As far as I know, metal is the only genre where a band can base its entire career on one subject. I don’t know of any pop or jazz bands who only write songs about ancient Egypt or the Vikings, for instance. Metal however is rife with these types of bands, every note and every lyric in service of a specific historical period, people or event.
Enter Australia’s Cauldron Black Ram. The band has based their musical output on tales of pirates, but not in a lame or silly way. If you’re looking for that shit go listen to Alestorm or Swashbuckle. Cauldron Black Ram’s dark metallic sea shanties are twisted and gnarled like the planks of a ghost ship. Their sound reflects the grit ‘n’ grime of the age of Blackbeard and Captain Kidd, with not a hint of the humor or quasi-drinking song nonsense that other pirate-centric bands tend to incorporate.
From what I can gather, Slubberdegullion is a concept album about a villainous buccaneer named Black Douglass. Whereas I could not find any historical evidence of a real pirate by that name, there was a Sir James Douglas who fought for Scotland’s independence and was known as “the Black Douglas”. However, there is nothing stating that he ever engaged in piracy, so I am fairly certain that the album’s story was entirely concocted by the band and is not related to him in any way. I find it refreshing that Cauldron Black Ram opted to take some creative license with their concepts rather than the “painstakingly researched” route that many historically minded metal bands opt for. However, the band does use authentic terminology such as “slubberdegullion” and “blunderbuss” to add an air of legitimacy to the proceedings.
Musically, Cauldron Black Ram’s specific influences are difficult to pin down. Though I do hear some Hellhammer/Celtic Frost in the riffing and tonal departments, the band has a very unique approach to rhythm and composition which is aided by a thick, crusty and bottom-heavy production scheme. The trio’s song-writing sense is simplicity itself, yet there is something decidedly off-kilter about it that makes it difficult to describe or draw comparisons. Essentially, Cauldron Black Ram is just too goddamn weird to be derivative.
With Slubberdegullion, Cauldron Black Ram have conjured up something sonically and conceptually unique, cementing their place as one of Australian metal’s most underrated bands. Easily the most creative black/death metal album I’ve heard this year and one that isn’t likely to leave my playlist for a long time to come.
(Note: Be sure to check out Cauldron Black Ram’s first album, the equally impressive Skulduggery, as well.)