Cave In – Heavy Pendulum [Things You Might Have Missed 2022]

Although well aware of their revered reputation, I largely came to Cave In via the awesome Mutoid Man. I have since come to deeply respect and appreciate chunks of the band’s diverse catalog, and solid crossover appeal. Final Transmission, 2019’s heart-wrenching tribute to their fallen brother Caleb Scofield, who tragically passed away in a car accident in 2018, was a stripped-back and poignant album, featuring Scofield’s final musical contributions. Rather than shut up shop on the back of a tragic loss, Cave In discovered newfound inspiration and forged on. Stephen Brodsky (guitar/lead vocals), Adam McGrath (guitar/vocals) and John-Robert Conners (drums) recruited esteemed buddy Nate Newton (Converge, Doomriders, Old Man Gloom) to handle bass and harsh vocal duties. With the scene set, Cave In crafted a mammoth opus, drawing inspiration from their colorful musical past and restless stylistic shifts to unleash, Heavy Pendulum.

At a marathon 70 minutes, Heavy Pendulum features much to digest. I am often critical of overstuffed album lengths, however, not for the first time in 2022, the quality of the music largely trumps the length issues. Cave In bring their A-Game, creating a flawed, yet often masterful rock opus, drawing from different points of their career, while coming across fresh and inspired. The band’s hardcore, metal and rock aesthetics are represented on a dense, complex and memorable album. Heavy Pendulum should alternately please long-time devotees while reeling in casual and newfound listeners throughout a diverse and ambitious rock album. Cave In combine ’90s alt-rock vibes and grungy heavy rock bite, occasionally recalling Soundgarden and Alice In Chains, with spacey progressive shades, sludgy grooves, and metallic crunch, complete with modern edge and distinctive Cave In feel. And the shifting musical modes create a colorful journey not easily forgotten.

Highlights are plentifully scattered across the album. Early spins painted the album as a little top-heavy, jammed with taut, earwormy cuts, including the crunchy, hook-laden punch of “New Reality,” “Blood Spiller” and the superb “Floating Skulls.” The trio of delights expertly combine heavier vox and riffage with melodic sludge rock nuance, powerful choruses, and Brodsky’s terrific clean vocal hooks. The sludge-pop delights of “Heavy Pendulum” takes it back a notch, leaning into those ’90s grungy rock vibes, unfurling at a cruisy pace, embellished with striking leads and passionate vocals. However, Heavy Pendulum’s second half also stands up to scrutiny, continuing the captivating ride. It is often exploratory, dabbling into spacey-psych rock and prog territory, evidenced on emotive long-form epics, “Nightmare Eyes,” and staggering closing statement “Wavering Angel,” showcasing Cave In’s songwriting gifts, gripping the soul and pulling the heartstrings. Other second-act gems include, the anthemic rock fireball “Amaranthine,” and acoustic-driven “Reckoning.”

Is Heavy Pendulum too long? Damn straight it is, however, I can’t justifiably aim any major knocks against it. A handful of minutes could definitely be shaved to tighten up the package and reduce exhaustion (“Pendulambient”, “Days of Nothing”), while Kurt Ballou’s crisp, punchy production gets the job done but lacks dynamics and pizazz. Flaws aside, Heavy Pendulum is a rousing success story, chock full of tight, infectious writing, killer riffs and excellent musicianship, firmly solidifying Cave In as an endearing force to be reckoned with.

Tracks to Check Out: ”Floating Skulls,” “Blinded by a Blaze,” “Heavy Pendulum,” “Amaranthine,” “Wavering Angel”

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