The title and story behind Cave In’s 2019 LP, Final Transmission, led many to believe that the eclectic rock band’s two-and-a-half-decade run had come to an end. Following the tragic passing of bassist and vocalist Caleb Scofield in 2018, the group fleshed out the last demos they’d made with him and turned them into a complete record. It seemed like a fitting conclusion to the band’s arc as well as a heartfelt goodbye to the man who’d given them so much of their heart and soul. But to the delight of Caveheads such as myself, the band have decided to carry on. Their new album, Heavy Pendulum (Relapse), isn’t just another collection of songs in their catalog; it’s another step in the evolution of a band whose shifting sound is one of their biggest assets and most defining features.
Cave In emerged from the mid-90s Boston hardcore scene, and their 1998 debut LP, Until Your Heart Stops, essentially reinvented metalcore with unrelenting, knotty, incredibly complex dual-guitar shredding topped with the even more shredded vocals of front man Stephen Brodsky. Finding out what new musical moves a Cave In record would contain soon became one of the most exciting things about following the band: In 2000, they issued their prog-rock space-metal masterpiece, Jupiter, where Brodsky traded in his scream for a velvety falsetto. They toyed with shoegaze-adjacent indie rock on 2003’s Antenna, then blended sludge metal with space rock on 2005’s Perfect Pitch Black and 2011’s White Silence. Since Scofield’s death, Converge bassist Nate Newton has stepped in, and his grimy, groovy low end is a perfect fit. Heavy Pendulum is Cave In’s most straightforward, focused release to date, with direct heavy-metal riffing laying the groundwork for Brodsky’s signature vocal hooks (and the occasional trade-off with Newton’s menacing growl). Cave In’s beloved stargazing space-guitar leads are less of a presence, but the record is fun, catchy, and heavy as hell—once again, the band show us a fresh new side of their sound rather than something expected. Still, when 12-minute album closer “Wavering Angel” kicks in with “Stairway to Heaven”-style flutes and guitar leads worthy of Steve Hackett from Genesis, you’re immediately reminded that the opulent, prog-loving, metalhead side of Cave In that you’ve loved all along hasn’t gone anywhere.
Cave In’s Heavy Pendulum is available through a Bandcamp.