Cradle Of Filth have been greatly missed by fans of extreme/black metal with symphonic and/or gothic overtones. Hammer Of The Witches is their first album for three years – their longest gap between albums – and the first to feature new guitarists Ashok and Richard Shaw.
They sound revitalised, playing with a primordial vigour, as though purging centuries of rage – which is exactly what Dani Filth and co are doing here. Recorded at the reputedly haunted Grindstone Studios, Hammer… concerns the witch hunts of the 16th and 17th centuries. “It’s about payback for decades of torment,” explains Filth, he of the Satanic growl, proposing a moral dimension to the sonic mayhem.
Walpurgis Eve provides the typically Filth-y orchestral intro, the violins sounding like harbingers of universal sorrow. Yours Immortally opens with a choir of Valkyries flying across an ominously dark sky as the band play with a prog-ish disregard for fixed tempo.
Deflowering The Maidenhead, Displeasuring The Goddess is sheer florid metal magnificence. The title track features savage shredding. The Monstrous Sabbat (Summoning The Coven), with its plucked strings, is the quintessence of dark beauty, a beauty that summons the suffering of the world – of all worlds.
Right Wing Of The Garden Triptych is music for ritual slaughter – the slaughter of the religious right. Finally, Onward Christian Soldiers is a seven-minute hell-ride into infinite darkness. Not bad for a quarter-century-old band who are bedding in two new members./o:p