Getting a second chance to do the thing you love is not something that should be taken for granted, and it doesn’t happen to everyone. It’s not uncommon for great things to end prematurely, often for reasons beyond the grasp of those involved, and getting a second wind to make things right or continue the path toward goals not yet achieved is a gift that should be torn open with great enthusiasm.
Many people know the story of Cave In, the long-running, impossible to truly classify band that tore into the world on the wings of fire-breathing, wildly influential debut “Until Your Heart Stops” and has changed colors and sounds throughout the past two decades. The death of bassist Caleb Scofield in 2018 seemed, at the time, to be the potential end of the band, and their 2019 record “Final Transmission” appeared to verify their final days. But the fires were still burning, their love and respect for Scofield forever flowing, and they decided to carry on, create again, and they’ve returned with their amazing new record “Heavy Pendulum.” This album is a triumph on every level. The remaining members of the band—guitarists/vocalists Stephen Brodsky and Adam McGrath, drummer John-Robert Conners—united with longtime ally Nate Newton (Converge, Doomriders) to take bass and added vocal duties and turned on the lava flow, delivering a mammoth 14-track double album that is sure-fire album of the year material. It’s a huge, heavy, infectious, energetic record that not only pays proper homage to Scofield but pushes the band onto a new course with the future open and exciting.
“New Reality” is a killer opener, the perfect way to prepare you for what’s ahead with big riffs chugging, catchiness surrounding you and Brodsky calling, “New reality, never knew would be, dawning on me.” The soloing scorches toward the end, and the final moments leave you in the dust. “Blood Spiller” makes the perfect next step, the second half of a 1-2 punch that smokes and smashes, the chorus of, “Fresh kill or the killer, you can choose only one,” digging into you. The band mashes heavily, the guitars get spacious, and Newton gets in on the action, howling, “Watch it run!” “Floating Skulls” keeps the heat on high, Brodsky’s singing often taking on a James Hetfield feel as he barks away. The riffs swim, the chorus is a big one that’ll be a fire starter live, and everything zaps through space before the track comes to a bludgeoning end. The title track pulls back some, though it’s still intense, going moody and mid-paced, Brodsky delivering some of his best singing. Things shift later and get hazier, the chorus rounds back, and that simmers off into “Pendulambient,” a quick instrumental that meanders through the clouds and resets the mood. “Careless Offering” is another destroyer, pummeling and bleeding as Brodsky warns, “Someday we’ll be coming for the blood on your hands,” a vow that is repeated several times. The guitars take off into the stratosphere, and Newton’s wails punish again, the track chugging off into the stars. “Blinded By a Blaze” runs 7:39, the second-longest track on here, and it bleeds in feeling moody and reflective. “Sunsets explode, scorching our view, long is the road leading to you,” Brodsky calls in desperation, later moving into psyche guitars that numb your brain and pull you down with it. The guitars heat up as the pace increases, tangling with emotion and tumult.
“Amaranthine” is a track that lyrically was built from Scofield, so he’s very much a part of this record. Fittingly Newton takes the bulk of the vocals here, paying homage to the man whose shoes he’s filling, doing so with rage and passion. “We make peace with our sins, raise our shields to the sun,” Brodsky sings over the chorus, the energy flowing through the entire band, the guitars blazing, and everything ending in fittingly strange colors. “Searchers of Hell” bludgeons with grit and venom, the guitars smothering, your mind simmering in blood. Newton’s vocals split lips while heaviness reigns and ends in a pile of soot. “Nightmare Eyes” goes 7:05, and it’s a personal favorite, bristling and glowing. “Kill the head, watch it roll, into black hole, kill the head, body dies, dropping like flies,” Brodsky calls as some bluesy playing rears its head, and so much of what’s going on here tingles and activates your cells, living inside your blood. “Days of Nothing” is an instrumental interlude that feels a little like medicine head, and then it’s on to the weird and grungy “Waiting for Love,” the snarling wah pedal playing with your mind. The track trudges and bruises, the longing feels palpable, and the metallic teeth chew on muscle leave you heaving and trying to calm your heart pattern. “Reckoning” is a rare political statement by the band, and it hits hard, McGrath jabbing, “You swore on your bible with pages worn and distressed, how about a revival without getting too complex,” his voice taking on an uncharacteristic but pretty cool twang. The track takes on a dreamy feel later, burning off and landing in a bed of acoustics. Closer “Wavering Angel” is the longest song, a 12:09-long cut that feels quite uncharacteristic coming from Cave In. It’s quiet, delicate, and pained, Brodsky quivering, “Have you ever held somebody too close? Took ‘em like a drug, then you overdose,” his hurt dripping. The track remains solemn and lightly storming, Brodsky calling, “Heavy, heavy wet weather, twisting, turn to the never,” as the pace begins to pick up, and eventually the heaviness lands. The guitars do battle, the melodies increase and cascade, and the emotional high and hypnotic haze reach their apex, slowly fading into vapor.
Luckily “Final Transmission” was not Cave In’s last excursion into the world, as “Heavy Pendulum” shows a band reborn with heavy energy, a channeled and motivated band that is doing some of the best work of their storied career. This is a record that sounds great on first listen, and then with each subsequent visit, it grows on you, stretching inside your body and infecting your blood. This band has survived unspeakable tragedy only to come out even more battle tested, muscular, and exploding with an energy and hunger than should make every other band shake with fear.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/CaveIn.Official/
To buy the album, go here: https://store.relapse.com/cave-in-heavy-pendulum
For more on the label, go here: https://store.relapse.com/