Review Summary: The wait is all we know.
Comprised of 14 tracks across 70 minutes, engineered by the inimitable Kurt Ballou at God City Studios, Cave In's Heavy Pendulum
sounds like a colossal beast coming slowly back to life, clawing its way across frozen earth towards the sun. There's no question that the hole Caleb Scofield left in this band – in the entire American metal scene - is one that could never be filled, even with the best efforts of Converge's Nate Newton, another dexterous and powerful bassist with a bellow that sounds like the cry of a wounded animal. Wisely, Cave In haven't even attempted to plug up that void, nor to pick up where they left off, leaving any remaining music penned with Scofield untouched with the exception of his lyrical contribution to "Amaranthine". Instead, Heavy Pendulum
fully shifts gears toward a fresh sound for the band, a muscular, driving brand of mid-tempo rock tempered by Newton's screams and a newfound, occasionally forced grungey croon from Stephen Brodsky.
The spacey, dreamy side of the band is certainly in the backseat here, though not entirely neglected. The sludgy "Blinded by a Blaze" and "Nightmare Eyes", not to mention the 12-minute opus "Wavering Angel" lean towards longer runtimes and meandering song structures, while "Careless Offering" is one of the band's heaviest barnburners since "Serpents"; all of which will feel like home to longtime fans. For the most part, though, Cave In rocket full speed towards this grungier terrain, with a strong assist from Ballou's chunky and low-end-favouring production, the result feeling like an evolution of Final Transmission
's "Night Crawler" or the Brodsky-led Old Man Gloom b-side "Willing Vessel".
Appropriately enough for this new direction, the lyrics of Heavy Pendulum
find themselves more grounded in earthly affairs than Brodsky's past contemplations of stars and celestial bodies. "Blood Spiller" and "Searchers of Hell" are fairly straightforward, even heavy-handed ventings over our current political climate, while the McGrath-lead "Reckoning" takes on biblical dogma, the guitarist's grittier vocal tone complimenting the material nicely. At its best, though, the album recalls Cave In's emotional past triumphs. The title track is a moving meditation on grief which casts the emotion as a pendulum, "acknowledging the heaviness of time passing, especially when you find yourself having to navigate through circumstances that drag you down" in the words of Brodsky. And if it's the last we ever hear from Scofield, "Amaranthine" is a superb final outing, a Perfect Pitch Black
-style ripper which allows Newton plenty of room to roar the late bassist's words in full force.
"Nate is very engaged in creative decisions, and there's a grace about him that makes it seem like he's been in the band since day one [...] but he also has enough distance to bring something new to the mix", Brodsky says in the press material for Heavy Pendulum
. It's a valuable perspective from which to view Newton's contributions to the album, not only as bassist and vocalist but as an outside voice tempering the band's impulses, a position Scofield also filled. With a wry tone, Brodsky notes that without Newton's watchful eye Heavy Pendulum
may have ended up an outright grunge record, a theory which the Alice in Chains-worshipping "Waiting for Love" bears out.
The hole left in Caleb Scofield's wake was not only that of a phenomenal bassist and one of the greatest harsh vocalists in the scene, but also of a diverse and curious musical mind who frequently pushed Cave In towards their finest musical excursions, favouring the balance of heaviness with Jupiter
's spacey stargazing or Tides of Tomorrow
's gentle psychedelia. Cave In cannot just soldier on as they were without that voice in the mix, but Heavy Pendulum
is perhaps even more valuable than a direct sequel to the band's golden years would have been. It's an album that shows a band comfortable and willing to begin moving on, 70 minutes of something new enough
that you can see a pretty bright future for the band that seemed impossible to many just three years ago. The lyrics to "Amaranthine" - a word that means unyielding or everlasting - are like a blessing from the departed voice, urging the band forwards into the light, to the next transmission they'll send to us.
"The anthem is ours to sing / The pain, the fight, the death, the life and then the love".