Fans of any of Cave In's previous work will find something to enjoy on their new EP, Planets of Old. Whether playing blistering metal akin to their Beyond Hypothermia days or classic rock riffs reminiscent of Jupiter, Cave In skirts the boundaries effortlessly, leaving their distinctive mark on each.
The most noticeable characteristic of the EP is the settling of the group back into their indie roots. Having come full circle from an underground mainstay to a major label up-and-comer and back again, Cave In seems revitalized (rather than defeated) by their travels. Planets of Old finds the band sticking with their native label Hydra Head, which includes the perks of simple yet thematic artwork from musician/label guru Aaron Turner. In true independent fashion, the band offers the entire album available for streaming, and provides little fanfare on their MySpace to promote the release other than the music itself. Thankfully, the band puts together an EP that is not only a welcome respite after four years of silence, but an intriguing glimpse of what may come next.
In EP opener "Cayman's Tongue," the band begins by building a mood of ominous feedback and drums, which quickly give way to bassist Caleb Scofield's gritty low end. As the music intensifies, guitars trickle in slowly, making use of some of the signature effects that comprise the group's sound. Soon the song soars into one of singer/guitarist Stephen Brodsky's powerful lead lines, and segues into a smooth vocal melody, only to switch to an abrasive display rivaling some of their heaviest work. In this first track (probably the strongest of the EP), Cave In proves they have earned their keep in the underground.
Subsequent songs run the gambit of past Cave In releases. In "Retina Sees Rewind," Brodsky pens a catchy, Rush-esque hook which is sure to garner repeated listens. "The Red Trail" is a raging, thrashy ode to their metal/hardcore roots, and "Air Escapes" offers a darker, rock contrast to finish the release. Although the band works in unison, Brodsky shines vocally with an impressive range of pitch and sound that sounds as strong now as it did on any previous works. In just four tracks, Cave In is able to conjure some of the brutality of Until Your Heart Stops as well as some of the uniqueness of Creative Eclipses. With 14 years under their belt, it appears the band has not exahusted their songwriting ability.
Although it is unclear whether the new EP marks a permanent return or simply a break from their former hiatus, the album is a welcome endeavor for Cave In fans who may have been yearning for something new after 2005's Perfect Pitch Black. Although a short offering, Planets of Old is a solid interlude to whatever lies ahead.