White Silence, Cave In's highly anticipated new album (and first since 2005's uneven Perfect Pitch Black) represents the absolute peak of the band's long-running evolution. This album is nothing less than a musical achievement and combines much of the sounds from their previous eras, yet mixes it with new, unheard styles.
Nine songs in length, White Silence within itself has many different sounds. The first three songs have a building sound, raw and aggressive. The opener, "White Silence" is slow and layered with guitar-driven growls and chants. Upon first listen, this is clearly a warning for what is to come. You know the feeling of turning on The Weather Channel and seeing a "severe thunderstorm" warning, opening your window and feeling a stiff breeze hit you in the face? That is how White Silence kicks off. After nearly three minutes of build, the next song, "Serpents" delivers on that promise. An absolute thrashing the likes of which Cave In has not recorded since 1998's Until Your Heart Stops, "Serpents" has an intense guitar line for the first minute-and-a-half underscored by a menacing synth sound in the background. That gives way to the familiar vocal scream of bassist Caleb Scofield, who doesn't let up until the end of the song. The continued refrain of "Her blood is warm / She's bound to die!" hangs over the song and delivers a satisfying hardcore/metal punch to Cave In's early fans.
But Cave In is only beginning. The third song on the album, "Sing My Loves" is nothing less than an absolute masterpiece. It begins with a minute-and-a-half of feedback spliced with a drum-and-guitar intro. From there, Cave In's familiar trademark sound of dual vocalists is heard for the first time, with Scofield and guitarist Stephen Brodsky trading trading lines and verses. Nevertheless, this song is heavier and more intense than anything Cave In has ever recorded. The ambition of "Sing My Loves" (and all of White Noise, really) is extremely high, and that a band who has been recording music for well over a decade could produce something this beautiful and urgent is a testament to how great they truly are.
The next three songs are less controlled, highly energized metal. "Vicious Circles" is a brutal Scofield burner, followed by the Jane Doe-esque "Centered". Though never quite as chaotic as Converge, the guitars on "Centered" and the next song "Summit Fever" drive the sound into hardcore territory. As on Shai Hulud's watermark 2003 album That Within Blood Ill-Tempered, Cave In's music goes all over the place, and no song is ever predictable. Particularly on "Summit Fever", the layered approach to the vocals, guitars and percussion is simply amazing. This is the turning point of the album.
After the sixth song, everything changes. "Heartbreaks, Earthquakes" represents an entire tonal shift. The storm has ended, it is still drizzling, but the sun is peeking through the storm clouds. After so much brutal hardcore, hearing a tambourine and hopeful synth sound is simply out of the blue. And wonderful. Cave In, producers of one of the best spacey prog-rock albums of all time (2001's Jupiter) re-explore that territory and come up with a true gem. It reminds this reviewer of Lennon at his Beatles best on "Tomorrow Never Knows". And yes, I just compared Cave In to the Beatles.
The last two songs follow "Heartbreaks, Earthquakes" lead. The last track, "Reanimation" couldn't have a more appropriate title. It is a breath of fresh air; almost folkish. It builds to an organized crescendo and fades. A perfect finale to an album unlike any I have ever heard.
Cave In's diverse sound over the years has been a source of much debate within their fanbase. This album will surely do the same, as it neither entirely placates the prog-rock spacey fans nor the hardcore early fans. At times both more intense and raw yet highly produced and gentler than previous recordings, White Silence is yet another new step for a band that hasn't stopped evolving since the moment they entered a studio.