Personnel: Jason Decay (vocals); Ian Chains (guitar); Myles Deck (drums).
Audio Mixer: Olof Wikstrand.
Recording information: Lincoln County Social Club, Toronto (06/2014-11/2014); Union Sound, Toronto (06/2014-11/2014).
The fourth studio long-player from the Canadian retro-metal torchbearers, In Ruin finds Cauldron doing what they do best: effortlessly distilling classic hard rock and NWOBHM tropes into punchy blasts of 21st century proto-metal that go down like a tray of happy-hour well shots. At just 42 minutes long, the nine-track set never overstays its welcome, due in large part to the familiar hooks, economical guitarmonies, and meaty yet never overstuffed production. Cauldron have always been unapologetically enamored of the '80s metal scene, but their brand of studded wristband-delivered, stadium-ready hard rock skews more toward the brooding blue-collar bellow of Saxon, Raven, early Dokken, and Diary of a Madman-era Ozzy than it does the boorish, Aqua Net-soused artifice of the Sunset Strip. The bifurcated opener/title track ("No Return/In Ruin") plays to all of the band's strengths, pairing a propulsive, thrash-kissed backbeat to magnetic poetry metal lyrics like "Take no prisoners, feel no pain." That those words (and others like them) are filtered through the anesthetically mellow, evenhanded croon of the aptly named Jason Decay gives In Ruin an even more dramatic retro feel that invokes more AOR '70s fare like Blue Öyster Cult and Rainbow. Musically, however, the band sticks with the program. The brooding "Empress," the beefy, synth-padded "Come Not Here," and the dueling late-album epics "Corridors of Dust" and "Delusive Serenade" aren't just LP standouts, they're career highlights. Sure, that career was built upon a model that has long ceased to grant the kind of dividends that can support mascot-adorned Learjets and fleets of semi-trucks full of pyrotechnics, but the talented yet largely inoffensive Cauldron have never relied on flash. In Ruin is just rough enough around the edges to leave a mark, but it won't keep you from showing up to work on Monday. ~ James Christopher Monger