After over 3 long years, one of Canada’s best metal bands, Cauldron, has returned with their fourth record. “In Ruin” is a continuation of everything the band has done up to this point, and while it offers little in the way of innovation, it does provide everything a Cauldron fan could want. Admittedly, this is a band that is hard to hype up. They play the most vanilla traditional heavy metal that you could imagine. I’ve heard complaints of Jason Decay’s voice being uninspired, or that the music is often too slow and boring; ironically, however, it is these elements that make Cauldron stand out to me. Sure, “In Ruin” is pretty much a very tame NWOBHM-styled album with some doomy elements thrown in (excepting the title track and a few other moments, which are actually very upbeat), but where Cauldron consistently wins me over is in their ability to create an atmosphere that is unparalleled. The often-plodding sounds with laid-back vocals conjure a feeling of intense mysticism and wonder. Cauldron usually achieves this by letting notes ring out as shredder Ian Chains moves from string to string within a riff. In similar fashion, the band uses backing vocals overlaid atop Decay’s voice in the chorus of the title track, as well as “Come Not Here”, to create the same layered effect.
As with the band’s prior records, where they really shine is in memorable songwriting. “In Ruin” kicks off with most of its best tracks. As mentioned earlier, the title song, “No Return/In Ruin”, is a speedy number that gets the energy flowing, not unlike previous openers “All Or Nothing” and “End of Time”. “Empress” is the first track to achieve the ethereal quality that Cauldron oozes, and is likely to become a quick fan favourite. The following song, “Burning At Both Ends”, shows the band using faster, muted riffs to again provide variety (though the chorus shows the aforementioned ringing notes). The brilliance does not stop there, however, as “Hold Your Fire” has a marching gallop in the chorus that provides an otherwise plodding song with some vigor (note that Cauldron is one of the few bands where the term plodding is not meant derogatorily). Not every song can be as great as these four, but none are weak. “Delusive Serenade” is an instrumental that shows exactly what Cauldron’s otherworldly qualities are all about, and is probably the most entrancing song on the record.
One area where “In Ruin” does feel a bit different from its predecessors is that the soloing seems a bit more controlled. In the past, the listener could expect to hear a solo at pretty much any moment, but the leads on this album feel much more deliberate and planned. The shredding is equally compelling in terms of quality, but I always appreciated the band’s willingness to unleash some furious fretwork at any time. Instead, it feels as though this album adheres to more standard song structures than they’ve used in the past. There’s nothing wrong with this though, because it is ultimately a very good collection of songs. And that is where “In Ruin” succeeds most. Through 4 albums, you can’t pick a single song out of Cauldron’s catalogue that doesn’t rule. This album might be very similar to the last one, but that is a testament to Cauldron’s consistency and quality, making “In Ruin” the early contender for album of the year in 2016!
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"No Return/In Ruin"
"Burning At Both Ends"
"Hold Your Fire"
4.8/5 or 96%.
Written by Scott