Trimming down to a lean duo formation Oakland, MD’s Cavern offer up their best work to date on their third LP, Eater, and fourth release overall for the Grimoire Records annals.  The band was fearsome as a trio and a stellar live show that my eyes bore witness to as well as the classic instrumental trip-out sophomore release Outsiders speaks to that legacy.  Yet there’s something new going on here, a more urgent rush to the material, busier drumming from the mighty Stephen Schrock and perhaps Zachary Harkins’ guitar work has taken on even more forms to account for the missing bass push once provided by his brother Nick.  Whatever the case, Eater is really good stuff and should appeal to fans of 5ive, early Pelican, American Don era Don Cab, Breadwinner, Pink Floyd, Ash Ra Tempel and Blind Idiot God. 

“Monogalia” sets the stage with cascading waterfalls of delicately strummed, deeply layered space guitar while Schrock fills in the backdrop with a low, Earthy pound that’s all ebbing toms and occasional striking beats that constantly stretch the sound to Appalachian highs.  The guitar effortlessly builds into that hydra headed, thousand eyed guitar pedal worship that Manuel eventually employed in German cosmonauts Ash Ra Tempel.  A squalor of distortion rides like a planet killing wave as the reflecting and bouncing clean licks enshroud a dirty, doom-y sludgy guitar rise that’s pounded into place by the 10-armed squid pummel of Schrock.  This leads into my favorite Cavern tune to date; the bustling, busy, polyrhythmed to fuck n’ back “Casey.”  Stephen’s opening beat is a constant billowing roll across every part of the kit while Harkins’ fretwork shoots these hypnotic, psychedelic melodies across the sky like a solar pinball powered by reverb, delay and echo.  It’s one of those songs that makes you trip without any drugs.  You’ve got the drug right in your stereo.  Every few seconds new constellations appear in the heavens; a glaring little lead bit here, a splashy cymbal accent there and slight tempo adjustments over yonder…everything is constantly evolving.  Then the boys go batshit bonkers with the wild ass jazz cum thrash drumming and dirty distorted riffs whipping up the winds until gentle breezes blow back a cool riff-y guitar workout right in your face as you suck up the gush of nature with eyes closed and breath baited.  Jagged, stop/start rhythm n’ groove tactics are soon to follow, then these wackos go into some sort of flanged, scraping weirdness while the drumming throttles a scaling black metal beat into the dirt before they launch back into the track’s tastiest riff.

The title cut creeps in with a textured, Gimour-styled satellite array of slow chording patterns which hint at a sort of mystery where everything and anything can happen.  A discordant, grinding riff soon enters the arena and engages in sword to sword combat with an off-balance, teetering n’ manic beat.  Schrock reminds me of Damon Che but with less excess, there are no wasted smacks here; his every curved triplet on the snares and esoteric, acrobatic fluxes are designed to suit the music.  There’s shades of Floyd’s “Echoes” in the suite that follows where gorgeous indie guitars are cut ear to eye with distorted riffs that soon open up into sustained leads in which each n’ every note is so individually plucked you can hear ‘em all.  To name every measure in this composition or describe the near keyboard-y sounding background FX is a fruitless endeavor.  They are what they are and the climax in a summit of super melodic, icy slow guitar textures that suitably overlap into the immediately following number, “Icefield.”  This masterpiece induces the feeling of traversing the tundra by a dog led sled while the frozen sights bewitch your eyes and brain.  Bend-y, twinkling guitar tapestries and starlit background shades draw down the sun as Stephen makes sure the biggest star in the beyond is beaten down below the horizon with another energetic, galloping performance.  Though bass is missing the sheer amount of guitar layers more than makes up for it and Harkins’ teeny 70s lick at 1:30 sends the song spiraling into a vortex of stoned out riffing might that’s as hard n’ heavy as it gets in the crunching guitar rock department.  I wouldn’t consider Cavern a traditional groove based but here they show that they can do it as good as anybody while ancient pillars of rock tumble around the listener and the drumming lays waste to everything in its path.

As the bluesy thunder dissipates and the lightning draws back, these monsters go into some freakout time-signature insanity like seminal 90s nuts Breadwinner and Blind Idiot God, the music nearly reaching the breaking point in the process but everything simmers into a nocturnal boil of quiet noise mediation.  Along with “Casey” this is by far my favorite track on the album, though this record is so seamless and well-done it should be listened to as a start to finish whole for the maximum desired effect.  “Photos of Paintings” runs a leg breaking obstacle course between Hum’s vaulting, larger than life riffs and it oddly crests with a black metal finish that applies scalding melodicism to the evil, Norwegian craft.  Ok, I lied earlier; closer “Sunday” is also in the top running of tracks with its supple harmonic muscle featuring swimming, teeming guitar licks which scream life and a stuttering, locked on and highwire percussive assault.  There’s also some Wishbone Ash or even Thin Lizzy-like guitar triumph going in this one that spreads its wings into an uplifting riff passage where the only God is in the groove.  What a finisher, that’s all I can say about this one.

As airtight as Cavern’s discography was thus far, you can’t fuck with Eater.  Untouchable melodies, tough musical turns and unpredictable songwriting wrap its arms around you and take you for the ride.  I’d kill to see this stuff live because these cats know how to do it onstage.  Anyone into glorious instrumental metal/hard-rock/psychedelia/indie leaned stuff should grab the preorder.  You can’t go wrong with this, you simply can’t.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
July 3rd, 2018


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