This is Cradle of Filth. They wallow in the extreme, both in image and sound, which is a lot of death metal trappings, executed with a flair for the classically dramatic. Vocalist Dani Filth stated: “The artwork for Hammer Of The Witches was created by Latvian artist Arthur Berzinsh and is a lavish walk-through of the lyricism, drawing on rich renaissance themes and displaying them in beautiful-yet-unsettling scenarios. Half of the detailed pieces are totally original for the release, others are Berzinsh classics cunningly tailored to the themes of the album, which are themes rife with heady witchcraft, be it persecution, retribution or unfettered spiritual liberation. The female form is rampant throughout the artwork, unashamedly displayed in its classical rendition of beauty… and horror. 1. “Walpurgis Eve” 2. “Yours Immortally…” 3. “Enshrined in Crematoria” 4. “Deflowering the Maidenhead, Displeasuring the Goddess” 5. “Blackest Magick in Practice” 6. “The Monstrous Sabbat (Summoning the Coven)” 7. “Hammer of the Witches” 8. “Right Wing of the Garden Triptych” 9. “The Vampyre at My Side” 10. “Onward Christian Soldiers” 11. “Blooding the Hounds of Hell” With a name like Cradle of Filth, the lyrical themes obviously dredge the darkest recesses of the human psyche. The words are then spewed upon the listener with a vocal presence that sounds like an irritated troll with a deathwish. The band has gone through as many as 20 different members along the 11 albums that have dropped since 1994. So the vision tends to stay roughly the same, but apparently falling in line under frontman Dani Filth proves challenging to most. Speaking from personal experience, the one time I saw these guys live in a club… as headliners… with a prepped stage ready to go… they were 45 minutes late to start the show and Dani threw a little hissy fit because his mic wasn’t working properly. The guy is like 5’1″ with an apparent Napoleon syndrome, but he’s a creative little shit and is the lynch pin that keeps this unit together… or keeps it alive to replace the moving parts when he can’t. The band is undeniably talented, and if you like your heaviness extreme, with a flair for dramatic gothic visuals and vague Satanic references… Cradle of Filth deliver intricate, challenging and complex material. Witness, “Deflowering the Maidenhead, Displeasuring the Goddess” (with lyrics.) Another brutal track (that highlights some of the album artwork, which is noteworthy).