The term “Pirate metal” should be enough to strike fear into the heart of any self-respecting metal fan when you consider the musical output of the likes of Alestorm and Running Wild. However, gimmickry has long played a significant part in the world of heavy metal and if all bands sounded and looked the same there’d be no point, right? Which is partly why Australia natives Cauldron Black Ram and their brand of dark and doomy sea shanties deserves a mention. Also partly because their third full-length “Stalagmire” is an unexpected piece of buried treasure.
Sounding like they’ve spent a long time soaking in the filthy brine of old-school death and doom acts such as Autopsy, Obituary and Master, the three-piece bring a deliciously ramshackle approach to the nine songs featured on “Stalagmire.” Opening track ‘Fork Through Pitch’ may stumble a little as it repeats its repetitive main riff over and over again, but ‘Maw’, which follows is fantastic, employing thrashy rhythms and ghastly vocals to killer effect. Equally good is the lurching doom death of ‘Discarded Death’ which would have been the crème de la crème of the 90s Death Metal scene had it come out in 1991, while the mid-paced stagger of ‘A Litany of Sailor’s Sins’ sounds like it could fall apart at any minute and fall rotting to the deck.
The thrash flavours of before return with a vengeance on the ripping tones of ‘Bats’ which also features some truly ghastly howls and rasps from vocalist Ben Newsome. The pace increases even more on the gonzoid punk of ‘Cavern Fever’ which switches between simple three-chord riffs and feral mini blasting sections a la early Napalm Death and even finds the time for a wild and messy solo. But just in case that was too quick for you, the harrowing Cathedral-on-bad-pills doom of ‘From Whence the Old Skull Came’ should put things right.
While it’s impossible to distinguish what Newsome is saying, it’s undeniable that “Stalagmire” has an almost indefinable pirate feel. The record sounds like it was recorded in a dripping sea cave on some remote harbour surrounded by plunder and bones while the rotten, mouldy riffs and melodies could only be played by the betrayed sea dogs of John Carpenter’s “The Fog” rather than an un-named twerp in eyeliner and dreadlocks. Clichés aside, grab a bottle of rum and hit play on “Stalagmire” before the band return to claim what’s rightfully theirs.