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CAULDRON – Breaking Through?
Anthony Morgan
February 2011

Cauldron (l-r): Chris Stephenson, Jason Decay and Ian Chains

Late 1999 witnessed the formation of traditional heavy metal outfit Goat Horn in Pembroke, Ontario, Canada, though its lifetime would only span across seven years; after cutting two full-length albums and one EP in the form of Voyage To Nowhere (2001, self-released), Storming The Gates (June 2003, October 32nd Records) and Threatening Force (September 2005, October 32nd Records) respectively, Goat Horn split in June 2006.

While guitarist Brandon Wars would go on to form Zuku, vocalist / bassist Jason Decay would continue Goat Horn’s stylings in another group: Cauldron. “Goat Horn broke up very abruptly,” Jason confirms. “We had something good going, and I didn’t wanna stop what we had going. Me and the guitar player got in a fight, so I put out the word that I was looking for a new guitar player to continue what Goat Horn was doing. Ian got in touch, and we basically picked up where Goat Horn left off right away; we did the Into The Cauldron EP, which was half of what was gonna be the next Goat Horn album. I have pretty blurred memories of that, but I remember we had a good feeling about it – we were really excited about the songs. Into The Cauldron has just my compositions, but if we had recorded the whole full-length of what would’ve been the next Goat Horn album it probably would’ve been a lot more diverse.”

Goat Horn drummer Alan Chambers followed Jason into Cauldron, but left after the self-issue of March 2007’s Into The Cauldron EP. Steel Rider, who drummed on all of Goat Horn’s output, temporarily filled in. “Al was playing in three bands while he was in Cauldron, so he was just spread too thin,” explains the frontman. “He was getting busy with Toxic Holocaust and basically chose to do that full-time, which meant he didn’t have enough time to do Cauldron anymore. We got back Steel Rider who was the first drummer in Goat Horn, and he just came back temporarily to help us out until we found someone. He did shows off and on with us for a year, and then he did the drums on Chained To The Nite. That was about it for him.”

Was Steel Rider considered a full-time member at the time Jason, or was he always deemed temporary? “We knew he wasn’t in it for the long run; he wasn’t committed to the touring and stuff, but was more into the ‘getting married, buying a house and having a kid’ lifestyle. Playing our kind of music, you can’t really afford to do that because it’s a hard living (laughs).”

Jason Decay

On October 10th, 2008 it was publicly revealed that Cauldron had signed a multi-album worldwide record deal with Nottingham, England’s Earache Records. “They started emailing us out of the blue, asking about the band and what our plans were,” the vocalist reveals. “We knew what they were up to, and they offered us a deal. There wasn’t really anyone else interested at the time that could do something for us that we couldn’t do for ourselves, and they were into signing the band for as we were – for what we did. Actually, before we were doing Cauldron I remember Al from Earache’s US office wanted to sign Goat Horn, but I guess the people back in England didn’t think the market was right or whatever. The classic heavy metal sound wasn’t really happening at the time, but I guess musical trends change and came around in our favour, and then all of a sudden they wanted to sign us. I don’t know why they changed their minds, but maybe because Cauldron was gaining more of a presence at that time. We had done a European tour by ourselves, and things like that.”

Maybe Earache felt that Cauldron has more potential to succeed than Goat Horn Jason? “Yeah, maybe. Ian really cleaned up the songs a lot with his style of guitar playing; Brandon was more of a dirty riffer where Ian is more of an accomplished guitar player in all aspects, so I think that helped a lot. Maybe just starting over with a new name and things like that helped as well. I don’t know.”

Inaugural full-length and Earache debut Chained To The Nite arrived in stores on April 6th, 2009. “I was very happy with that one,” the bassist reflects. “I thought it was very diverse; it had the diversity of the older Goat Horn stuff, and showed the other side of the band that the Into The Cauldron record didn’t. In terms of production, I think it was a bit rushed because we recorded that album before we even signed with Earache. We recorded that almost a year before it came out in maybe five days or something, so it was very rushed for a full-length record. I think the songs are great though. I just wish we would’ve had a bit more time to record it in the studio.”

What was this other side of the band which Chained To The Nite showed that Into The Cauldron didn’t? “Into The Cauldron was very straight to the point, abrasive and in-your-face,” Jason comments. “Chained To The Nite has longer, more doomy stuff, songs like ‘Fermenting Enchantress’ that really show the other side of the band. That heaviness of the band, and not just the aggressive part.”

Although a multi-album contract was inked with Earache Records, the contract was inked following the recording of Chained To The Nite. Therefore, the release was self-funded. “It came from our own pockets, and we also borrowed money from our friends and people around us who had a few bucks to throw in,” the frontman admits. “Even though we knew Earache was interested in signing the band, we weren’t relying on them. We were gonna make that record either way, and the only thing they did after they signed us was they had the album remixed. It’s got this really raw and rushed recording and then this really long, clean mix, so there’s two different things going on there.”

Upon the album’s release, Cauldron performed several concerts in its native Canada. “Canadian shows have always been great for us as far back as our first Canadian tour about eight years ago or something,” beams Jason. “It’s always been a good market for us, even when heavy metal wasn’t so popular. I guess the only tough thing about touring Canada is the fact that the cities are very far apart, so logistically it’s hard to travel. I know the last time we did a Canadian tour on our own we actually just flew out to the West Coast and did a bunch of shows there, and flew back and then drove out to the East Coast because the cities are so far apart.”

Several UK dates saw Cauldron act as support to Swedish metal quartet Wolf. “Yeah, that was a good time, a nice short little UK tour,” the singer remembers. “They were good guys; we got along great with them, and I think the shows went over well.”

Chris Stephenson

Chris Stephenson stepped in behind the drumkit during 2009, a role he performs to this day. “Chris’ band Aggressor were opening for Cauldron every time we went through Ottawa, so we got to know those guys and we’d become friends with them,” Jason discloses. “Because we’ve never had a stable drummer, we were always looking out for other drummers.

“I believe we actually asked Chris to audition about a year before he joined the band, but he wanted to finish high school first. He didn’t wanna have to drop out of high school to tour so we got a new drummer, and then sure enough a year later we needed a drummer again. We asked Chris again, he auditioned, and it’s all worked out ever since.”

So he’s definitely in for the long haul then? “Well, I hope so (laughs). That’s up to him.”

Chris Stephenson’s induction came in the guise of North American treks with Enforcer and Municipal Waste. “The Enforcer tour was a good time,” the bassist divulges. “It was a bit of a rough tour financially because both our bands are pretty much not unknown, but not that well known in the States. Cauldron had only done maybe a handful of shows in the north-east of the US before we did that full American tour on our own with Enforcer, and Enforcer had never played here before at all. The West Coast was great, the East Coast was great, and the whole Midwest part of the country was shit. Either way though, we had a good time doing it. The Municipal Waste tour was our second time around, our second full US tour, and that was much better; Municipal Waste is more established and has a lot bigger audience, so a lot more people were aware of the band on that tour.”

Did Cauldron receive a positive reaction on these two respective tours? “Oh yeah. It was really good, actually. On the Cauldron and Enforcer tour, everyone that came out to the shows loved it because they came to see us. On the Municipal Waste tour we were a bit more sceptical going into it though because it was such diverse tour – Brutal Truth was on that tour as well. It was a weird mix of heavy metal, thrash and grindcore, but it went over well. We didn’t have a problem at any show; people seemed to love it, so it was good.”

Chained To The Nite’s touring was concluded by a four-week European stay, where Cauldron played at several open-air festivals as well as providing support to Death Angel and Nevermore for half a dozen dates. “That was three different little tours in one there,” Jason clarifies. “We did the first two weeks with Suicidal Angels and Enforcer, which was great. We had this massive tour bus we shared that with all three bands, and Steelwing was on that tour as well. Good shows, good times. We did a week with Death Angel and Nevermore which were bigger shows, but not as much fun. Why was that? I don’t know. Maybe no-one knew who the band was, or maybe they just didn’t give a shit about us. I don’t know.”

Cauldron wasn’t well received? “The audience were just very stiff. I guess it’s just playing for an audience who have no idea who you are or something. They were bigger shows, but dead crowds. Very boring (laughs). I don’t know if their fans are more reserved, or what it is. The festivals were great though; the festivals had some huge audiences too, and those were great shows. We then went and did another week in the UK with Enforcer, which was pretty shitty actually (laughs). We missed two shows.”

Ian Chains

Laid down at Toronto’s Rogue Studios with engineer Jameson Elliott – who recorded 2002 Goat Horn effort Storming The Gates – sophomore outing Burning Fortune underwent issue on February 14th, 2011. “Cauldron is coming from the same place we always have which is basically just playing the kind of music we wanna hear, and our goal every time is to not change but improve upon what we’ve already done,” the vocalist affirms. “That’s to try to write better songs or the best songs we can, and try to perform them as well as we can.”

Was there a greater recording budget for Burning Fortune? “Yeah, there was,” Jason concedes. “We got to spend something like 16 days recording and mixing this album, so it was a big step up and it allowed us to spend more time tracking it and getting better performances. I don’t think we spent as much time mixing this one as we did the last one; with the last one we spent less time tracking it and more time mixing it, whereas this time we spent more time tracking it and less time mixing it.”

So Burning Fortune arguably has a lot better sound? “I think so, yeah. Even though Chained To The Nite came out in 2009 it was recorded in 2008, so we basically had a full two years to write and demo these songs and work on them. Another thing we also had to our advantage this time was the fact that we had Chris in the band a year before we did this record, so we actually got to rehearse the songs as a band and demo them as a band which I think helped a lot.”

“I guess everyone’s got their own definition of what heavy metal is, but to us it’s just a good solid slab of classic Canadian metal,” the frontman says of the album’s musical stylings. “If you like good classic metal which is well-written… I think it’s a good record which has lots of energy and lots of integrity.”

Are Canadian bands like Exciter an influence on Cauldron? “Oh, of course. In Canadian metal, for me really anything from Lee Aaron to Voivod. Anywhere a good song comes from really.”

To gauge Burning Fortune’s lyrical content, listeners have to look no further than the titles of the compositions. “Most of them have to do with real-life situations – what we’re living, what we’re going through,” Jason notes. “Burning Fortune basically sums up us putting everything into this band. It’s us gambling with our future, you know? We could wind up ten years down the road when we’re in our 40s with nothing to show for years and years of playing metal. We’re gambling with our futures here, but on the other hand I guess it could turn into something.”

Burning Fortune was released on February 14th, 2011 in the United Kingdom and on the 15th in North America, all through Earache Records.

Interview published in February 2011

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