Having grown up on metal in Canada during the 1980s, the first thought that springs to mind upon hearing the debut album by Toronto trio Cauldron is, why in the hell couldn’t these guys have been around 24, 25 years ago? It’s a shame they could barely hold up a guitar back then, because if it was 1985 instead of 2009, Cauldron would be hailed as Canada’s Next Big Metal Thing (or at the very least, Canada’s answer to Rough Cutt), a welcome respite from all the White Wolf, Hateful Snake, and Reckless videos we hoser teenagers had to sit through in between Iron Maiden and Venom clips. But alas, here we are in a day and age where MySpace hits and technical chops posted on YouTube seem to matter more than genuine classic heavy metal charisma, where having a hot chick on the cover will now get you dismissed as a novelty.
Although Cauldron might be shamelessly retro, not only do they nail that late-period NWOBHM sound of the early-’80s, but most importantly, there’s a sincerity to it all that makes it irresistible. Make no mistake, there is a fair bit of fromage on this record (the fact that “Chained Up in Chains” features a guitarist named Ian Chains is too awesome for words), but Jack Blades-voiced bassist Jason Decay, pornographically named drummer Steel Rider, and the aforementioned Master Chains embrace the shtick completely, as should we. As melodic metal bands were wont to do a quarter century ago, Chained to the Nite is evenly divided between rebellious rave-ups (“Young and Hungry”, “Dreams Die Young”) and earnest attempts at occult themes (“Conjure the Mass”, “Witch Trial”), with the clear highlights from both sides being the surprisingly murky and textured “The Leaven/Fermented Enchantress” and that damn “Chained Up in Chains”, which boasts a brilliant, George Lynch-esque hook that refuses to go away. Capped off by an inspired cover of Black ‘N Blue’s “Chains Around Heaven”, this modest little album might not attract the kind of audience or label hype it would have gotten in the ’80s, but it understands the aesthetic of classic metal in a way few young bands today are capable of. Here’s hoping they cover Dokken’s “Breaking the Chains” on the next record. Or maybe “Unchain the Night”.