September 08, 2005

Cave In "Perfect Pitch Black

I'm sure Cave In realizes that it's time to make up for lost ground. Their last album, Antenna, was an excellent record and one of the best releases of 2003. Before that, Cave In's third album, the utterly breathtaking masterpiece Jupiter, was larger than life, and its heavy atmospherics and breathtaking music only improves with time. Building upon Jupiter's heights, Antenna was ambitious; it was heavy, it was poppy, and it should have been a critical success. But RCA, their label at the time, dropped the ball on Cave In's success, and the world really missed out on a great album from a great band. Of course, not everyone was happy with Antenna; many longtime fans bemoaned how slick and radio-friendly it sounded. Some wished that they would return to their roots and grace the world with another heavy, in-your-face record like Until Your Heart Stops.

Perfect Pitch Black isn't a return to those days, but unlike Antenna, those days aren't neglected, either. Calling this record a proper follow-up to Antenna might be somewhat dubious, as most of the songs found here have been in Cave In's vault for the past few years. Still, it's quite clear that the band felt it necessary to revisit some of their older, harder ideas, and it's to their credit that they did so without distancing themselves from their most recent accomplishments. Some fans will be happy to hear bassist Caleb Scofield's grumbling hardcore vocals on "The World Is In Your Way" and "Trepanning," and yes, it is a most welcome treat to hear those rumbles of the past. Thankfully, such moments don't overwhelm Perfect Pitch Black; spending too much time trying to recreate the past would be counterproductive, and for a great band like Cave In, it would rightfully be a shame if all they did at this point was try to recreate the magic of their previous records' triumphs.

But Cave In's magic has always been the Stephen Brodsky/Adam McGrath relationship. McGrath's hard-as-hell guitar work has proved the yin to Brodsky's softer, more melodic yang. The combination works quite well; it doesn't seem much of a stretch for the band to go from harder moments like "Trepanning" and "Off To Ruin" to much softer, headier material like the space-rock "Paranormal" or "Down the Drain," on which Brodsky's soft singing fits in nicely with some dark, heavy and slightly ambient soundscapes. Brodsky can go from yelling rather hard to creating softer, more melancholy material like "Tension In The Ranks," and it shows that the young man has really impressive range. Heck, Cave In just wants to rock, as the straightforward "Droned" and "Screaming In Your Sleep" prove. On those songs, Cave In does nothing more than really boogie, and it's obvious that Brodsky and company are simply having a fun time playing great rock & roll. That the mixture of these different facets never sounds contrived is simply part of Cave In's magic.

It's obvious that Cave In is much more interested in moving forward with their sound. While Perfect Pitch Black might not be Cave In's most obvious step forward, it is clear that the band definitely has some really great ideas formulating in their belly, and that's ultimately what makes Perfect Pitch Black so promising. As a roundup of various material from the past few years, it's incredibly cohesive; as a collection of new material, it might not be Cave In's strongest record, but it's still one that anyone who likes Cave In would be happy with, and for those who haven't heard this wonderful and terribly underrated band, Perfect Pitch Black is a great place to start. For those still skeptical about what Cave In can do, all I can say is this: wait.

--Joseph Kyle

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