Album Review: Cave In — “Heavy Pendulum”

Cave In - Heavy Pendulum

I think at this point we’re all aware that the last few years of Cave In’s career haven’t been the easiest.  2019’s Final Transmission looked to be just that: the closing of the final chapter of the seminal hardcore band and the end of a remarkable era.  However, as fate would have it, the act of coming together to put the band to bed ended up convincing the foursome that there was still more musical territory to tread.  Heavy Pendulum is more than just the first “proper” Cave In release since 2009; it is a celebration of everything the band has accomplished and a showcase of the tricks they still have up their collective sleeves.

Obviously, a lot of the accomplishments the band has accrued come because of the phenomenal talent of Caleb Scofield, who tragically passed away in 2018, prompting the band to, in the midst of grieving for a close friend and musical partner of twenty years, step up and lead the crowdsourcing for Scofield’s family.  The band even donated half of the proceeds of Final Transmission, an album they were in the middle of writing when Scofield passed, to funds for Scofield’s wife and children.  Nate Newton of Converge and Old Man Gloom (both projects tangentially related to Cave In) stepped in to bring Scofield’s bass parts to light, and that was supposed to be it.  However, as vocalist/guitarist Stephen Brodsky mentions, “…it’s almost like we had to keep doing the band to use it as a vehicle to help the Scofields.  But it was healing, and through that process we put the wheels back on Cave In.”  When it came time to write and record what would become Heavy Pendulum, Cave In knew they had to make Newton a permanent member and lean on his tenure and experience both around and beyond Cave In to bring new elements into the band’s sound.  They also knew exactly who they needed behind the console: none other than the inimitable Kurt Ballou, who they have not worked with since their 1998 debut.  Ultimately, this album is a celebration of friends old and new, and while Final Transmission is (possibly) the last album to feature contributions from Scofield on every track, many of his unused riffs and lyrics made the final cut on Heavy Pendulum.

“New Reality” is the mission statement that opens Heavy Pendulum.  Lyrically, the song reflects the new reality of Cave In without Caleb and with Nate, the new reality of life during Covid, and the creative process of this new lineup crystallizing during that time,” Brodsky explains.  “There are very strong references to Caleb in the song lyrically, and there’s actually a riff in the verse that he wrote back in the White Silence days.  It felt right to lead off with a new song that has our old friend in mind, to keep his memory at the forefront.”   Heavy Pendulum immediately comes off as much more aggressive and riffier than Final Transmission, hearkening back to the band’s early metalcore days while still maintaining the soaring, spacey melodies their later career has been associated with.  In part because of Ballou’s stellar production, in part because of the creative input of Newton, Heavy Pendulum is a tour de force of near nonstop aggression and ripping guitars, whether from razor sharp riffs or searing leads.  Tracks like “Blood Spiller” and “Careless Offering” chug and crunch their way through an amalgamation of every style the band have flirted with.  For this reason, Heavy Pendulum might just be a good way to get into the band for the maybe four or five people who don’t already know Cave In.  There is something here for both old fans returning and new initiates, eager to see what the fuss is about.  You know I’ve also got to mention how good Newton’s bass is on this one.  It’s good.  In my mind, there is only one person on this earth who could replace Caleb Scofield on the low end, and it’s Nate Newton.  It’s no surprise that he sounds like he’s been a part of the band since day one.

I think there’s only one thing to say to wrap up a talk about Heavy Pendulum: Caleb would be proud.  This album is going to be the beginning of a new era for the band, but I’m glad they chose to keep moving forward.  It would be disappointing (but understandable, of course) for their mighty legacy to be cut short in the face of tragedy, and they way they are choosing to continue on does a great service to themselves and to their friend.

– Ian

Heavy Pendulum will be available May 20 on Relapse Records.  For more information on Cave In, visit their Facebook page.

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