Company: Earache Records Release: 2009 Genre: Traditional Reviewer: Vinaya
Short but effective album
I admittedly never paid attention to Canadian doomsters Goat Horn, but after hearing this first full-length from ex-Goat Horn bassist Jason Decay's new band, I am beginning to think I should brush up on (but not against) the horn. Yes, despite its rather stupid, nonsensical title, Chained to the Night is a short but sweet foray into a world of nifty metal sounds from a bygone but fondly remembered era.
The band's first release was the 2007 EP Into the Cauldron (appropriately reissued on vinyl after the fact), a steaming little pot of traditional metal goodness that combined speed, melody and just a hint of doom-friendly chunkiness that appeared to be left over from the Goat Horn days. Chained to the Night continues in a similar vein, but with a noticeable shift in direction. While the EP ripped with a refreshing dose of almost thrash metal-like verve, the material here is, for the most part, noticeably slower (mid-paced), more melodic and less busy. As a result, Chained to the Night comes across more like a gritty, slightly sludgy (detuned?) modern approximation of vintage Dokken, W.A.S.P. or even Black ‘n' Blue, whose anthem "Chains around Heaven" is faithfully covered here.
Mind you, there is nothing wrong with the new direction in my book. It's just that after the more intense attack of the EP, it seems a bit of a letdown, at least in terms of sheer energy (on the plus side, however, you can get two Into the Cauldron-era tunes as bonus tracks on the limited edition of this album). Another problem, albeit a minor one in my opinion, is that Jason Decay's vocals are something of an acquired taste, a bit nasal and strangely scratchy in tone on some of the more melodic passages. Also, while cuts like "Young and Hungry" and "Conjure the Mass" are catchy and engaging, "Fermenting Enchantress" drags a bit, and the otherwise enjoyable could-be hit single "Chained up in Chains" could have used a more creative wind-down, rather than its very repetitive fade-out ending.
Those, however, are my only quibbles with this short but effective album, which shows major promise and provides considerable enjoyment for fans of traditional metal in its various guises. For my money, a considerable portion of this album's quality is provided by guitarist Ian Chains, whose tasty, skillfully executed and commendably melodic solos reliably provide that extra special something to take each song to the next level. Bravo, man, and kudos to the whole band for forging a familiar yet fresh approach to the hallowed sounds of Reaganomics-era metal. Really, I'm being a bit nitpicky with this album, if anything, as it is a truly enjoyable celebration of ideas from metal's glory days, making Cauldron one of an increasing number of acts currently infusing traditional metal with some much-needed fresh blood. What Cauldron- and other bands attempting this sort of sound- need to do is hone and perfect their individual take on the classics, so that it may be recognized as more than just a solid (and welcome) tribute to their influences.
Timely note: As I complete this review, the band is staging a U.S. tour with Swedish trad/melodic thrashers Enforcer, whose debut full length Into the Night is another welcome offering of old-school metal ruleage.
About this Writer: Vinaya Saksena // Vinaya is either a writer who dabbles in guitar playing, or a guitar player who dabbles in writing. A Maximum Metal staffer since 2004, he has also served as a reporter for several newspapers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Although his obsession with music is such that it does not allow time for much else by way of hobbies, he also enjoys traveling, trivia, photography, British comedy and the occasional A-Team re-run.
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