August 21, 2014

Big Dumb Skulls presents: Cauldron Black Ram - Stalagmire

Big Dumb Skulls is a blog with a simple but brilliant concept. Guided by the mysterious Council of the Elders of the Skull ("a nine-man cabal nestled in an underground bunker somewhere in Luxembourg"), each day the Friars Wagner and Johnsen unveils a new skull cover, takes a look at the artwork, and gives a quick review of the music.

The writing is often hilarious and the put-downs are legendary ("This fucking band. God damned DevilDriver"). The Friars share a deep love of metal, and have a keen eye for some of the dumber clichés associated with it. I'm working my way through the Skullection from SKULL1, learning about metal albums I never ever want to hear, and the often tragic plight of the skulls adorning them. Like SKULL459 below.

The skull:
Let this be a lesson to sleepy skulls everywhere: no matter how tired you are, DO NOT lie down for a nap in a drippy limestone cave. You drift off for a couple decades of well-deserved rest and when you wake up, you’re fucking fossilized to the ground, with nothing to do but wait for some asshat paleontologist to show up and dig you out. And if one of your skull buddies finds you while you’re sleeping, you can be sure when you wake up there’ll be a dick drawn on your dome, in Sharpie no less. You’ll never live that shit down.

The music:
When I started spinning this disc, I was immediately reminded of Meathook Seed’s excellent, underrated debut, Embedded, which was built on weird, slinky riffs, jarring transitions, and a sort of willful inexactitude. No one ever made another album like Embedded, and I’m not saying that Cauldron Black Ram finally have. Nor am I suggesting that Cauldron Black Ram were influenced at all by that one odd Mitch Harris side project, but they have clearly arrived at a similarly strange notion of death metal (minus the keyboards and drum machine, though). Without sounding deliberately old fashioned, Cauldron Black Ram have made an album that evokes the spirit and dare I say curiosity that used to animate at least some small sliver of the death metal scene. Unquantized, only as tight as you can get from rehearsal, and defiantly mid-gain, Stalagmire is death metal freed from the horse-race demands of brutality, speed, and technicality that have nearly ruined the genre in the last decade. If it’s not as good as 2014′s leading contender for death metal album of the year, Morbus Chron’s Sweven, there’s also no shame in that second place finish. Cauldron Black Ram have been around forever, but I’d never heard them before now, and for sure I’ll be working my way backwards to determine when it was they got so good.
— Friar Johnsen

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1 comment:
  1. Ha! Awesome concept, awesome review. The Friars are correct in their opinion about Sweven, but even mentioning it in the same review makes me want to check out Cauldron Black Ram. Good stuff!