Taking their name from Lloyd Alexander's The Prydain Chronicles, Cauldron Born is a heavy metal band from Atlanta, Georgia. The band was formed by guitarist Howie Bentley as a vehicle for his love of classic metal, sword and sorcery, horror and science fiction. Born of the Cauldron is the band's debut album. Bentley is accompanied by bassist Shawn Kascak, vocalist Danny White and drummer Bill Parsons. As with all Cauldron Born albums, the fantastic cover art was painted by Lionel Baker II and features band mascot Thorn. While it is generally unwise to judge an album by its cover, this decidedly vintage painting is very appropriate for a band that has no ambitions to incorporate modern ideas into their music.
Among heavy metal bands of the 1990s, Cauldron Born is unique in that they sound extremely old school while still having their own distinctive sound. Obvious influences from mainstays such as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden are on display, but this band sounds like none of them. Bentley is the driving force behind the band, and his songwriting is extremely varied and masterful throughout the album. Having studied jazz guitar and even taken lessons from Marty Friedman, Bentley is also a fantastic guitarist and his background and experience show in the incredibly unique arrangements and unexpected key changes throughout the album. This album is about as ambitious as a heavy metal album can be without veering into progressive metal territory, with some of Bentley's love for Yngwie Malmsteen showing through as well. He provides an incredible variety of riffs and some extremely impressive lead work and his talent is clearly the main reason why this album is so memorable.
This is not to say that the rest of the band is irrelevant. In particular, Kascak is very competent on bass, and his work throughout the album displays his compatibility with Bentley's musical sensibilities. White's powerful and diverse vocal performances are definitely on par with the excellent music and he is likely the best vocalist to ever sing under the Cauldron Born banner. While Parsons is a capable drummer, the sound of his drums can sound a bit clicky at times, which is the only real issue with the album. Everyone in the band seems to really put their best effort into making sure that the songs are cohesive and the performances do justice to the excellent songwriting. It should come as no surprise that Bentley has become a published author in recent years, as the lyrics of Cauldron Born are extremely well written and display his interest in fiction and history. While much of the album's lyrics draw from literary staples of heavy metal such as H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, with Conan-inspired "In Fate's Eye a King" being a notable example, the eerie "Unholy Sanctuary" may be the most unexpected and interesting track to be found here. This song draws inspiration from Michele Soavi's The Church, and its chilling lyrics and slower pace serve to create a constant sense of tension and impending doom, making it a truly ideal way to close such a fantastic and otherworldly album.
While there are few heavy metal albums from the 1990s that truly capture the magic of the 1970s and 1980s, Born of the Cauldron is a very successful effort at extending the legacy of classic metal rather than merely emulating the past. This album is worth seeking out for metal fans interested in albums that were recorded after the perceived golden age of heavy metal. The 2006 reissue on Stormspell Records has been remastered by Corbin King and it also includes a great cover of Warlord's classic "Lucifer's Hammer" with vocalist David Loudon, who would appear on the second Cauldron Born album.