Cave In kick things off on their latest outing with warm and melancholic strumming upon an acoustic guitar whilst a series of descending “doo doo doos” flitter through the air.
This might seem an unlikely approach for a band famed for their exploratory space rock (not to mention the vicious metalcore which they began their career with) but, in all honesty, it is the perfect start to the record. The voice and guitar work that we are greeted with belong to the band’s departed bassist - Caleb Schofield. A musician who touched the hearts of so many people. From his close family, friends and bandmates, to the swathes of fans around the globe, his passing triggered an outpouring of emotion, compassion, and charity. There have been benefit shows (featuring the reformation of Isis under the less controversial name, Celestial), fundraisers and just a general wave of love and well wishes. It certainly seems fitting then that Final Transmission - an album that, vocals aside, was largely completed prior to Schofield’s death - has his fingerprints all over it. Whether it’s the strange structures and rhythms in “Winter Window” and “Led to the Wolves,” or the lyrics (which were found in Schofield’s journals) on “All Illusion,” and, of course, the entirety of the title track which was sourced from an audio message sent from Caleb to the rest of the band on the last night that they saw him.
Whether or not this is the band’s Final Transmission, it’s a damn good album.
Whilst Schofield’s death casts a heavy shadow over this release, there are moments of real hope interlaced within the music. For example, the soft guitar shards probing through the malaise on “Shake my Blood,” contains an optimism at odds with the lyrical content. Compared to Stephen Brodsky’s other release from this year - a drone-heavy collaboration with Marissa Nadler - Final Transmission (stream/purchase on Bandcamp) almost comes across as quite a straightforward rock album. But, dig a little deeper and there are little quirks and intricacies that imbue this record with a quality that raises this above the pedestrian approaches of some of their contemporaries.
It’s these moments that are, more often than not, lifted by the rumbling bass of Schofield. By sustained notes, ripped triplets, or an excavated gear shift that shouldn’t work yet fantastically does. And that is when Final Transmission really reaches its stride: when it steps out of the comforts of structure and expectation and veers off into territory that is a little unexpected. Like we experience on “Lunar Day” with a deep thrumming propelling angelic vocals amidst a storm of swirling noise. It feels like blistered communications drifting down from the heavens.
So happy together. A recent shot of the group:
Unfortunately these instances are surprisingly few and, quite often, the tracks end up only threatening to shift into an all out hellacious attack. On “Lanterna” and “Strange Reflection” in particular, the menace shrivels away before there is chance for unshackled bedlam. Patience, however, does pay off and that rip-roaring approach finally rears its head on the album closer - “Led to the Wolves” - which thrashes about like some of the finest moments on Until Your Heart Stops. That it was heavily shaped by their absent brother should shock no-one.
Final Transmission Track Listing:
01. Final Transmission
02. All Illusion
03. Shake My Blood
04. Night Crawler
05. Lunar Day
06. Winter Window
08. Strange Reflection
09. Led To The Wolves
Run Time: 31.25 Release Date: June 7, 2019 Record Label: Hyra Head