Its been hailed as the "return of cradle". A fan pleaser, well received by critics and the bands 11th full length in a string of records releasing every two years on average. For some, myself included, the band lost their way back at the turn of the millennium with 2000s "Midian" which made a significant shift in sound. I haven't kept up with the band over the last decade and so this slipped into my playlist with ease, for the most part it resembles the traditional Cradle style I'm very fond of. With another major lineup change Dani has found the chemistry to spark the glory days. Two new guitarists, a change on keyboards and female vocals, and only another two who were present no further than the last record "Midnight In The Labyrinth".
"Hammer Of The Witches" best tracks would sound right at home in a set-list alongside Cradle's hallmark songs. The rest fall a touch further from the tree. Although writing some fantastic songs, the vast majority of it comes from the same principles, techniques and songwriting that worked so well on "V Empire" & "Dusk... And Her Embrace". It lingers in a balance between inspiration and calculation where sometimes the melodies persuasion is engulfing and other times the reminiscent becomes a reminder of what song or riff its akin too. The lead guitarist brings unfamiliar electric guitar solos into the earlier parts of the record, lacking in cohesion they dictate shifts and climaxes in the song while simultaneously feeling out of place in Cradle's dark and gothic sound. For the most part they nail the style and vibe but on this instance gave it an unnecessary weak point. In front of the lush orchestrated Extreme Metal is Dani's voice who's age can be heard. Its far from a concern but the signs are there. The lower guttural ranges coming across slightly gruff and lose. His shrill high pitched scream still powerful but shy on its intensity. He holds it together for the whole record well with the usual styles and same timing on delivery. It makes me wonder how much longer he can keep at it.
Not much unexpected happens across the course of the record, a decent collection of songs to entertain, what is most surprising is how inspired a handful of them feel. With more consistency at that peak this could of been quite a special record, however it is not. Production wise its squeaky clean, well balanced with just enough noise in there to keep a vibrancy going. Guitars are very crisp and clear, allowing them to master a range of riff styles audibly. Strings and keyboards use lush high end tones that gracefully fit in and only the drums pedals sound a little clinical and sterile at high speeds. Its another brick in the wall for Cradle's catalog and I am left feeling they should of taken more time to pursue the magic they sparked on a couple of tracks.
Favorite Songs: Deflowering The Maidenhead Displeasuring The Goddess, Blackest Magick In Practice