(Hydra Head Records, 2010)
by Paul Stephenson
After a three-year ‘hiatus’ Cave In, that most confusing of bands, are back. Before listening to this the average Cave In fan would be excused for asking themselves; ‘Exactly which Cave In are we getting here? Is it the tectonically heavy Cave In of the Beyond Hypothermia or Until Your Heart Stops albums, or the druggy prog of Jupiter? Or then again will it be the emo-rock of Tides Of Tomorrow or the slight return to their sludgy beginnings that we saw on Perfect Pitch Black?
The first thing you need to know is that this ep is none of the above, instead standing as a new and very different beast. The second is that it’s absolutely fucking marvellous. The ep kickstarts with ‘Cayman Tongue’ and immediately kicks you in the face with a distorted guitar laying feedback, before the thumping drums and the sludgy bass kick in. 30 seconds in it’s already the heaviest thing they’ve done in over a decade. And then comes the intro riff, unmistakably Cave In, it’s a prog lick through and through, but this time it’s mixed with all the menace of a Converge song.
When the vocals kick in, we’re treated to Brodsky’s clean vocals, improved once again, but the music behind it is like a juggernaut, part Converge, part Cave In, part Botch. When the chorus (such as it is) kicks in and we’re knocked back by treble vocal howling attacks from Brodsky, Schofield and McGrath. And then all is calm again, or as calm as it can be with feedback loops resounding in your ears. It takes some balls to stick 3 minutes of noise on the first track of a four track ep, but it feels like a triumphant return from a band about to swallow the world. Eventually of course, the noise slams back into the main riff and the song rides out on a high.
All of this in the first song. It’s a brilliant move, and makes the rest of the ep seems like it can’t possibly top it, but then of course it goes and does exactly that. Track two, ‘Retina sees rewind’ kicks off with a riff that would have Matt Bellamy from Muse chopping off his hands in frustration. A quick and dirty number, it almost defies definition. It’s punky as hell, the riff is pure prog, and Brodsky’s vocal delivers a shimmering and epic pop slant to the song. One thing that really must be noted is the sterling work of new drummer ‘John-Robert Connors’ who brings a thundering sound to this ep, no doubt mindful that the last drummer to sit in his place was Ben Koller of Converge.
That Converge vibe is back in full effect for the third track ‘The Red Trail’ a howling hardcore onslaught the likes of which we’ve never seen before from Cave In, even during their first two albums. It’s brutal and fast and dirty, like Every Time I Die with the aggression turned up to a thousand. When it breaks down in the middle, then kicks in for a furious onslaught, it’s like the creature from Aphex Twins videos is having an argument with you.
Final track ‘Air Escapes’ turns things down a notch, but not by much. Vocally and musically it would fit in nicely on Jupiter, save for the thundering drums, which drive the song on with more urgency. Like everything on this ep, it’s perfectly balancing the old with the new, and it’s the sound of a band rejuvenated and reborn, not happy to simply reform for the money (not that you would imagine a Cave In reunion tour being quite the draw of the recent Pixies one) but instead to remain as a focal point for an entire scene. The masters are back, and it’s fucking good to hear them in this kind of form. Roll on the new album next year.