New Release – Cave In, Final Transmission

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Cave In are one of those bands that you might not have heard of; but which every band you love has definitely followed. Coming from Massachusetts, Cave In feel like they should be a band you’ve heard of because they were part of an era-defining scene (1980’s DC, perhaps, which gave us Fugazi, or 1970’s LA, which birthed Black Flag); but they’re an all-original product of New England. And if you think that New England can’t make hardcore music, Cave In are going to be a surprise.

The band originally dabbled in metalcore before branching out to other genres like alternative rock, post-hardcore, and progressive rock. Last week, they released their sixth studio album, Final Transmission.

The record is bittersweet; it’s the first album released after the death of Caleb Scofield, who was the band’s bassist and singer. Scofield passed away following a car accident in early 2018, and his death had reverberations across America’s alternative music scene. Now, over a year later, Final Transmission is here, mixed together from practice-space demos that include Scofield’s contributions. Where other posthumous albums can feel bitty or like cash-ins, this is impressively coherent. Andrew Steiner’s mixing and James Plotkin’s mastering give a rare – and surely unwanted – spotlight to the fact that mixing and mastering are truly creative arts unto themselves. Stepping in to get Scofield’s demos to the aural standard of the rest of the recordings must have been painstaking and tough, but the result is a brilliant and beautiful set of tracks, made all the more haunting by the circumstances surrounding it.

The musicality is perfect; great rock elements work smoothly with metal notes to strike the perfect balance of heavy and sweet; heavy with purpose. The album opens with a lyrics-light song titled “Final Transmission,” which is mostly acoustic and is elegiac in a way that’s heartbreaking for fans. Scofield’s play on the bass guitar blends in exquisitely with McGrath’s guitar prowess on the guitar, bringing out the softly-sung melody. Next up on the record is “All Illusion,” a song for which Stephen Brodsky originally wrote the lyrics, before the band found a set of lyrics in the Scofield’s journal and decided to use those words instead.

“Shake My Blood” is up next, and this time Brodsky takes the baton from Scofield to finish the piece. “Night Crawler” comes in next, with dark and anguished rhythms that reflect an earned sense of angst, before “Lunar Day” and “Winter Window,” which is the sixth track on the album, and easily emerges as the best of them all. It begins with dulcet tones on the guitar backed by powerful rhythms on the drums, and proceeds to a delightful mix of Brodsky’s vocals and Scofield’s bass.

“Lanterna” is counterintuitively dark, and the penultimate track, “Strange Reflection,” brings together uniquely dreamy guitar notes and something more deeply-rooted. “Led to the Wolves” is the last number on the record, and it’s so reminiscent of Scofield’s signature style that it’s easy to believe it could find a fitting place in one of their earlier albums.

Final Transmission is equal parts a fitting tribute to and a fond remembrance of a friend, a bandmate, and a gifted musician. It’s a masterpiece that comes at a painful time, proving that even in the middle of a storm, something beautiful can bloom.

An avid drummer whose discography includes albums on Digital Nations (a Steve Vai imprint), music critic Louis Raphael has always kept a pulse on the San Francisco music scene. After many years as the San Francisco Music Examiner for Examiner.com and AXS.com, he decided to start Music in SF® as a way to showcase what the San Francisco music scene really has to offer.