Cave In: White Silence – Music Review
By Eric Stuckart
Cave In is a band that has never been easily categorized throughout their storied career due to their inherent inability to record the same album twice. Perhaps it’s an inability to settle on a distinct style, but their style of choice has become that of uncertainty and a willingness to adventurously veer off into tangents on a whim.
Granted, they’re not as stylistically attention-deficit as many of their prog-metal peers out there — their modus operandi is more likely to flesh out their style shifts in full song bursts — it’s still excitingly jarring to hear what they come up with next.
Fortunately for us, there’s still a Cave In around to be wowed by, and it wasn’t always looking to be that way. One of the bigger names during metalcore’s formative years, along with Converge and Coalesce — pre-scenester oversaturation, mind you — Cave In were the oddballs of even that slowly growing scene, incorporating hints of space rock and leaning towards more progressive tendencies to temper their chaotic, aggressive early works. After giving in to their melodic, spacey leanings on the 2000 masterpiece Jupiter, they were snatched up by RCA Records. It should be mentioned that this was when major labels had finally realized that all nü metal was on its way out, and they were looking for the next big thing, so a lot of bands ended up getting lost in the shuffle.
While it was a pretty decent, albeit mainstream, rock record, Antenna was too much of a departure for most of their fans to handle, and when Cave In tried to go back a more aggressive sound, they ended up getting dropped by their label. So, they returned to the underground that birthed them, collected their rejected demos from their would-be second album for RCA, and released it as Perfect Pitch Black. It sounded a bit like Jupiter with more of a metal edge, but by this point, the band had had enough for the time being, and went on an indefinite hiatus in 2006.
So, in ’09 when rumors had emerged that they would be reforming and recording new material, I was very excited. However, the years gone had seen Cave In evolve into something even darker than their older material had hinted at. Their subsequent comeback EP, Planets of Old was heavy, dirty, and sounded like it was caked in the blood and sweat that had come by the way of getting screwed over by the majors. The EP showed a band more comfortable in their own skin, culling together all of their influences to create four songs that didn’t necessarily fit together stylistically, but it was still undeniably Cave In.
And with that we have White Silence, which is even more of a curve ball than anything else they have done. Much like Planets of Old, I haven’t really decided yet if it works well as an album from start to finish, per se, but it’s definitely got the makings of one of their most experimental collections of songs ever. Considering the adventurous nature of their body of work as a whole, the fact that they’re still able to defy conventions and expectations all while writing great songs is staggering.
Incorporating elements of everything they’ve done thus far, as well as heavy doses of influence from singer/guitarist Stephen Brodsky’s solo work and singer/bassist Caleb Scolfield’s side project Zozobra, it’s a very interesting ride indeed. Decidedly, this album is one that completely reveals itself over multiple listens, as immediacy isn’t its strongest trait.
The self-titled intro is probably the most uncharacteristic song on the album. Sounding very much like a lo-fi black metal song, it shows yet another new side to the already multi-faceted band. Brodsky’s vocals are raspy and incensed, and unlike anything we’ve ever heard from him. This leads into the steamrolling “Serpents,” sounding like the aforementioned Zozobra, and completely shows the band’s new allegiance to more sludge metal influences in their work.
“Sing My Loves” is likely to become one of Cave In’s most beloved songs, and for good reason. The song is a slow burning, eight minutes of buildups of melody and aggression, until the whole thing gives out, leaving listeners with one of the only moments on the album that recalls their classic, melodic and spacey sound. “Centered” is fast and heavy, and owes more than a little to Converge, but rips from start to finish just the same. “Summit Fever” recalls some of the more experimental parts of the band’s more chaotic, early work.
The last third of White Silence is Cave In at their most experimental, closing things out on a slightly mellower note. It’s hard to miss the subtle Beatles influence on “Heartbreaks, Earthquakes,” and “Iron Decibels” has a bouncy, proggy rhythm tethered to a psychedelic midsection, full of fuzzed-out keys and feedback galore. Finally, the album ends on the near-acoustic “Reanimation,” shows the band pushing out into outer space even more than they had ever before. As quiet and reserved as it is, it just has the feel of otherworldly travel, and closes the album out on a very high note.
Ultimately, White Silence is one of those albums that will require many listens to really grasp completely, but by this point the band knows their audience and respects them enough to not have to hold their hands. This works to their advantage, as it gives them a lot of room to work with, and like their past material, this album is no different in that sense. Some fans may be disappointed by their unwillingness to return to former glories, but I applaud their constant sense of reinvention. It keeps things fresh, and Cave In are clearly not running out of new ideas.
Photos from facebook.com/CaveIn.Official.