Blackest Magick In Practice,” which almost immediately reminded me of “Beauty Slept in Sodom” from Dusk. “Enshrined In Crematoria” and “Right Wing of the Garden Triptych” both possess strong tremolo melodies, the latter also benefitting from vocals by new keyboardist Lindsay Schoolcraft. But it’s “Deflowering The Maidenhead, Displeasuring the Goddess” that hits hardest. Between the incredible leads by Ashok and Shaw, and the frantic energy and atmospheric backdrop of the music behind them, I found myself returning to this song quite a bit. Again, when’s the last time I felt that way about Cradle? Yeah.

Cradle of Filth_2015

As with all Cradle of Filth albums, the production on Hammer is grandiose and thick, often to the detriment of the drums, with the bass drum especially sounding off kilter. The other, bigger problem is that the album is very long in the fang. 56 minutes of Cradle of Filth is a lot to take in, and I can only take so much of Dani’s screeching or keyboard fluffery. In fact, if the last three songs were omitted, this would’ve been a stronger record, as everything preceding was pretty solid.

So I went into Hammer of the Witches with some major trepidations, and came away quite impressed. Not a bad outing for Cradle of Filth. In fact, if (and it’s a huge if) they can keep this line-up intact for the next go-around, I’d love to hear what they come up with. Don’t shut the coffin on these guys (and girl) just yet.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: v0 mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Website: CradleofFilthOfficial | facebook.com/CradleofFilth
Release Date: Out Worldwide 07.10.2015

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  • Paulo Figueiredo

    I got the same feeling. It’s easily the best album they put out since Midian (though i enjoyed Damnation and Godspeed). The songs you mention are the best, Your Immortality and Deflowering The Maidenhead, Displeasuring the Goddess. I liked the fact that this album sounds like Dusk and Her Embrace with a Damnation and a Day production. The songs never sound forced and are very enjoyable to listen. Dani voice isn’t in its best and i think we need to understand that after so many years shrieking, and of course, aging, he has to sound different. Btw, by the review i thought you we’re going to give it a higher score… 3.5 would suit better to what you wrote.

    • Paulo Figueiredo

      Also, try listening to Sunset In The 12th House’s album «Mozaic». :)

  • Bewbs!

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Those are witches? Hammer? What Hammer?

    • *Moobs

      • Ralph Plug

        *Moops. The card says moops.

  • Pimpolho

    I enjoyed it quite a lot, to say the true. And i do agree with the fellow Paulo that 3,5 would suit the review better, but it is still a superb review, thank you Grymm!

  • Martin Knap

    I was kind of looking forward for this album because of the new guitarist form Root, I’m glad he’s doing a good job.

  • Dr. Scorpion

    The first time i really enjoyed these guys.Hope they keep it up and get over the slight case of Metallicaitis. Does anyone else hear the Behemoth influence ?

    Btw – Yay ! Yay ! Yay ! Grymm ! Grymm ! Grymm!

    • Styler

      It’s funny you say that, while listening to a couple of the tracks I did wonder if The Satanist was being played on repeat in the studio. Not a bad thing though.

  • Wilhelm

    while Dani’s makeup is getting worse and worse (who’s the twelve year old goth he uses for a makup artist?) I’m glad to see the music is getting better again.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      “Mommy, please tell the lady to do me a cat face!”

  • Osama Bhatti

    Super surprised to see this on AMG. I’ve been an avid Filth fan since I was a teenager. I think the “fall from grace” narrative people spin about them is way overblown, with a lot of people jumping on the bandwagon to seem cool or “cvlt.” Overall, they’ve only had a few albums that were shit (fucking Roadrunner…..) and they’ve been fairly consistent in quality metal. (They still do too much post-production on their stuff though)

    • Why would a Cradle of Filth review surprise you? We’ve been told all we do is review black metal!

      • Into soul winter I fly

        They aren’t bm. They’re poseurs.

      • Osama Bhatti

        My answer to that rhetorical question lies in Into soul winter I fly’s remark about them being poseurs lololol

      • sickbroski

        This is mainstream pop metal for posers! They even use keyboards!

    • Pascual Villaseca

      They hav been pretty consistant in their last 2 or 3 records. But theres nothing new to their formula. Its like they are playing it safe.. Havent heard this one, but ill give it a shot.
      PS: Gotta love the drummer though, Martin is a machine.

      • Grymm

        Martin definitely is a beast.

  • El Lado Oscuro

    Fair rate, very objective review. Agree. I especially concord with the (over)production.

  • Alexandre Barata

    My first time listening to CoF was with VEmpire, which I still think is truly majestic (and my favorite CoF work). After that I bought everything original of them until Nymphetamine, that its main problem was all songs sounded the same. After that I lost interest in them, just keeping VEmpire, Cruelty, Midian and Damnation (yes I love this album, and I think it’s a real masterpiece!!!). I don’t really know if I want to listen to this one, but your review made me hungry for it!

    • Wilhelm

      no dusk?

      • Alexandre Barata

        Nah, I know everyone loves it, but I cant listen to the full lenght of that album, I lose concentration too quickly when listening to Dusk…

        • Ugo Poifol

          Are you me ? I spent my teenage years listening to Vempire, Cruelty, Midian and Damnation.

          Though I gotta say, I never could go into Dusk, but the recent re-release finally made me appreciate it. The production is close to Vempire and really gives the song the necessary fury to make the songwriting shine. You should give it a spin.

    • Levly

      Apparently that record is not very popular, but I also think Damnation is their magnum opus, most ambitious, complex and well crafted.

  • Matthew

    Your review came off as more of a 3.5 to be honest, but I agree with what you wrote.

    • Grymm

      In all honesty, it’s because of the song lengths, production, and Dani’s screaming can be a bit much. However, this easily is one of the best albums they’ve put out in a long time. Mind you, they’ve not been together all that long, so I can see the next one being even better.

      Thank you for the kind words!

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    So the bass player is named Daniel Firth?? So we have Dani Filth and Dani Firth?

    • sssgadget

      We need a Colin now.

      • Dr. A.N. Grier

        They need to make this their mission.

    • Jukka Alanen

      They should find a new, bulkier guitarist, Dani Girth!

    • Like the two Dave’s from Megadeth

  • sui

    My first CoF album was Damnation and a Day, which sounded absolutely heavy and ominous to a 16-year old me. My view of metal music (which was largely occupied by nu-metal back then) was shattered and reformed. While I got into more extreme and ‘authentic’ stuff and they become less ‘cvlt’, I always got a soft spot for them and hope they (like you said, Dani mainly) will churn out sth…well, metal, since Damnation. Looks like this is the sign of CoF returning to form or even better. Def will check this one out.

  • Arjan Zwamborn

    Excellent review Grymm. Especially since you started out with stating you haven’t kept in touch with Cradle’s work, and yet you give this album a fair chance and a fair scoring. I agree with some of the posters though: your review reads like a 3.5 rather than a 3.0, but that is nitpicking from my part I guess.

    Personally, I think this album is excellent (like, more in the 4.0 range), and for me the best one they’ve released since Midian. However, that’s not for obvious reasons: it’s just that I think Midian is their all-time best effort, making this one the second in line. Half of the releases in between – Damnation and a Day, Godspeed on the Devil’s Thunder & the Manticore and other Horrors – were good to great in my opinion too, making to me only Nymphetamine and Thornography very mediocore (though they have their moments). I really like Dusk and Cruelty too obviously, but I gotta say that I don’t really get the love that Principle and Vempire always seem to get – the production is that horrid that I cannot seem to get into these.

    Anyways, my two cents on their discography aside, I think Cradle can only be enjoyed in two ways: a lot, or not at all. Depends on whether you can get over Dani’s, ahem, alternative vocal style. But for those (select few?), there’s a lot to enjoy here :)

    • Absolutely agree that Midian’s their best. I’ll also propose that Paul’s departure was a good thing. Other than Midian and Bitter Suites, I thought all of the albums he played on were thoroughly mediocre.

    • 517H

      Agreed, dude. It’s hard to explain but I think if the music accompanying Dani is righteously metal and galloping along then his vocals really work. But If the music becomes too serious and pompous then his vocals don’t work at all. His screeches should add icing to the metal cake, not the metal should add ice to the vocal single malt

  • Grumpyrocker

    Just listening to this album for the first time. I’m surprised to say I’m really impressed. I loved Vempire and Cruelty but since then none of the other albums have quite hit the spot, though I could never quite nail what the issue was. This new album gets it right and makes me realise stronger guitars were the main problem for me. There’s is a much more guitar driven album than recent works and the new guys do a great job. Yes the Filth are a bit silly – but metal is – and the band’s embracing of that is always something I have enjoyed.

    • Grymm

      I was just gonna say that I actually had fun listening to this.

    • 517H

      Yeah man the duel guitar attack is how Cradle should sound I reckon. Not the single guitar appraoch

  • Wilhelm

    Nothing is gonna replace the golden CoF era but this album is really good. The production is a little too polished but the mix/mastering is pretty full (and drums sound real). A little more editing and perhaps a couple more standout riffs would help, but overall I am pretty impressed.

  • Doomdeathrosh

    So, the Cradle still rocks! (Sorry for the pun!) Good to hear them now though.

  • Styler

    I was the same, loved Dusk… and Midian, everything after has been a disappointment. This is quite good though, it’s not jaw dropping, but like you I hope this line-up exists long enough to build momentum.

  • Tom Hardy

    Surprisingly not as bad as I hoped. They need to stop their ‘riff salad’ style of writing and stick to what worked for them from albums of old.

  • 517H

    Hey Grymm awesome review, man. It’s definitely a guitar driven album. And I like that. I’d go a 3.5. I’m in that camp that thinks it’s their best work since Midian. Sick solos too. The drumming, yes the bass drum could be a bit more clicky? But I love the quick tempo and blasting of them nonetheless.

    Once Deflowering the Maidenhead picks up at about 2:20 the album really gets going. Then straight into another ripper, Blackest Magick in Practice.

  • Angel R. Suarez

    I like this album way more than I wanted to going in.

    I may also be in the minority, but I’ve always enjoyed Dani’s ball-shriveling shrieks.

  • James Regan

    i have read all these comments, and im shocked. im going to give the comment that is reality. for all you guys citing midian and V empire, wtf are you even talking about? damnation had BY FAR the best guitar riffs, keybords and drums. hurt and virtue? enemy led tempest? thank god for the suffering? and all you guys hating on nymphetamine are hating for the sole reason that its commercialized, and you all want to think your true metal fans. but to say they had horribke guitar on that album???? dude re listen to nemesis, coffin fodder, and absinth with faust, and tell me its horrible guitar. you guys are fucking retards. thornography? re listen to under huntress moon, and rise of the pentagram. i mean these albums dont have the same lyrical genius as dusk…. or cruelty, (well damnation did) but the music is phenomenal. the albums after( godspeed,darkly,manticore, andTHIS ONE)have all been half assed music wise. danis written lyrics are still good in them all but the guitar riffs and keyboard from every single previous album were what made cradle such a unique band, now they just sound like every other underground metal band out there, behemoth dark funeral, meshuggah, i gotta say now that satyricon has become the better band.and its not danis fault its the guitarists and they keyboard. and btw as a last note,bi noticed they changed to shit once they lost adraian. the venom drummer everyone praises has been on every shitty album. Coincidence?

  • James Regan

    damnation was the best, musically, lyrically, all around, the best.