Cavern continue changing path, create atmospheric energy that stimulates bones on ‘Powdered’

Photo by Karlo Gesner

Making significant changes when you are in a metal or heavy music band generally tends to be met with heavy skepticism because why can’t you just keep making the same record 15 times so listeners will be happy, even if the artists are not? Granted, not every time a band tweaks or radically alters something does it come off successfully, but you don’t learn if you don’t take chances.

Morgantown, WV, band Cavern have built their career on shaking up their foundations, having released a catalog of music that is constantly in flux as they try to find their voice. Their start as a duo—guitarist Zach Harkins and drummer Stephen Schrock—sounds and feel nothing like it does now on their new record “Powdered.” The biggest change is the addition of vocalist/bassist Rose Heater, who brings an entirely different element to a band that’s toggled between music with harsher vocals and an instrumental piece. Here, her voice brings a calming, driving vibe to the band, while Harkins and Schrock find new life, layering their post-rock-style atmospherics with enough barbs to mix heaviness within the dreaminess. It’s also a record that may take some time to sink in, but once it does, the music refuses to leave your bones.

“River” starts abruptly, and suddenly you’re right in the middle of everything, with the band leading the way. “Take your space, make it your own,” Heater urges as the band punches back and adds more muscle. “You may know my face, my name remains unknown,” Heater calls mysteriously before the guitars light up and burn off. “Grey” trickles in as the singing flows with the pace, and the chorus lights up with power. The track begins to soar while spacey keys zap as Heater admits being “uninspired by this place” before noting, “You’re confusing night with day.” The track then hits its high point before melting back to the surface. The title track is a powerful one, feeling both catchy and ominous. The track seems structured simply enough, but it hits back hard with guitars chugging hard, and the final moments leaving ample bruising.

“Red Moon” has guitars glimmering and sparks flying as the verses pulsates, and the chorus drives home the stakes. The guitars encircle while the playing dusts up, with Heater calling, “Tell me that you’re real just to keep me here,” as the song comes to a stirring end. “Dove” flutters before the power kicks in, and Heater delivers another killer vocal performance. “Static prison, the damage done,” she jabs as the synth storm brings warmth, and the track comes to a forceful, sudden end. “Fade Before the Flood” closes the album and slowly bleeds into the picture, setting up its structure. “Wait. Go. Listen,” Heater urges as darker waves lap onto the shore, and strange psyche keys chill your mind. The final moments swim in rocky dreams before the guitars awaken and sprint toward the finish line.

Cavern had a pretty good thing going for themselves as it was, but adding Heater to the band was a great call, as her voice brings more emotion and added oomph to the music. “Powdered” has its jagged edges and power surges for sure, but its immersion in melody makes the songs even more engaging, and this record is one that’ll grow on you with each listen. This is really great stuff, music that can help you escape from whatever this reality is into a place that cools your bones.

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