(The End 2015)
Y’know, I don’t think Cauldron get the credit they deserve. We live in an age of plenty, where quality traditional / throwback metal bands are seething from the woodwork like termites after the Orkin man visits. I’m not knocking these new bands steeped in the ways of the olde; to the contrary, many of them are amazing and appear to be doing it for the right reasons. I am thankful for every single one of those younger acts playing old-fashioned music with heart and skill. In times of prosperity, it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always like this. In the not-too-distant past, there were precious few bands mining the territory of the NWOBHM masters, and those who were doing so faced a tough slog in an indifferent marketplace. Those determined warriors kept the flame burning bright when no one else did, and we owe them a debt of gratitude. I’m talking about the Twisted Tower Dires, the Widows, and yes, the Cauldrons of the world. Remember, Cauldron’s debut, ‘Chained to the Nite,’ came out seven years ago, and they’ve been out there chipping away ever since.
‘In Ruin’ marks the Canadian trio’s fourth platter overall, and their first release through The End Records. Given The End’s dodgy roster (from a narrow-minded traditional metalhead’s perspective), it was hard to see how Cauldron fit there. Thankfully, nothing has changed on ‘In Ruin,’ unless you’re counting the new drummer, Myles Deck, who blends in seamlessly. By every metric, Cauldron continue to walk the same path they always have, their signature sound fully intact and undiluted. One of the benefits of experience is that Cauldron are not trying to define their identity or develop their own sound – they already have an identity and an “own sound,” as the Europeans like to say. The quirky vocals of Jason Decay are instantly recognizable and sound like an old friend as they blast from the speakers. The production values, Ian Chains’ guitar tone, and the arrangements remain unapologetically old-school and unabashedly Cauldron, through and through. Perhaps that makes them quaint by today’s standards but to me, that just makes ‘In Ruin’ sound all the more authentic. And maybe that’s the best word to describe Cauldron right there: authentic. There’s a certain restraint in the performances that lets the songs breathe. Cauldron aren’t trying to show off. They came to rock, that’s all. They’ve got some cool songs and, yes, an authentic vibe to carry you through.
I realize that the above description could apply with equal force to any of Cauldron’s albums (that’s actually kind of the point), so how about a few words specific to ‘In Ruin’? The songcraft on this record is impressive throughout. “Burning at Both Ends” and “Santa Mira” are terrific uptempo (by Cauldron standards) tracks with addictive choruses and killer riffs. “No Return” has a good chance of being enshrined as a definitive Cauldron anthem (akin to “All or Nothing” off the ‘Burning Fortune’ album), encapsulating everything awesome about this band in the span of less than four minutes (before giving way to the gentle “In Ruin” instrumental coda for 90 seconds or so). “Empress,” “Outrance” … the list of quality tracks goes on and on. Let’s leave it at this: At this point, it’s an open question whether ‘In Ruin’ can topple ‘Burning Fortune’ as my favorite entrant in the Cauldron discography. It’s that good. So if you’ve ever liked Cauldron before, ‘In Ruin’ is an absolute no-brainer. And if you haven’t heard Cauldron but love all these new bands playing old metal, you owe it to yourself to check out ‘In Ruin,’ a strong effort by pioneers from the first wave of the musical renaissance we are all now enjoying.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~