Want to like Ghost, but can’t stomach all the pomp and theater? Want to like High Spirits, but can’t stand fun and guitar solos? Well, Cauldron may be for you.
My biggest concern is this: Cauldron is so no-frills that they could actually use a frill or two. No offense intended to guitarist Ian Chains, but the addition of some guitar wizardry – some pyrotechnic soloing or an emphasis on memorable riffing – would help New Gods immensely. Most of these riffs feel skeletal, the framework of a riff, the progression beneath, but very little meat on those bare bones. And no offense to bassist/vocalist Jason Decay, but injecting a little more personality into the vocals could go a long way as well, especially since Tobias Forge and Chris Black both sound similar, but both have stronger musical foundations beneath. To further chastise Decay, Cauldron’s lyrics have always been sort of silly throwaways, and New Gods continues that trend. Even if riffs are important-er, words are important too, fellas…
Overall, New Gods is strong enough in structure — the songs are mostly in place, which is Cauldron’s greatest strength. Barring the unnecessary instrumental “Isolation” – which is just two-and-a-half minutes of arpeggiated chords, the kind of thing a guitarist would send a singer to write words to, but there are no words and no other accompaniment – most of New Gods is verse-chorus-bridge straight-up metal with catchy melodies at every turn. The harmonized arena-ready hooks, the basic chord structures: Every box is checked. The walls of this house are up and strong; the floors are level; and now it’s time for the decorations… and there aren’t any. It feels a bit… lacking.
Now, I’m not saying add choirs or keyboards or a Satanic Pope gimmick, but New Gods is so pared down that it feels like listening to the basic demos for a better album to be, except this is all there is. Only opener “Prisoner Of The Past” and closer “Last Request” sport riffs worthy of being called “riffs,” with the rest just being basic chord changes or guitar figures that, while technically qualifying for the term, don’t do much at all to stand out. The entirety of “Together As None” treads close to hair metal, albeit shot through with that same moodiness, so that it sounds like a weirdly depressive take on Poison. Everything on New Gods comes down to the vocal melodies, and this is metal, dammit, give us more, especially when you have the space for it.
All in, lest I seem too negative, let me say that I do enjoy New Gods–I just think there’s room for improvement, and Cauldron isn’t quite operating at full force. The hand is outstretched; the golden ring is hanging before it. The fingers brush it. The ring moves, ever so slightly away. The hand grasps again, falling just a hair’s width short…
Also, I don’t know exactly what that is on the album art, but it’s pretty rad.