Locally, anticipation has been quite high for the release of Cauldron Black Ram's new album, Slubberdegullion, which has only just been released. In the interests of transparency, I will point out that these guys are mates of mine - but that small fact isn't going to stop me from writing an honest review.
Cauldron Black Ram have given us, with Slubberdegullion, a very bottom-heavy death metal release. The very first thing I noticed about it was the production - things like that, I always notice first, so it oughtn't to surprise you. In my opinion it's detrimental to the release, because it is a bit thick and yet, perhaps contradictorily, raw at the same time. To get the best out of Slubberdegullion you have to dick around with your equalizer for a bit to get it to optimum listening levels; once you do that, however, you can take the release on its merits.
I won't lie: the production values might actually turn some people off initially, but it's worth getting past. On repeat listens you could nearly be convinced that these production values are essential to the vibe of the release.
Slubberdegullion is a concept album: a pirate concept album. It tells the story of Black Douglass, and his band of villainous assassins who steal, kill and shag their way across the seas.
Concept albums are notoriously difficult to navigate (yes, I'm going the seafaring puns; sue me). It's a fine line between shit and greatness, because if you don't manage the concept properly then it can be a massive fail.
Happily, though, CBR have managed their concept well. The downtuned heaviness of the release suits its villainy; the vocals are well placed; and the artwork is really good - which comes from having the cover art painted in oils and time taken over it. Having the cover printed on card and not on a high gloss print was a wise choice, too, which you will notice when you have a squiz at the layout.
Slubberdegullion is filled with sexy rhythms and hooks. It's not particularly adventurous or innovative by any stretch, but it's well paced (and no, not full of blasts), and nicely written. The overall mood of the album is perfectly suited to the concept, which is what one ought to expect! Expectations in this game are rarely matched, however. I'd like to hear it played in its entirety in a damp, scummy dungeon somewhere. Maybe like the old Proscenium, downstairs amongst the dank. That would just make it.
The absolute standout moment for me on this release was about halfway through the track Haphazard Divulgence of Olde Evil: just prior to the mid-point, there rises a tide of tension, built initially on riffs. It's joined soon afterwards by the percussion, to drive it along. All of a sudden the pace changes and the track gets ominous. It's a great moment.
Cauldron Black Ram's Slubberdegullion is out now on Weird Truth. You can get your copy from The Cave distro.