Album Review: CAVE IN—Final Transmission

CAVE IN – FINAL TRANSMISSION (Hydra Head)

Release: June 7

Rating: 8/10

Words: Jeff Nale

Whether massive & spacey, or white-knuckled metalcore, Cave In have had more than one identity. In 1999, they released Until Your Heart Stops, an instant classic of heavy music. But at the turn of the century, the band – led by guitarist/vocalist Stephen Brodsky (Mutoid Man, Old Man Gloom) – took a massive left turn at the intersection of Radiohead and Slayer, and in 2000 released Jupiter, their third for Hydra Head Records, but their first into the realm of more accessible, if not brilliant, rock music. 

The appeal was undeniable. In 2002, they found themselves opening for Foo Fighters, and, with Dave Grohl’s blessing, the media dubbed the band as hot new ’emo’ upstarts. By 2003, they’d released an album on RCA that had a single that could be heard in shopping malls (which may sound crazy, but this writer can confirm first-hand). 

Cave In would continue this off-kilter rhythm throughout their recordings, varying outrageously between conventional (ish) rock before returning to the frenzy of noise from whence they came, and then back again, sometimes on the same album. 

After a brief hiatus, Brodsky reformed the band in 2009, which continued in a side-project fashion with the most consistent members being bassist Caleb Scofield and guitarist Adam McGrath. 

The band was in the process of writing new material last year when Scofield’s vehicle collided with a tollbooth in New Hampshire, killing him instantly.

(Scofield, Brodsky – photo: Sam Marble)

But Final Transmission, out June 7 on Hydra Head, marks more than the final recordings of Caleb Scofield. McGrath and drummer JR Connors are operating with enviable muscle memory, while Brodsky’s voice hasn’t aged a day.  There are brief moments in which the band evokes their earliest hardcore leanings, as on the driven, ragged “Night Crawler” or the crushing album closer “Led to the Wolves”. But largely speaking there is mostly Jupiter-style space rock here, cut with a dull, rusty knife. 

Even when the band risks the retreading of old paths, they pivot to the expansive, which is mesmerizing and vast. “All Illusion” is open-strum doom with rock solid, if not perfect percussion. “Lanterna” is somehow simultaneously resolute and lightheaded, and gets us as close to the sound of 2005’s Pitch Perfect Black as possible. But the standout track is “Winter Window”, a two headed guitar assault in which Scofield’s bass pulls like gravity from an alien planet.

The question remains whether Cave In will continue past this ‘transmission’, but if they don’t, this might be the best place to leave it. Final Transmission is a splendid concoction of spark and dark, and Cave In always play best in the dark.

Buy Final Transmission here: https://cavein.bandcamp.com/album/final-transmission