With the unfortunate recent departure of bassist Caleb Schofield in a traumatic motor vehicle accident, Progressive Metalcore legends Cave In suffered a devastating loss. To respect the amazing legacy of this fluid and underrated player, their swansong album is a fitting, emotive and career-spanning tribute for new and old fans alike.
Opening with a sombre acoustic riff played by Schofield himself in a message to the band, Final Transmission sets a subdued tone, as has been the case on their recent instrumental B-side The Sacrifice Poles. The soft reverberations and natural, unpolished feel of the chords and arpeggios, as well as the soft-hummed ‘doo-doo-doo’ a capella gives a personal and warm feel to the short, humble opener.
All Illusion is where things revert back to the bombastic, Muse-meets-Amplifier style of progressive, stadium-ready space rock. The echo-laden strains of vocalist Stephen Brodsky harp alongside some effects-washed leads and subtle changes between major and minor keys from guitarist Adam McGrath. This juxtaposition gives an emotional depth nested between an optimistic and hopeful aesthetic and dark undertones. The focused but punctuated arpeggios of fill-in bassist Nate Newton (of Converge fame) and shuffling, subtle grooves of drummer John Robert-Connors help restrain and open up this almost Post-Metal/post-rock sense of thundering expansiveness.
Lifting up the fretboard in an ascending chord progression, the track hits things off with an epic closer, driving the tone for Shake my Blood. Playful chords and arpeggios not unlike those of classic Devin Townsend (albeit with a meatier, more front-and-centre rhythm section) lock in comfortably with tight groove and wide synths alike. Thinking aloud as to when the intro is over, it’s a relief of tension when vocals kick in over the halfway mark. Given this space, Broadsky’s signature croon soars high above another punchy, sludgy riff that could sit comfortably on an ISIS riff back-end. The crossover appeal between earth-shaking tunings and lofty vocals is a signature, eclectic mix. It’s surprising the writer in the band has criminally not received more attention.
Mind you, the density this band projects their lilting harmonies with may not be for everyone. The harmonics, feedback and dirt-heavy grit of Night Crawler (It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, anyone?) carry a more sinister, urgent and toothy edge. Drums propelling a more feedback-heavy riff metric, you could remove the vocals and have a track possibly too heavy for those more commercially inclined in their tastes. Oh well, their loss – just sit back and enjoy the tense interplay between punchy reverb, tremolo, screeching chords and larger-than-life rhythmic plodding. The urgency is a cool break-up of pacing between the more exploratory first two tracks.
Lunar Day wastes no time either, a grating Jesu-esque wall of feedback noise washing away to a very noise-heavy and interesting mix of subdued vocals, warbling synth, and reverb-drenched chords. The removal of clattering drums gives the track a more open and subtly caustic tone, threatening to drift out in a cloud of effects and noise but never doing so. An interesting interlude that is as melodic as it is haunting as can be in two minutes.
From there, Winter Widow breaks open with an angular lead guitar riff reminiscent of early-2000s Post-Hardcore classic albums such as Thrice’s ‘The Artist in the Ambulance,’ projecting that classically freshly-millennial jangle feel of lead guitar. It feels too early in the millennium to be this nostalgic about such an aesthetic, but here we are, transported back to the Cave In heyday, before being swamped by a slow-but-stomping riff and an almost bluesy vocal harmony. The addition of tremolo adds a small tension to the meaty power chord walls, distorted bass and push-pull, adding to the unclean tension under those soulful vocals. More meandering in its melodic base, it feels less memorable than other tracks, but there are enough interesting, dynamic forces that it’s not a bad reflection on the track.
Moving into even thumpier (that’s a word, right?) territory, the hybrid picking and crushing guitar refrains of Lanterna showcase an early-era Mastodon feel, sizeable chords and clashing drums mixing with urgent off-time chords and swooning, Matt Bellamy-styled soars somehow paying this undercurrent no mind, but mingling well harmonically and rhythmically. The two constantly feel like they should be at odds with one another – like Vegemite and cheese on toast, on paper it just seems like it shouldn’t work, but the two mesh together deliciously. A more frantic and very Heavy Metal riff section pushes the latter half of the track, a clean and quiet Post-Metal styled break fading the track out in a sinister haze.
Strange Reflection continues the post-everything melting pot of riffs that mix angular arpeggios and booming sludge, melting together fringe genres with ease. The vocals take on a more grunge tone here, setting the tone amongst punchy leads with a decidedly 90s feel. For the writer, this track felt like a more subdued and weaker one overall, chasing that melancholic hard rock feel a bit too seriously. The chaotic feedback wash-out at the end helps add an interesting touch, however.
Pay no heed, however, and strap yourself in as the barging riff of Led to the Wolves bowls you right off your feet; a veritable stampeding, staggering riff that feels more like a cloud of pissed-off animals than anything. A subtle bass-and-vocal verse interplays with riffs so huge and imposing, one can almost hear the distance of the riff from bass to summit. A hungry and lumbering beast, the track ups the Post-Metal stakes tenfold, with a loudness that’d make Pelican grin with appreciation. Vocals are kept in check from their former wanderings, even unleashing some caustic and friction-heavy screams as the track rings out with little fanfare. And that’s it. Done. From humble beginnings to a crescendo apex ending, Cave In take you through a career-spanning plethora of riffs and ideas across a range of progressive post-subgenres. A very fitting end to the unfortunate transmission of Brodsky, cut so short, so young.
GET YOUR HANDS ON CAVE IN’S ‘FINAL TRANSMISSION’ FROM BANDCAMP HERE!