Album Review: Cave In – Final Transmission
It is under the saddest of circumstances that a record as brilliant, imaginative and frequently beautiful as Final Transmission appears. After almost seven years of silence, progressive hardcore heroes Cave In began work on what was meant to be a glorious comeback. Tragically, on March 28 last year, bassist Caleb Scofield was killed in a car accident. He was just 39 years old.
In tribute, emotional memorial shows were performed featuring Cave In alongside Caleb’s friends Converge and his other project Old Man Gloom. Even post-metal enigmas Isis came out of retirement under the name Celestial for the occasion, from which every penny raised was given to his wife and children. And now, to further salute their fallen brother, here we have the band’s final album in Caleb’s memory, comprised of songs that were being worked on at the time, grown from demo versions, all of which feature his playing. As a tribute, it is wonderful, but even without the terrible context in which this album has come about, Final Transmission is superb.
It is, unsurprisingly, a bittersweet listen. The opening title-track is a voice note of Caleb playing a riff on an acoustic guitar and humming a melody, a message he sent to his bandmates so they could hear his new idea. Even in such simple, raw form, the level of talent and creativity shines through in the most brilliant terms. Elsewhere, the music is what Cave In fans would have been right to hope for from their intended return, albeit in rougher-than-usual style. But again, though free of sparkly studio shine, having been made as demos of new material rather than an intended finished article, songs like All Illusion and Shake My Blood have a magnetic energy to them all of their own. Indeed, the band’s twisting, never-quite-straight hardcore sounds as beguiling and exciting as on 2000’s breakthrough Jupiter album. That the music was recorded prior to the loss of Caleb means that, rather than a hindsight tribute, these songs are able to show off someone working on their craft as it happens. It’s in the lyrics, largely written after the fact, where the aftermath hits home. Most poignantly on Shake My Blood, in which Stephen Brodsky sings, ‘Don’t leave / Don’t leave without saying goodbye’, the heart of this record is laid out in the simplest, most human terms.
But as hard a listen as this might be, Final Transmission is ultimately not intended to be played in sadness. This is a celebration of a life, a friend, something new and beautiful by which both Caleb’s close pals and fans who never had the chance to meet him can remember him. And in that, it is an absolute triumph.