You’re wrong about Cradle Of Filth.
It’s not your fault – the prevailing consensus has been wrong about them for years now. Metal fans pride ourselves on dedication and loyalty, but that comes with a price – we’re extremely quick to turn on any perceived betrayal, and few crimes are less forgivable than a bid for mainstream approval. It’s no exaggeration to state that Cradle of Filth went from darlings of the underground to hated pariahs in a very short period of time, and once that bridge had been burned its effects were projected backwards in time until the commonly accepted descriptions of them (they’re a pop band, they sound like Marilyn Manson, they ripped off bands who in truth were inspired by them) bear no resemblance to the reality. This was never more clear than when the debut by Old Corpse Road – a band unashamedly vocal about their debt to classic Cradle – was praised by the same people who had nothing good to say about the band that inspired them.
Unfortunately for those who still care about them, since 2003 the band have not exactly been making things easy for themselves. Beginning with major-label debut Damnation Of A Day (Sony), their albums have all been plagued with the same flaws – too long, too many filler tracks and not enough of the razor-sharp song-writing that marked their early days. The latest in a long line of releases that promise a return-to-form but don’t quite pull it off, Hammer Of The Witches (Nuclear Blast) walks into all of these traps once again. It’s not a bad album – they’ve honestly never released a genuinely bad one – and it has its share of catchy riffs and passages, but once it’s over it proves itself entirely incapable of sticking in the mind. Compared to its predecessor The Manticore (Peaceville/Nuclear Blast) it’s either more classic or less ambitious, depending on how generous you feel, but the result is the same – an album that sounds like Cradle by numbers, that’s offers little reason to care if you don’t already, and not enough reward if you do.
Hammer Of The Witches is a competent enough album by a band who know exactly what they’re doing, and fans of their most recent material will find something worth listening to here, but those still waiting for a return to former glories may need to finally accept that we’re not going to get it, and decide whether we’re happy to settle for the next best thing. Anyone who wouldn’t understand why Metal fans would defend this band would be better advised to listen to any of their first three albums or the VEmpire EP (Cacophonous) with an open mind to hear what they’ve been missing.