Review Summary: Not really an album, but good and close enough.
It's always interesting for me to travel back through band discographies and discover earlier works because, in a lot of instances, the recordings found can be unexpected or just plain startling. This is especially the case for the Cave In's first release, an unruly set of songs under the name of Beyond Hypothermia
. Rather than a full length LP, the disc is instead a collection of ten tracks made out of various older recordings and a few newer ones from circa 1995 to 1998. Most of the songs are here are either gritty, chaotic, loud, or all three put together, but some have been dubbed over with fresh guitar tracks in an effort to clean things up a bit.
Not only that, but if you listen closely you may notice the two different vocalists that switch back and forth throughout the disc. Depending on the song, you may find that the vocals of former singer Dave Scrod have been re-recorded over some (but not all) of the tracks recorded by of the previous
former singer Jay Frechette. Make sense? Truthfully the distinction between the two is so slight that most would likely never notice unless it was brought to their attention or the tracks bearing Scrod's presence were specifically pointed out. Both vocalists boast the same sort of frantic screams that dominate the majority of the record as well as the occasional cleans, something that would be improved upon by guitarist Stephen Brodsky in Until Your Heart Stops
Surprisingly, despite the mixing and matching of separate content, the partial revamping of tracks, and the lack of a single defined vocalist, the record seems to gel just enough to feign the role of an actual full length. In fact, with all things considered, it feels incredibly cohesive for being a collection of recordings strewn together. Here, Cave In generally rely on a densely distorted, riff-heavy assault that, depending on the track, wields an almost strategic versatility in all of the madness. Any moment can screech like the most hectic of hardcore (think labelmates Converge
), loom like a more chaotic version of Black Sabbath
, or get downright thrashy (think earlier Metallica
or even, to a lesser extent, Slayer
Like many young bands, these influences do shine through but do not dominate the execution as the band straddles the fine line between inspiration and the development of their own sound. Fans and listeners of later Cave In releases should be able to pinpoint portions that sound like a premature idea of familiar styles or techniques, though here it may be hidden through a thicker wall of distortion and noise. Tracks like Pivotal
explore briefly the band's budding affinity for spacey passages or interludes through the use of effects and feedback. On the other hand Flypaper
proves to have the drive to make it this disc's Juggernaut
, thrusting itself forward into somewhat frenzied but horribly catchy guitar lines that make it one of the stand-out tracks.
Above all this is a high octane, chaotic series of songs that, on occasion, may tend to grind itself a little too thin. There are portions of the disc that tend to grow very "chugga-chugga", if you will, for what seems like an extended period of time. Thankfully, Cave In is good about changing things up a little when need be and none of the songs are so long that the more harsh parts could become unbearable to begin with. If anything it is the vocals, from both singers actually, that tend to grow the most wearing in some of the more incessant bouts of shrill screaming. Still, this is mostly appropriate considering the nature of the record, not to mention the likely reason that Brodsky took the position for the first full length that would follow.
Though it would (arguably) be a record or two later before the band truly found their own voice, Beyond Hypothermia
is by no means a dismissive listen. If one can tolerate or even appreciate some of the slips along the way and take them in stride there is a lot of promise to be found. Final track Crambone
is the perfect example of this, sounding almost like a joke at first but offering up a "hidden" thrash-heavy treat after an extended period of silence. For a debut (of sorts), it still stands up as being an impressive if not explosive introduction, even if it is just a collection of songs. At the very least it is an interesting look into where and how the genre-elusive alterna-space rock Cave In of today began.