“New Gods” Are Stirring the Cauldron in Philly
Back in the 1990s, Tomas Pascual was well-known in underground metal circles. He booked extreme fests like Deathstock 1994 in New York which featured the most extreme bands at the time; he also wrote about them all in Metal Maniacs. He was the biggest proponent of a burgeoning death metal scene -- no band was too obscure to miss, none were too heavy.
This is why it was a shock when he was up front at a Dokken show -- not even a real concert but a special acoustic event -- singing to every song. Yes, even “Dream Warriors.”
“There was a time you could like Dokken and still love underground metal,” he explained at the time without a hint of remorse. And it was true. The NWOBHM was big enough to accommodate Venom and Heavy Pettin’, and even on this side of the pond, Accept and Judas Priest were revered by heshers whether they used hairspray or not.
The latest Cauldron release New Gods is a throwback to those times. Although the band’s traditional heavy metal has prompted many to lump them in with current NWOBHM-worshippers such as Enforcer (whom they toured America with two years ago) and White Wizzard, album number five is overflowing with melody and musicianship. The catchy songs and guitar histrionics seem pulled directly from the George Lynch mold.
Huddled on a couch in an oppressively hot and tiny dressing room in the basement of Philadelphia’s Boot & Saddle, Cauldron plead guilty as changed.
“This is a rare occasion where he's not wearing one of his Dokken shirts,” joked guitarist Ian “Chains” Kilpatrick while motioning towards bassist and vocalist Jason “Decay” Junop. “Absolutely Dokken’s in there,” he affirmed, “and I think they always have been. Me personally, I take a lot from Dokken. I think they're great songwriters and as far as musicians go, those guys are like ten out of ten. Maybe except for Don.”
The band, rounded out by drummer Myles Deck, all laughed. “But at the same time I can relate to that because I'm not the best singer. I'm a character singer, not a textbook singer and Don is too.”
All being in their mid-30s, the members of Cauldron not only missed out on the times when all metal mattered but the days of friction between the two camps. They’ve certainly heard all about it.
“Absolutely, but I never found Dokken to be one of those [glam bands],” said Junop. “They're not Poison. Dokken writes better songs and they're better musicians. I think it's the fact that all their songs are about love that they get lumped in or they were from LA or they had fucking hairdos but I think Dokken really is a classic heavy metal band.”
Kilpatrick still deals with the fallout from those times as owner of heavy metal emporium Stained Class Records in Toronto.
“I get punished with stories about the heyday of the Toronto scene, especially this one shirt we have hanging up on the wall that actually belongs to Jason. It says, ‘Toronto: Home of Heavy Metal,’ and it's like a metal tuxedo print on a shirt. Head shops on Yonge Street were selling them by the truckload in the eighties.
“The other thing they sold there were Venom Black Metal back patches where as soon as you wore it, like a few times, the ink would crack off,” he recalled. “That's how they spotted a poser. If they saw a guy wearing a ‘Toronto: Home of Heavy Metal’ shirt, they would kick their ass, but they would spare someone who had a blank back patch because they knew it was a Venom patch where the ink fell off.”
We live in times where some feel that wearing Journey raglan sleeves or Hot Topic Too Fast for Love tees are fashion statements. Deck addressed this as succinctly as possible when he stated, “Irony sucks. Sincerity is where it's at.” Junop concurred: “There's no fashion or style shit with us. It's just like strictly what our ears like. If we're not cool because of that, fine, but I think at the end of the day it makes us kind of original.”
New Gods sounds triumphant and uplifting but that belies lyrics that, according to Kilpatrick are “so dark, deep and personal that it is almost positive.”
Junop elaborated: “I think maybe it sounds positive because musically we were already starting to work on some of the songs before we even went on that tour. Some of those riffs were kicking around for a while. Although things have gotten better for us since then, but when I was writing those lyrics…” he trailed off.
Although the band had a harrowing brush with death in a van accident in February, 2016, that was “just the beginning of it,” according to the vocalist. “Then there was a whole sequence of personal things that followed that, at least in my life, and it's all in there in the lyrics. Things have turned around since then. Things have gotten much better, but it was a low point, I would say. I lost a couple of people very close to me, including my dad. A long-term relationship ended around that time. I was really down in a hole personally, but the struggle within the band is definitely in there too. It’s [all] in there.”
“Letting Go” in particular “is sometimes a little emotional” for Junop. The track is about the loss of his father Barry who gets an “In Memoriam” mention on the inlay jacket of the CD and LP.
The contrast between the soaring, optimistic music, and lyrics dealing with loss, depression, and “Isolation,” which is literally the title of an instrumental intro to album closer “Last Request,” was not something the band planned. However, it allowed Cauldron to make an album they feel is easy to understand.
“We definitely want uplifting melodies even if the lyrical content is dark,” affirmed Junop. “I think that makes it easy for people to relate to. It's okay to feel like shit.” The drummer then summed it up, “I think you just kind of feel at home in despair.”
One thing that New Gods should put to bed is writing Cauldron off as nothing more than modern-day NWOBHM hero worship. It’s something the band never understood to begin with.
“The New Wave of British Heavy Metal is just a small part of what we do.” Junop conceded. “We were always thrown into that, but for us it was just a lot of classic heavy metal, but that includes the US power metal from the Metal Blade era. That was a big part of it for us, especially in the beginning, and a lot of German heavy metal as well. Defenders of the Faith is one of my top records. I’ve definitely tried to work that into Cauldron over the years.”
“I think we sound a lot more American than British if you're talking about that era,” said the guitarist. “My favorite New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands I don't really hear it in our sound at all. Like Saracen – it’s almost full-on keyboards – or Jaguar, I don't really hear. I always thought at least our guitar stuff that I write was always more Virgin Steele or Obsession.”
“We’ve ripped off so much Virgin Steele and Obsession and nobody knows it,” Junop laughed.
New Gods is a metal album whose influence spans continents and decades of metal (and not just metal: Kirkpatrick enthused how he attempted to channel Wipers guitarist Greg Sage for the solo on “Last Request”). Yet there’s still a contingency for whom the melodies might seem a bit much for an underground metal band.
“There are certainly rules nowadays,” admits Junop. “We just don't play by them, whether that works for us or against us.”
New Gods released last Friday via The End Records.