Review by Daniel for Cauldron Born - Born of the Cauldron (1997)
1997’s “Born Of The Cauldron” debut album from Atlanta-based US power metal outfit Cauldron Born is a very interesting inclusion in our September batch of feature releases as it doesn’t sit all that comfortably alongside its more traditional sounding heavy metal & power metals peers in The Guardians. In fact, it may well have been ostracized from the group & forced to sit & eat in the corner of the lunchroom in complete isolation. The main reason for this is its consciously technical approach that sees it fitting much more comfortably in our The Infinite clan. Fuck knows how it’s not already labelled as progressive metal because this record is about as progressive as you’ll find. I mean this fucker sounds like Yes got blind drunk & decided to become a US power metal band & I think it’s fair to say that the results are very mixed.
I really struggled with “Born Of The Cauldron” to be completely honest. With the exception of some of the ultra-underground & super-necro sounding extreme metal, my background as a musician sees me being quite picky when it comes to performance, execution & musicianship & these are clear weaknesses for Cauldron Born. Despite the fact that the song-writing & composition is extremely ambitious for a debut release, some of the band members aren’t even close to being up to the task at hand & it leaves a lot of this material sounding like a bit of a mess. The secret to writing captivating & impressive progressive metal is to present rhythmically & melodically technical instrumentation & vocal arrangements in a way that flows smoothly & still enables the song-writing to dig its hooks into the listener’s memory bank. In fact, your less technically inclined listener should almost not notice the technique on display & be able to enjoy the music for what it is i.e. actual music rather than a medium for showcasing someone’s talents. Unfortunately, Cauldron Born don’t seem to have any sort of understanding of this requirement & have subsequently presented us with some highly complex compositions that don’t flow & sound very jerky which leaves tracks like “The Sword's Lament” & “In Fate's Eye a King” sounding like a bit of a mess really. This may not have been such an obvious problem if drummer Bill Parsons could play in time however this is unfortunately not the case with his kick drum work being consistently behind the beat & guitarist Howie Bentley regularly struggling to keep in time with him. Howie has his own issues to be fair as he really wants to be a shredding guitar virtuoso but his chops aren’t even close to being able to pull off what he’s attempted here. Thankfully bassist Shawn Kascak is a bit of a star & manages to recover things slightly with his Chris Squire influenced bass lines constantly shifting through run after run of inventive melodic noodling.
Vocalist Danny White is your classic US power metal front man. His operatic style & clear higher register tone sound a lot like virtually every other vocalist from the movement but he has a much more challenging task in front of him than any of his contemporaries. Trying to layer a workable vocal hook over music this rhythmically complex was always going to be immensely challenging & he’s done a reasonable job of it, despite falling in a heap on several occasions due to the lack of fluency in the instrumental performances. And this really does highlight the problem with “Born of the Cauldron” because the best material is clearly aligned with the less complex tracks. Songs like “The Final Incantation / In the Dreaming City” & the doomy closer & album high point “Unholy Sanctuary” are a clear indicator of what could have been achieved if the instrumentalists had stayed within the confines of their technical limitations & focused on writing some strong riffs for Danny to work over. Sadly, there’s not enough of this & I found myself struggling to make much sense of “Born Of The Cauldron” for the most part. There’s no doubt that it’s a consistently interesting experience though & I was sitting on the fence between a 2.5/5 & a 3/5 rating for some time but at the end of the day I can’t deny that the moments when I can honestly say that I’m genuinely enjoying myself are too rare for me to go with the higher score.
For fans of Slauter Xstroyes, Deadly Blessing & mid-80’s Fates Warning.