Almost every band has that album: you know, the critically and/or commercially reviled dud in an otherwise passable-to-radical back catalog. Well, once in a while, on Wednesday morning, a Decibel staffer or special guest will take to the Deciblog to bitch and moan at length as to why everybody’s full of shit and said dud is, in fact, The Shit. But for JYST’s second run, we’re expanding the scope of the column to include vigorous defenses of the records we love from bands with slightly less incredible track records. This time, Comrade Bennett accepts the editor-in-chief’s challenge to resurrect Cave In’s post-Jupiter oeuvre from beyond hypothermia.
Cave In fans around the globe pissed their little hardcore diapers when the band went space-prog with 2000’s Jupiter, though the album is widely regarded as a stylistic triumph today. For all the Until Your Heart Stops fans who were in it strictly for the maximum ball-kicking opportunities the band’s pinnacle of heaviness provided in the pit, any Cave In jam without screaming and a sufficiently Slayer-esque riff was strictly squaresville. And while it clearly wasn’t the best move for Cave In to stop performing Until Your Heart Stops tracks entirely not long after Jupiter dropped, the power-goon element of their audience was not even slightly missed by those of us who go to shows to actually hear music. Here’s what those clowns—and the rest of the universe—either slept on or shit on:
Tides of Tomorrow (Hydra Head, 2002)
It’s like Matt Dillon says in Drugstore Cowboy: You gotta read the signs. And for everyone who would eventually get their Spider-Man Underoos in a bunch over the band’s major-label “sellout” Antenna, this stopgap EP should’ve been the tip-off to the not-so-massive left turn Cave In were about to take. All the hallmarks are there: catchy-as-fuck pop songs, soaring melodies and a general lack of the searing heaviness that made Until Your Heart Stops a favorite of headbangers, windmillers and floor-punchers everywhere. There’s even a Giant’s Chair cover, for shit’s sake. Anyone who didn’t see Antenna coming after Tides was fast-a-fucking-sleep.
Antenna (RCA, 2003)
Even for many of those who recognized Jupiter as the interstellar masterpiece that it was, Cave In’s jump to major label stewardship and the subsequent radio semi-friendliness of Antenna was just too much for their fragile psyches to bear. To saner observers, it merely proved that Cave In could master any style of rock they set out to. Put these songs up against the prevailing seven-figure rock of the day—Foo Fighters, Staind, Audioslave, etc.—and the competition comes out looking even more contrived and tepid than usual. That might not be saying much, but what exactly was wrong with this album again? Brodsky wasn’t screaming? He’d already ditched that on Jupiter. Not enough metal riffs? Again: See Jupiter. Too spacey? J-U-P-I-T-E-R. Too poppy? Compared to what? Half of these songs would’ve fit seamlessly on the big J. Do yourself a solid and give Antenna another spin. Time and distance will prove that this album isn’t only not nearly as bad as many seemed to think it was—it’s actually kinda awesome. It just has absolutely nothing in common with Until Your Heart Stops.
Perfect Pitch Black (Hydra Head, 2005)
On 2003’s Lollapalooza tour (the last time, incidentally, that Lollapalooza was an actual tour), Cave In started playing Until Your Heart Stops songs again—with bassist Caleb Scofield handling those infamously larynx-shredding vocal parts. By the next year, the band had started writing in that vein again as well, with Scofield and Brodsky more or less splitting vocal duties. By 2005, Cave In were back on Hydra Head, cranking out razor-wire mega-rippers like “Trepanning,” the menacing yet Jupiter-esque “Off to Ruin,” and songs that literally split the difference, like Perfect Pitch Black’s title track. The boys were back, alright, and arguably at the height of their seemingly infinite songwriting powers. But their hard-touring days were behind them, and Perfect Pitch Black didn’t get nearly as much exposure—or props—as it should have.
Planets of Old (Hydra Head, 2009)
After Perfect Pitch Black, drummer J. R. Conners moved to Germany, got married and was temporarily replaced by Converge skinsman Ben Koller. Soon enough, Cave In went on hiatus while Scofield had a kid and guitarist Adam McGrath went full-bore with his new band, Clouds. When the foursome reconvened in 2009, they dropped this four-song banger on everyone’s tits. Admittedly, it’s kind of a mixed bag. Opener “Cayman Tongue” drags on too long and basks in superfluous feedback. “Retina Sees Rewind” is a highlight—a frenetic, perpetually ascending riff-storm that sounds unlike anything Cave In have done before or since. “The Red Trail” is noisy as fuck, a screeching two-minute punk barrage that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Dillinger Escape Plan album. “Air Escapes” is heavy noise-pop, like an Antenna jam with extra teeth on the guitars. On the whole, Planets of Old sounds a little tossed off, but “Retina” and “The Red Trail” are well worth the price of admission.
White Silence (Hydra Head, 2011)
Does this album really even need defending? Our esteemed colleague Kevin Stewart-Panko gave White Silence a 7/10 in the July issue, which is a pretty sweet score coming from a guy who claims to hate both Slaughter of the Soul and Dopethrone. In terms of musical direction, White Silence is a more cohesive version of the Jupiter/Antenna/Until Your Heart Stops mash-up of Perfect Pitch Black while managing to be both more savage and more melodic. In fact, there are songs (“Centered” comes to mind) here that are even heavier and more relentless than some of the material on Until Your Heart Stops. And yet, we suspect the pissing and moaning about Cave In supposedly falling off will probably never stop. It’s almost enough to make you think that some people just like to piss and moan.