Cave In – Heavy Pendulum Review

Replacing a band member is rarely a simple task, and it becomes an essentially impossible one when a replacement is needed because the original member’s life was tragically cut short by a terrible accident. Caleb Scofield’s voice and bass have left an indelible mark on Cave In’s music from their debut to their most recent release. After his death, the band honored his life in the best way imaginable by putting his remaining demos together and creating songs from them so he could exist on wax one last time in the form of Final Transmission. As the title suggested, many assumed this would be the end of the band, and likely, the members themselves were thinking the same. A couple of fundraising performances brought it home that there was still gas and the tank, and three years later, we have a new full-length in Heavy Pendulum.

Release date: May 20, 2022. Label: Relapse Records.
Cave In couldn’t bring in any ol’ schlub to be their new bassist. In part, Scofield’s shoes were big ones to fill but also because it would do a disservice to his memory to not bring someone with strong ties to him in as the new member. Nate Newton and the other band members all have long-standing relationships, having crossed paths in several bands, including Doomriders, Old Man Gloom and Converge, who all hail from the same metallic hardcore tree. Newton’s roaring voice and punchy bass are welcome additions to Cave In’s sound.

The band notes Heavy Pendulum as their first proper full length since White Silence in 2011. Final Transmission should be treated as a stand-alone effort, an enigma of their discography that exists as a memorial to a wonderful musician. With that in mind, comparisons between that and this new one seem inappropriate. If the band is considering Scofield’s farewell outside of the normal realm of their full-lengths, then this review shall as well. The other oddity this time around is Heavy Pendulum is being referred to as a double album. While that’s true, if you purchase a vinyl copy, the CD still appears to come on one disc. In that context, the intention seems to be to listen in one sitting and that’s asking quite a bit for an album that broaches the 70-minute mark. There also isn’t a clear breakpoint halfway through that would make you feel like it’s two different albums coming together. Rather, a couple of Baroness circa Gold & Grey interludes actually split it into thirds. The runtime is daunting, but the band expertly flows the album so that it rarely dips out of the captivating and shifts styles/speeds enough to keep you locked in.

The first four songs are Cave In by the numbers. “New Reality” fires away with a simple chugging riff and highlights singer/guitarist Stephen Brodsky’s knack for writing an infection chorus. “Blood Spiller” relies on a bit more open space between its lumbering collapsing main riff builds to an excellent crescendo that Newton’s mighty voice pairs with perfectly. After a bit of a speed reduction, “Floating Skulls” kicks it into Mutioid Man gear for speed and off-kilter riffing written for circling the pit. The title track is the first to tread into some strange lands as it flirts with ’90s grunge. It relies on a slow riff and big chorus that includes the line “Welcome to your death bed/ tongues of fire lick your head” with a nice little “yea” at the end, and at one point, there’s a desert-cracked mini-lead.

Then we have our first interlude track, which flows into the album’s second part. Here, the energy saps slightly, and some listener fatigue sets in with “Careless Offering.” Luckily, “Blinded by a Blaze” enters the fold to slow things way down and hit with one of Brodsky’s more heartfelt moments. There’s a somber tone to the entire song and the clean guitars mixed into the distortion provide a different kind of heavy than anywhere else on the album. It also offers two sections with shimmering ominous guitars that could soundtrack Annihilation. From there, “Amaranthine” returns to pure raucous fury, with Newton leading the vocal attack in a manner that will make Doomriders fans very happy. It also has a nifty little acoustic ending with some oddball singing. “Searchers of Hell” hits with the heaviest riff of the entire album and “Nightmare Eyes” once again sees them striking out in new directions as it slips into a stoner doom on a ride to space.

Another interlude track follows “Nightmare Eyes,” and due to that song’s slow, repetitive style, this is another point where your attention may start drifting. The runtime is already getting long, so that’s fair, but the album’s final third also happens to be the strongest part of Heavy Pendulum. “Waiting For Love” kicks things off with a woozy riff right out of the Failure playbook that happens to be this reviewer’s favorite on the album. “Reckoning” turn everything else before it upside down and hones in on acoustics with an almost country swagger and a style of singing that hasn’t reared its head before that point. It’s the song that pops up during the third act of a movie as we see a cowboy loading up his saddlebags and holsters as he embarks on a journey to exact his revenge.

Then there’s “Wavering Angel.” This twelve-minute closer is an exceptional exercise in how to write a goddamn compelling track that builds and builds in a way Led Zeppelin fans should be familiar with. To be clear, that’s from a songwriting and structure standpoint, not a sonic or style one. Brodsky opens with:

“Have you ever loved someone too much? Killed them with kindness. Crushed them with your touch…Have you ever held somebody too close? Took ’em like a drug, then you overdosed.”

His voice has shifted to be as fragile as the lyrical content. The spare acoustic notes let his voice lead, while the open space offers a buzz that makes it feel more sparse and powerful. The acoustic passage becomes steadier and more consistent as it builds and as Brodsky sings out the song title, the eclectic elements kick in. The song continues to flow and build to massive crescendos and crashes that make the entire track feel like a harrowing journey.

In the end, we here at Last Rites always say that we are generally impressed with riffs. The riffs abound when it comes to any of the projects these gentlemen are involved in. In the face of a daunting runtime, Cave In manages to keep all but a few of those minutes powerful, heavy, emotive and engaging. It was silly of me to ever doubt them, and you shouldn’t either.

Posted by Spencer Hotz

Admirer of the weird, the bizarre and the heavy, but so are you. Why else would you be here?

  1. Jonathan Meyer May 24, 2022 at 8:37 pm

    Stunned that this is so consistently good throughout. They’ve done Caleb proud.

    Reply

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