Published Jul 09, 2015For a band best known for gimmicks — Dani Filth's ghastly shriek, the oft-obnoxious keyboards and the infamous "JESUS IS A CUNT" shirt come to mind — Cradle of Filth sure have built a lengthy career. Hammer of the Witches is the 11th album by Dani and his rotating crew; perhaps the most recent line-up shuffle has invigorated the group, as it might be their most lively full-length in a decade. Unfortunately, that enthusiasm comes with pros and cons.
Imagine a high school metal band: they're excited about their newfound genre and their capacity to play it, but their inability to control that energy results in a spirited yet scattered sound splattering. For every invigorating riff — and there are a few, running the gamut from more classical heavy metal to more extreme-leaning fare — there's an out of place shriek or jarring orchestration. Unlike their fellow once-black-metal, now-heavy-symphony comrades in Dimmu Borgir, who build expansive songs with their vast instrumental arsenal, Cradle of Filth's use of their orchestral palette feels like dilettantism; they flirt with the sounds, but never fully embrace them.
It's a shame, because there are plenty of moments worthy of headbanging throughout Hammer of the Witches, especially on "Blackest Magick in Practice." Unfortunately, they're too often interrupted by the album's half-baked sonic experiments. (Nuclear Blast)