Cavern Deep – Cavern Deep Review

Fuck mushrooms, man. Sure, that sounds pretty extreme, considering their healing properties and whatnot, but everyone’s favorite vegan meat substitute/hallucinogen/pizza topping contains some serious nightmare fuel. Take what they do to insects, for instance. “Dude, they’re ants,” you might scoff. Have you ever played The Last of Us? Also, Mario. Plumber extraordinaire. Eats one mushroom, gets “tall”, and kicks poor, defenseless turtles into each other while headbutting blocks for pocket change, glowing flowers made of fire, edible stars, and MORE MUSHROOMS. Shit ain’t normal, folks. So when Swedish trio Cavern Deep decided to pen a story about 50 archaeologists who discover a subterranean world loaded with luminescent fungi, you best believe that fuckery is afoot.

And that fuckery, spread out over the course of eight songs and around 45 minutes, further cements why I close my eyes, put my fingers in my ears, and sing the Smurfs Theme Song loudly whenever anyone praises the earthy flavor and textural diversity of shiitake mushrooms. Thankfully, the riffs of Kenny Oswald Dufvenberg, the chunky bass work of Max Malmer, and Dennis Sjödin’s plodding drumming and haunting keyboard stylings do a fairly convincing job of adding dread and despair. Penultimate epic and album highlight “Fungal Realm” highlights their strengths beautifully, with soaring leads, a powerful chorus, a tense atmosphere, and driving double-bass near the end (which is uncharacteristic for occult-flavored doom metal) making an eight-minute song feel like less than half its length. Moments like this make a pretty convincing statement this early into their existence.

Sadly, a good portion of the album is a severely mixed bag, with two massive hurdles tripping them up. First, the songwriting needs some tightening. Some of the longer songs, such as opener “Staring Down” and “Abandoned Quarters,” don’t have the necessary flow or variety to justify their lengths. On the other hand, the three shortest songs on here, “Deeper Grounds,” “Leap of Faith,” and closer “The Dark Place” don’t feel fully fleshed out, like they’re sketches that haven’t reached their full potential just yet. Also, some of their choices of what to do in their songs is baffling. “Deeper Grounds” just has Dufvenberg howling “Deeper…” over and over, while “Waterways” has a chorus that features Dufvenberg and Malmer “laaaaaa-la-la-laaaaaaaa”-ing throughout its entirety, cheapening an otherwise fantastic song.

Which brings me to the other concern. Both Dufvenberg and Malmer share the vocal duties, with Malmer doing the more subdued, almost Peter Steele-esque crooning while Dufvenberg handles the more soulful Glenn Danzig-like howls. Their performances are also a bit of a rollercoaster. When it works, such as on most of “Waterways” and all of “Fungal Realm,” it elevates their story, adding a sense of believability to a bizarre Lovecraftian fever dream. But when Dufvenberg tries to reach outside his comfort zone, like he does a bit on “Staring Down,” it gives me flashbacks of Blaze Bayley trying to hit those high notes on “Lightning Strikes Twice,” with Dufvenberg straining and sounding nasally. Sometimes, it’s okay to not go for the gold, and just work with what you’ve got. That said, while both men are incredibly talented at what they do, I have to say that the soulful crooning by both Malmer and Dufvenberg feels wildly out-of-place for a horror story such as what’s on offer here.

But I can’t say that I don’t see potential for greater things down the line. Cavern Deep, during its high moments, offers a compelling story propelled by great riffs, incredible atmosphere, and a powerful backbone. However, Cavern Deep have some work to do to get to the next step. And I will keep an eye out for further tales of hapless, well-intentioned explorers, and fungal atrocities. Oh, and this cements why pineapple is a far superior pizza topping.1 Ever heard of pineapples possessing ants, people, or Spongebob? Yeah, I thought so.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 128 kpbs mp3
Label: Interstellar Smoke Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: July 23rd, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. Blasphemy! – Steel
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