Following the two decade trip of Jason Decay‘s (Jason Junop) post-secondary school (high school) doom metal chugging in Goat Horn up towards Cauldron‘s sublime 80’s hard rock reveals an artist lead first by the muscular and stoned allure of doom metal then ultimately driven towards the powerful melodies of late NWOBHM and the heavily nostalgic sweet spot connecting 80’s heavy metal and hard rock. As incredible as Goat Horn‘s ‘Storming the Gates’ (2003) was it was clear soon after that a new melodious intent struck Decay‘s existential core as his skill grew and his passions moved away from Venom and Cathedral towards the ‘tamed’ speed metal of ‘Threatening Force’ (2005). From the dissolution of Goat Horn thereafter came the opportunity to expand upon those ideas came with the formation of Cauldron in 2006 alongside drummer Steel Rider (Flying Fortress, ex-Goat Horn) and guitarist Ian Chains (ex-Thor). Of course they’d hit upon a strong second wave of new old school heavy metal popularity and were quickly signed to Earache Records after their 2007 EP ‘Into the Cauldron’ proved quite popular. Truth be told in an era of progressive intent and ambitious competition Cauldron appear as a calm, collected and consistent entity as they shed layers of heavy metal with each release.
‘New Gods’ is at it’s core an insightful modern take on classic mid-80’s hard rock that mounts the softcore balladry of early 80’s Scorpions and Dokken and shirks that pompous hair metal pussy-grabbing in favor of tuneful rock that’ll appeal to fans of contemporaries Ghost, Haunt, and Spell. This is an evolution any Cauldron follower has seen coming despite their Enforcer style speed metal jabs on ‘Burning Fortune’ (2011) the greater effort towards ballads on ‘Tomorrow’s Lost’ (2012) saw some new mastery developing yet wasn’t fully realized until ‘In Ruin’ (2016). Sure it was ‘softer’ in many respects as Cauldron sonically divorced their sound from doom and speed metal in favor of a sound that was equally gloomy but without any of underground true heavy metal’s forceful egotism. Even if they were perhaps no heavier than W.A.S.P. at that point the hooks were deadly on ‘In Ruin’ and there was no doubt that in taking some extra time to write the album paid off.
With a bit of extra time to tour and breathe in between records ‘New Gods’ appears with the expected refinements in terms Cauldron‘s production, tighter performances, and remarkable songwriting. If you’re looking for the heavy side of NWOBHM or spike-spitting speed metal consider that this isn’t that; The way I see it this is for folks who’d prefer Tygers of Pan Tang‘s ‘The Wreck-Age’ over ‘Spellbound’ due to it’s melodic focus and AOR-ish first impression. I might be making it sound more retro than it is… but the gist is that it will appeal to folks who are still vividly aware of 80’s hard rock and heavy metal classics. ‘New Gods’ will take you back with some harmonies and guitar work but Cauldron do not dwell in nostalgic references as much as they dig their own channel of anthemic heavy metal influence hard rock.
If ‘In Ruin’ offered some greater poetic catharsis for an imploded relationship then ‘New Gods’ has a few more things to get out before moving on. No longer sullen but still aching in a ‘Savage Amusement’ kinda way Decay‘s lyrics take a visible trip from acknowledgement and personal resolution towards frustration and resignation; It is both affecting and somewhat hard to follow as (in true 80’s fashion) the tracklist pushes a few clunkers towards it’s end for what I’d consider an anti-climax. The first four tracks are so powerful and catchy that when “Save the Truth” dissolves into “Syracuse” it almost serves as a tripwire for a full spin of ‘New Gods’. “Never Be Found” and “Drowned” are still up to the standards of Side A but “Together as None” is almost tongue-in-cheek fucking Vaseline-on-the-lens after school special 80’s rock and drives me up the wall every time. “Last Request” isn’t the worst closer, though, and features some of the better guitar work on the album. It all works as a full listen but those two bumps made for slightly warty repeat listening.
I can recommend ‘New Gods’ if only for it’s obvious strengths and with some oversight for it’s weaknesses. I think the “No One Like You” rhythms of the opener “Prisoner of the Past” will be hook enough to pull many folks in but what is sorely missing from this exploration of 80’s heavy rock and AOR balladeer intent is the signature guitar work that separated bands like Scorpions and Dokken from the glam squad of the era. Earnest sorrow and clever harmonies are a fitting replacement up to a certain point and as a fain of ‘In Ruin’ I was happy with ‘New Gods’. My favorite moments beyond the opener came from the choruses of “Letting Go” and “Save the Truth” but I found “No Longer” vital in that it bridges the two songs thematically. There is a lot worth taking in on Side A and I’d basically suggest any combination of those first four tracks for preview.
To be by your side. 3.75/5.0
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