This might be difficult to believe, coming from an adult who pretends to be a Muppet and uses his free time to write about metal for $0.00/hr, but sometimes I make decisions which are… well, I won’t say ‘stupid’, as I’m a freakin’ genius, yo….But being of such mortal-mindset transcendence, I’ve been known to choose me a choice or two that made roughly zero sense to roughly everyone who wasn’t me. I walk the Oz-ian line of ideas most frequently when I’m out Bandcamping, where something as simple as a particularly fetching album cover can damn me to another week of poverty before I’ve so much as heard a note. Say what you want about my decision-making skills, my vinyl collection is cooler than yours.
What was I babbling about? Oh, right, Cascades. I discovered their eponymous debut among the ‘campgrounds earlier this year, a knee-jerk purchase triggered by my enthrallment with the cover scenery. For the sake of getting back on track, I’ll put it like this: the music, for once, matches the artwork. Like, perfectly. Cascades is a landscape, a sprawling expanse of scenery and living, breathing ambiance. The journey is barely over half an hour long, but it is a wondrous experience. Befitting the scenic adventure promised by the cover, the songs are able to evoke serene moments of reflection, heart-pounding adrenaline rushes, and breathless, cathartic passages which envelope the listener in the sheer beauty of it all.
Cascades set up camp with gear largely borrowed from the likes of Deftones, Spotlights, and Neurosis, using all of it to forge a trail of their own. The atmosphere is certainly redolent of said post-masters, but the hardcore growls set against a much darker sky and sporadic bonfires of Converge-esque aggression transform familiar territory into something new, something wild. Any given song might find the band simmering in postal peace or else writhing in hardcore chaos, but never for long enough for either to be considered the defining nature of the track. If a song starts out calmly you can bet that you’ll be winded by the end of it, just as the balls-out opening of “Divide” completely defies the breath-collecting tranquility of its middle section.
Much of that magic is made possible by the brilliant progressive shifting that occurs all throughout the album. These Aussies never stay in any one influential neck of the woods for too long, making it rather difficult to pigeonhole them into any one genre. “Ceaseless,” for example, begins its journey in darkly calm Pink Floydian territory before launching into something akin to Deftones with Cult of Luna vocals, eventually returning to even Floydier serenity only to go all Neurosis on us. As I said, this truly is a journey through many varying soundscapes, and Cascades certainly know all the best paths to take.
Ultimately, Cascades is an adventure, one best experienced from beginning to end. The whole bit about books and covers aside, it was a relief – almost a shock, really – to hear an album so perfectly represented by its cover art. If sonic walks in the woods are your thing, then slap on your listening boots and get to stepping. If not, then I don’t understand you at all, and I’m happy to have wasted your time.
Tracks to check out: All of them. There are only 5, you lazy shits.