Originally written by Michael Roberts.
If you’ve never acquainted yourself with this Australian black metal twosome before, Cauldron is the ideal introduction. Ruins is guitarist/vocalist Alex Pope and jack-of-all-trades drummer David Haley (The Amenta, Psycroptic), and this, their second long-player builds on very nicely from 2005’s Spun Forth As Dark Nets and the debut Atom and Time EP from the year before. This really is a strong album that delivers the goods on virtually every level. The cold and desolate atmosphere so intrinsic to black metal is here in ample measure, but there’s also a suffocating and strangely alluring quality to what Ruins do. Indeed, atmosphere is only the half of things on Cauldron – it’s also a surprisingly rollicking affair with a plethora of killer metal riffs to boot.
If the opening one-two of “Where Time Is Left Behind” and “Threshold Forms” is above-average yet typical black metal, the title track is where Ruins really start to show us what they’re capable of. “Cauldron” simply has it all: a dramatic, pulsing intro, unusual but captivating chord progressions, straightforward rock grooves and a ferocious blasting section at 2:30. Haley’s drumming is a forceful presence throughout the album, particularly in his fills and double-kicks which are often superbly rendered. Not to be outdone, Mr Pope’s guitarwork is equally stellar, and his distinctive dissonant/melodic interplay and well-placed acoustic moments add much to the depth of Ruins’ music. The latter part of Cauldron carries its own in terms of ear-pricking moments, with the bizarre, snaky main riff and cleverly layered vocals on “Upon These Skeletons” and almost bluesy jam partway through “Genesis” being especially noteworthy.
The inclusion of film samples on a couple of songs (most notably on the aforementioned “Genesis”) adds very little to proceedings and seems at odds with the otherwise larger scale this album operates on. Guys, leave out the sound bites next time – the music has enough drama and atmosphere on its own. Otherwise, this is top-notch. Black metal aficionados should find plenty to enjoy here, but it’s likely that casual and even non-fans will also dig Cauldron on some level thanks to its broad musical palette and completeness.