May 22, 2020

Cauldron Black Ram - Slaver

By Bryan Camphire.. If you don't already know, Cauldron Black Ram are living death metal legends from Oz. This band has been making uncompromising original death metal since 1996. Slaver, their new release for the venerable label, 20 Buck Spin, takes their sound to new heights.
By Bryan Camphire.

Artwork by Misanthropic-Art.

If you don't already know, Cauldron Black Ram are living death metal legends from Oz. This band has been making uncompromising original death metal since 1996. Slaver, their new release for the venerable label, 20 Buck Spin, takes their sound to new heights. This band cooks more flavor into a single riff than most bands eke into entire albums. Theirs is the sound of a power trio taken to its fullest extreme.

Never a band to blast beat their way from start to finish, each composition on Slaver is packed with ever-changing rhythms and feels. This is what sets Cauldron Black Ram apart from other acts in extreme metal. In a single track, they're liable to thrash it up at a gallop, only to slow things to a lurch, then lock into an OSDM style mid-paced stomp. Slaver continuously leaves the listener wanting more of each tasty riff only to outdo itself in intensity with what comes next.

The band's know-how comes from experience. The members' other active projects - Mournful Congregation and StarGazer to name just two of many - are legends in their own rights. Both of those bands have also been making high-test death metal since the mid-90s. What is so interesting about Cauldron Black Ram is that theirs is a sound that is always re-inventing itself. Unlike nearly any other death metal act comprised of elder statesman who've been making music for the past quarter century, Cauldron Black Ram's material keeps getting more and more fresh with each new release. To date, Slaver is their masterpiece. The fat is trimmed. The menace is visceral. 

Favorite moments on this record include but are not limited to the following examples. The second riff in the second song, titled, "Smoke Pours From The Orifices From The Crematory Idol" (If ever there was a song title that conjures the ambiance of the music within, this is it): the disjointed drumming tramples forth like a violent stampede. Another blood curdling detail occurs and recurs in track four, "Graves Awaiting Corpses" (Another fittingly evocative title): The corroded arpeggiated guitar chord that creeps out of the rests during the verse and claws at you with its rusted hook. Memorable moments such as these abound across the entire wretched run-time of Slaver. The seasick rhythms, the gurgling tar-pit low end and the craggy guitars all punctuate the rough edges of this jagged, fearsome music.

This music originates in a scorched section of the Earth. Australia is home to some of the most extreme metal being made in this day and age. The unholy trinity of Portal, Impetuous Ritual and Grave Upheaval, in addition to StarGazer, Mournful Congregation, Temple Nightside, Consummation have all together significantly raised the quality standard of what extreme metal can be. Up to now, Cauldron Black Ram was perhaps the least well known of this pack, lurking in the shadows & toiling away with evil patience. Slaver stands to mark their name on the map indelibly, for all those who dare to venture to death metal's darkest depths. The fact that the vinyl of the first pressing of Slaver already sold out on release day shows that people are taking due notice of this massive record.

May 13, 2020

We Miss Live Music So Much (Beastwars)

By Calen Henry. "Damn the Sky" was the first song where I got Beastwars. From that single track I was hooked and tore through their discography just in time, unfortunately, for them to go on hiatus then announce that singer Matt Hyde was (ultimately successfully) battling cancer.
By Calen Henry.


"Damn the Sky" was the first song where I got Beastwars. From that single track I was hooked and tore through their discography just in time, unfortunately, for them to go on hiatus then announce that singer Matt Hyde was (ultimately successfully) battling cancer.

After all that their announcement of a surprise comeback album, last year's IV, was the most exciting musical moment of 2019 for me. The anticipation was well founded; it ended up being my favourite album last year. It turns out that wasn't the only surprise the band had up their sleeve.

On May 1, Bandcamp's second "all proceeds to artist" day since global COVID-19 quarantine efforts began and bands faced a cascade of gig cancellations, the boys in Beastwars decided to drop a live album. Not just any set either, their entire comeback concert from July 2018 at Wellington NZ's San Fran. As a Canadian fan who is unlikely to be able to catch the band live, it's an incredible gift. Not just a comeback album, but their comeback show, professionally recorded and mixed. It's even got some nice dynamic headroom with a master clocking in at DR8.


Being a year before the release of IV the setlist is made up entirely of songs from their trilogy. They start the set with the Beastwars song "Damn the Sky". From there they rip through some of the best tracks from the three albums in largely chronological order though they save two tracks from the first album, the savage stomp of "Red God" and mantra-like "Daggers" as the one-two punch to end the set. "Daggers" is such a perfect note on which to end the set, with its repeated refrain

Play that song
Play that one we know
Play it loud
Play that one we love

They sound like a different band from the snapshot of despair, grief, and hope captured on IV. By time they got back to the stage Matt was back to full demon-bellowing capacity and the set is a band with fire in their bellies ripping through their back catalog for their hometown crowd. It's magical and kind of perfect for a band with so much mysticism in their lyrics to hear the moment they hit the stage after so much turmoil and a rebirth. To top it off the band have been kind enough to ask for absolutely nothing in return. It's Name Your Price on the band's Bandcamp page.

May 8, 2020

We Miss Live Music So Much (Hamferð)

Hamferð was the last band I saw before the Covid-19 pandemic shut everything down. With nothing in between, their set has stuck with me to this day. It was a welcome release at the end a somewhat underwhelming festival. It was one of the best sets I have seen and a different experience from most other metal shows.
Hamferð was the last band I saw before the Covid-19 pandemic shut everything down. With nothing in between, their set has stuck with me to this day. It was a welcome release at the end a somewhat underwhelming festival. It was one of the best sets I have seen and a different experience from most other metal shows.


Hamferð turns the metal band experience on its head. All members dress in jacket and ties. Even the drummer wears a white shirt, a vest, and a tie. When a song stops, the stage lights are immediately turned off. There's no contact with the audience between songs. After our applause we can spend a few seconds contemplating what we just heard before the next one begins. The mood is somehow both solemn and very joyous.

Jón Aldará has both a deep full-throated growl and a majestic clean voice. He sings in Faroese and sounds alternatively like an emissary from Hell or a chanter of otherworldly sacred songs. He's far from the typical extroverted frontman. During the beautiful encore, the person in front of him gets a brief pat on the shoulder, and the rest of us get a quiet "tak." And that's the extent of his interaction with the audience.

The drummer, Remi Johannesen, is more active than most drummers playing music this heavy and sad. There are passages where we're almost in drum solo territory, at least briefly, and it sounds so good. Now and then the lighting is used to great dramatic effect, like the time when Aldará switches from crooning to growling and is instantly bathed in firelight. The sound is just perfect. At times I get so carried away it feels like I'm not touching the ground.


Hamferð is signed to Metal Blade Records. Their second full-length, Támsins likam, and the live EP, Ódn, are on Bandcamp. For their debut EP, Vilst er síðsta fet, and their first full-length, Evst, you can go to the Faroese Tutl Records, and they will ship them to you, literally, aboard a boat from the Faroe Islands. Recently, Aldará was announced as the new vocalist of Metal Bandcamp favorites Iotunn, and I cannot wait to hear how that turns out.