Cave In - Perfect Pitch Black (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Cave In

Perfect Pitch Black (2005)

Hydra Head

Ironically, it's very, very tough to say if Perfect Pitch Black is the record Cave In wanted to make. The post-hardcore / alternative metal ambassadors had suddenly materialized into just that with the release of 2000's Jupiter on their flagship Hydra Head Records label after administering crushingly heavy metalcore records in the earlier days of that style. After the extension piece in Tides of Tomorrow, a contract with the folks at RCA followed, and the band found themselves in a common tug of war between trying to please both radio play-hungry executives and longtime fans. With the threads of that rope slowly splitting apart, 2003's Antenna was released to mixed reaction; while an intelligent rock record on its own merits, it failed to appease either side; while it lacked the vast ambition of Jupiter, it also failed to deliver on the accessibility RCA was looking for. It, in all likelihood, was not quite the record Cave In wanted to make, yet nor was it the one the label wanted to hear. So even with the creative freedom back fully in their hands and their home back in the familiar countryland of Hydra Head, Perfect Pitch Black seems more a stopover in Cave In's progression than anything, as it seems to recall a healthy amount of traits from Jupiter along with fits of screaming and growling, the likes of which haven't been audible since 1999's Until Your Heart Stops. Is employing this style an outright attempt to win back fans? Maybe. Is Perfect Pitch Black another intelligent, well-structured and strongly written rock record regardless? Definitely.

Indeed, Perfect Pitch Black specifically tries to pick back up where both Heart and Jupiter left off, often in the same track. This is nearly immediately evident as a series of static interference acts as an instrumental title track that opens the disc, which leads into "The World is in Your Way," whom not only picks up on the Egyptian guitar tones initially devised on Jupiter, but finds lead vocalist Stephen Brodsky teeth-clenched and thickly moaning the title lyric in between sudden bursts of backup growls. "Trepanning" is the most rock'n'roll track Cave In's laid to tape. It bounces along with intense growls in the verses and a rythmic spew of "chew them up / spit them out / feed them to / the / wolves" that acts as the transition to where in the chorus, Brodsky's casually, almost head-bobbingly singing. There's even a cheesy little solo tucked in at one point that actually makes a great deal of sense.

Certain standout "Paranormal" is the seven-minute centerpiece, opening with spacey, mechanical shuddering that stops for Brodsky to announce "moonlight comes through the shades now," and lightly soaring "oh-ohhhhs" that follow it up and appear often throughout the song. It's here in this emotional building that Brodsky's U2 influence is most prevalent, as while his beautiful croon seems sparse on the record, his voice overall is stronger than ever, practically stadium-like in both his range and, notably, expressiveness. Interspersed between this said smattering of "ohs" are the band sounding straight plain pissed off, growls spit into the mic with a gleam of static over the voice. The track continues with some atmospheric scene setting, and then suddenly initiates its buildup, with a commanding drum roll and lightly squealing guitars that let up for Brodsky to offer the same "ohs" that here help the track finish its emotional letting down.

The record finishes up rather strongly as well. "Down the Drain" is the acoustic-driven slow jam of the album; Brodsky's whisper helps it move along as bloop programming skips along in the background. "Droned" and "Ataraxia" both offer a dark-sounding reprieve from the otherwise hopeful moods, sounding massively cynical, the latter an instrumental (aside from some practical choir "ahs" resonating in back) swaying in and out with more foreign-sounding guitars that seem to either melt and drip through the speakers or heavily but rythmically plod along. "Tension in the Ranks" recalls Cave In's "Radiohead gone post-hardcore" moments, as its valleys and peaks are both moderate and subtle; it's slightly spacey, its pacing subdued, and the guitars and rhythm section manage to crumble together rather than crash into. "Screaming in Your Sleep" closes it out with another bouncy, more rock-dependent flow, a fully distorted bass underlying either direct screeching or urgent riffing from the guitars.

Cave In may not be setting another skyhigh bar with Perfect Pitch Black, but they've definitely managed to make another more than respectable entry into a style they've seemed to both popularize and revolutionize the latest wave of.

Perfect Pitch Black