Review Summary: When Cave In improve upon their debut release in every way, the result is a metalcore classic.
Cacophony can be the most beautiful aspect of music. To successfully support such a statement is a difficult task; how can something that is ugly by definition be beautiful by nature? Is there a way for screeching amplifier reverb and walls of seemingly directionless noise to be truly gorgeous? Is it possible for the guttural, medium pitched screams of bassist Caleb Scofield to be considered 'lovely’? You may not think so, but on “Until Your Heart Stops”, Cave In defies those odds and deliver a hardcore masterpiece that’s beauty lies in it’s unrelenting aggression.
In 1997, Cave In made their debut in the metalcore world with a compilation of all the best material that they had written up to that point, and named it “Beyond Hypothermia”. The most obvious and irritating flaw on that record was actually the fact that it was a compilation; it lacked a cohesive flow, but intended to be a true album. Fortunately, “Until Your Heart Stops” stays loyal to the old school, hardcore styling of “Beyond Hypothermia” but has a smooth, precise flow that makes it an engaging listen for it’s entire run time. Already, just based on the effortless flow of the album, Cave In already improved upon the imperfections of their debut, but what is more stunning than the pinpoint song-song transitions is the music itself.
What is paramount in understanding the seemingly commonplace, classic metalcore style of Cave In is the fact that “Until Your Heart Stops” contains a style that’s actually far from traditional- it was outrageously experimental for it’s time. Examples of this experimentation include the somehow perfectly timed and never excessive ‘noise’ breaks, where Cave In tamper with sound and production, creating a truly magnificent, atmospheric experience that could hurl you into a trance. Consider the 13 minute closing track “Controlled Mayhem then Erupts”. This song offers four minutes of metalcore, and about seven minutes of atmospheric tension, or ‘noise’. Some would say that it’s an obnoxious, pretentious idea that bands use in an attempt to come off as original, but Cave In master the art of placing these noise sections exactly where they should be- when you need a break from the incessant (but totally epic) pandemonium. The pockets of reverb and colorful volume swells that flow for over seven minutes to close the LP leave you on a note that makes you realize that Cave In want you to leave their chaotic metalcore opus feeling even more chaotic than any type of rock riff can illustrate. In other words, because no brutal breakdown or malicious growl can make you feel the complete heaviness that they want you to experience, Cave In leave you with a disharmonious cluster of noise. And you know what? It’s undoubtedly the most fitting way to end the album. Cave In make cacophony the most beautiful thing that you will ever experience.
Cave In also experiment with noise breaks and different musical genres/ideas altogether in songs like “Bottom Feeder” and the title track “Until Your Heart Stops”. The reverb frenzies and dissonant atmospheric breaks are never superfluously plethoric, but occur just enough to provide a whole different texture, and while it may sound ridiculous or intolerable to the untrained ear, a true musician will able to appreciate the tasteful experimentation. There is also quite a homage to thrash metal spread carefully around the album. The opener, “Moral Eclipse”, starts up with a pulverizing thrash riff that will remind anybody of early Slayer or Exodus. Thrash elements are also present in the midsection of next track, “Terminal Deity”, which is one of the most catchy songs on the entire record. This seamless merging of styles never seems forced; it flows as if it’s 'supposed’ to be as insanely eclectic as it is.
The individual tracks on this record are among the best metal songs that I have ever encountered. My personal favorite, the title track “Until Your Heart Stops”, is positively genius. You get almost five full minutes of the most delicious metalcore that you have ever heard, followed by a three minute, electronic space interlude that flows fantastically into “Halo of Flies”, one of my other favorite songs, and another one of the most varied songs on the album. I could rant about the mind-blowing highlight “Juggernaut”, and the fact that it houses some of the most euphonious metal riffs in the history of the genre, or I could display my affection for the massive, radical noise collisions in “The End of Our Rope is a Noose”, but saying all these things doesn’t fully emphasize just how fantastic this record is.You have to hear it for yourself.You won’t find a cliche thrash riff on here, or any of those clearly homosexual auto-tuned clean vocals. You also won’t find insipid breakdown after insipid breakdown. However, what you will find is a refreshing dose of awesomeness that may be forgotten in the metalcore world. It’s not perfect, and sometimes misses a step, but it’s a phenomenal effort nonetheless.
On “Until Your Heart Stops”, Cave In do what was never done in metalcore before, and prove their never ending aspiration to be more than the average metal band. They also prove that noisy cacophony can be just as pleasurable as any heartfelt vocal melody. This is not the pop-oriented or breakdown fest style metalcore that we all know and hate today. This is an eclectic slice of hardcore bliss that was created years before it’s time.
“Until Your Heart Stops”
“Halo of Flies”
“Controlled Mayhem then Erupts”