Cavernlight unearth misery, pain of existence in a damaged world on ‘As I Cast Ruin Upon…’

Photo by Scott Burns

Pain and disillusionment have become far too etched into our DNA as people to be able to live peacefully, accept small failures, and try to meaningfully treat mental wounds that never seem to heal. It’s almost like we’re preconditioned to this life, and when we have to deal with our own shortcoming as humans, it all becomes too much. Where is the value for us?

Hopefully no one shows up for a Cavernlight record for a pick-me-up jolt, but leaning into their soul-crushing second album “As I Cast Ruin Upon the Lens That Reveals My Every Flaw” is a confrontation with the void that might be impossible to overcome. Over eight tracks and about 40 minutes, the band—Scott Burns (guitars, vocals, lyrics, programming, violin, accordion), Caleb Cheslock (guitar, vocals), Brandon James (bass, piano),  Adam Bartlett (drums, vocals, lyrics)—examines the endless tire fire that is trying to exist fruitfully and productively in the midst of so much misery, hatred, crimes, pestilence, and death. Even when one takes their own self-inventory, trying to make those improvements we all crave still exists in a place that’s always going to try to cut us off at the knees.

“Accepting the Fate I’ve Crafted” begins about as dourly as possible with the music slowly dawning and a voice warbling, “I hate feeling like shit all the time, I’m sensitive to light and sound, I’m so empty, lonely, I have nothing.” It goes on from there and gets no more positive as ominous howls join the mix, and the mood crushes wills. The wails melt, pain and hopelessness thrive, and the howl of, “Everything that feeds this life will vanish,” puts a devastating exclamation point at the end. “Gaze Into the Glow and Drift Into Time” arrives with strange noises and the drums eventually kicking through walls, then the growls scrape away flesh as the punishment builds. The playing thickens and bleeds through every pore, and electronic corrosion meets and eats away at any bone fragments remaining. “Material” sparks as howls rush, and the blackness spreads across the sky, darkening the earth. Electro pulses shift as the riffs rip out muscle, and then everything stumbles upon a dank path, the cries of, “No mystical, no spiritual, no supernatural,” eliminating any hope that faith could save you. “A Shimmering View” wallows in hell and a haze of dream as the call of, “I make sincere attempts to engage and interact with the world, but most days feel like I’m watching it all through a shimmer, a reflection,” adding to the emotional tumult. It feels like being lost in a mist before the sludge thickens and bubbles, the power slices back, and everything comes to an ominous end.

“The Ashes of Everything I’ve Failed to Be” smashes your sense as it arrives, mixing clean calls and menacing shrieks, the playing mauling completely until a cold front arrives. The guitars liquify and slither, scathing whispers crawl down your spine, and then everything bursts anew, piling on top of you, destroying with impenetrable heat. The title track does damage right off the bat, vile howls jab under the ribcage, and cold rains soak you, leaving you shaking and shivering beyond your control. “This dungeon of puss and piss, it oozes, and it drips, and it gathers around my feet, it cannot stand, these walls will crumble,” doesn’t brighten the mood, and fiery doom get thicker and meaner, blood rushes to the surface, and a disorienting soundscape devours everything whole. “Prelude” is a quick track, a scene setter as it were that’s hypnotic and spacey, the detached voice returning as she confesses, “This is all big mistake we call life, this isn’t living, it is a lazy proof of existence. Where is the sense of being?” “To Reconcile a Virulent Life” is the closer, and just when you think you can take no more, you’re given no choice as the bottom drops, and the riffs encircle and dement your mind. Heaviness mixes with more delicate sounds, not so much as a power struggle but as a way to coexist in pain. Shrieks and growls pay off the devastation, sounds are break down into dust, and distortion blends into moaning human agony, the final words, “I don’t want to live anymore,” burying positivity forever.

Cavernlight haven’t minced words or used kid gloves when conveying crippling depression and terminal hopelessness, and they layer that thick on, “As I Cast Ruin Upon the Lens That Reveals My Every Flaw.” If you only learned of the band just now, that title alone should give you an indication as to what lies ahead, but even that isn’t preparation enough. This is an emotional chasm informed by scars that only get uglier, stress that suffocates, and suffering so severe it can’t even be soothed temporarily.

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