Knowing Cradle of Filth’s penchant for bells and whistles, I was not surprised when I felt the aura of this album to be overly pompous. The few brilliantly evil black metal riffs that arose were quickly suffocated in the muddled fantastical fluff for which the Filth is renowned. However, there were some truly poetic and dreamy moments that softened my formerly rigid pessimism. Be ye warned Filth lovers: as these words make their way across your abnormally colored contact lenses, know that the following response to the band’s latest release Hammer of the Witches is a tug-of-war between looking on the bright side and loathing the band’s general approach to black metal.
Let’s start with what went right. I will graciously admit that when it comes to instrumental tracks on this record, CoF succeeds in constructing haunting serenades full of dimension and beauty. Entrance and exit songs can grow tiring because often they don’t serve much of a purpose other than whooshing sounds and awkward chords. “Blooding the Hounds of Hell,” “Walpurgis Eve,” and “The Monstrous Sabbat” are all incredible tracks that showcase CoF’s know-how in making an orchestra sound as dark and foreboding as possible.
As I mentioned in my introductory paragraph, when it comes to making metal riffs these guitarists are fully capable of creating speedy and heavy passages. But there’s something about the way the symphony and metal weave to and from that makes me cringe as much as that one persistent motherfucker who insists on fitting two incompatible puzzle pieces together. “Yours Immortally” starts with a catchy piano riff that eventually leads into a speed-centric guitar line. When these elements start to intersect, I start to drown in all the oversaturated instrumentations. “Enshrined in Crematoria” trudges along to an interesting groove until Dani’s voice just ruins the heaviness for me. Then there’s the pagan “Right Wing Of The Garden Triptych” which sounds like an exile from a Stephen Sondheim musical.
If you are into the gothic, demon fairy-like aura of Cradle of Filth, then this will be much more to you than the blip on the radar that it was to me. If you are one of those true black metallers who will gouge someone’s eyes out the minute you hear an organ, Hammer of the Witches is the farthest thing from your jam.