Review by Tom Mead
In this strange post-Lemmy world that we now sadly find ourselves in, a lot of people’s hunger for traditional, uncompromising rock and heavy metal has been greatly renewed. Not that anyone could adequately replace Motörhead, but any band that can satisfactorily live up to the example shown by the likes of Lemmy and co is greatly appreciated right now.
Sadly, judging by In Ruin (their fourth album), Cauldron fall somewhat short of this mark. The Canadian 3-piece are generally considered to be part of the so-called “New Wave of Trad Metal” that emerged 5 to 10 years ago; alongside contemporaries such as Enforcer, White Wizzard and Wolf, Cauldron helped to reinvigorate classic early-80s sounding metal, acting as a welcome contrast to Metalcore, Post-Hardcore, and everything else-core. They first came to my attention with the catchy and brilliantly titled song Chained up in Chains from their debut album Chained to the Nite, but In Ruin unfortunately does not reach the same heights.
Cauldron being what you might call a “retro” Metal band, you wouldn’t expect to find much in their music that you’d consider to be original or innovative. Personally, I have nothing against young bands that wear their influences proudly on their sleeves and simply want to have a good time making music that sounds an awful lot like that of their idols. The main problem with Cauldron though is that they don’t sound like they are having a good time. Much of the performances on In Ruin sound laboured and forced, as if making this album was some sort of unpleasant chore as punishment for not eating all their vegetables. Jason Decay and Ian Chains are respectively perhaps the most boring singer and guitarist I’ve ever heard; they both sound half asleep and distinctly uninterested.
Credit where credit’s due though, Cauldron do actually have some talent as songwriters, though this is only shown sparingly on In Ruin. Opening track No Return/In Ruin has a good beat with a steady driving rhythm and shows that they have a particular knack for writing a strong vocal melody that you’ll be humming for hours afterwards. This is followed up by Empress which is one of the few proper fist-pumping Metal songs here; an intricate folk guitar intro reminiscent of the In Flames instrumental track Dialogue with the Stars leads into a Melodic Metal anthem that Hammerfall and Gamma Ray fans will certainly appreciate. Apart from that, it’s really only closing track Outrance, with its chugging Speed Metal riff that reminds me of Dio’s We Rock, that really hits the mark here. The remaining 6 tracks are varying shades of generic blandness that attempt to pay tribute to ’80s Metal heroes. Hold Your Fire is like a Ratt B-side with none of the sleaze and snarl, and instrumental Delusive Serenade sounds like a poor man’s Orion, a weak attempt to sound deep and serious. And I’ll never forget Santa Mira with its embarrassingly bad chorus lyrics: “Santa Mira/drawing nearer/sign in the mirror/face getting clearer”.
All in all, Cauldron could perhaps make a good album if they tried to sound a bit more excitable and full of life. This kind of Heavy Metal is best enjoyed with a pint in your hand and a smile on your face, but if Cauldron were the house band at a party I attended, I’d probably leave early. Moreover, in a world where bands that have clearly been a big influence on Cauldron, like Iron Maiden and Saxon, are still making great music, they need a lot more of an effort to be properly noticed and appreciated. Moments of good songwriting and some half-decent vocal melodies do not stop In Ruin from being an overwhelmingly dull album.