Though modern rock, by design, employs at least a moderate amount of teamwork between band members, true democracy in the post-2000 indie rock world tends to conspicuously defy the norm. In actual practice, you’re much more likely to hear a band claim a collaborative spirit (The Strokes’ most recent piecemeal effort, Angles, for instance) than you are to actually hear the sounds of multiple congruent songwriters so intrinsically-linked that every piece of music demands equal input from each party. That’s part of the reason White Silence, a one-off album by the damn-near defunct Massachusetts aggressive rock chameleons Cave In, is such a stunning surprise.
It’s difficult to say this was the album Cave In needed to make, especially when the band’s members have spent the past seven years apparently not caring whether they work together, enjoy a flourishing career, or continue to be labeled as the creative trailblazers they were thought to be for a couple of months at the end of the 1990s. Jilted by broken corporate promises and underwhelming album sales of the alt-rock head-in-the-clouds opus Antenna, the band left RCA Records and released Perfect Pitch Black, a lipsticked collection of demos that haphazardly – albeit with good intentions – attempted to reestablish the bite of their earlier metalcore records. Cave In seemed all but totally disbanded, with individual members branching off to make at least ten albums in the form of solo projects and new bands that, at times, produced better music than both Antenna and Perfect Pitch Black combined. 2009’s Planets of Old EP, though a welcome reminder of Cave In’s existence, did little to help the situation. Attempting to give fans both the frictionless vocals of Stephen Brodsky and the guttural scream of bassist Caleb Scofield, it came off just as forced as the two albums before it. At that point, any fan, follower, or bona fide detractor of the band had good reason to lack confidence in Cave In’s ability to be the forward-thinking visionaries they once seemed to be.
White Silence, then, should completely astound any of those doubters, as it manages to give everyone both nothing and everything they’ve ever wanted from the band. Unpredictably revolving through singing, screaming and yelling, while seamlessly throwing together crushing guitar sludge, pounding hardcore drums, the occasional black metal suite, and a witches brew of Electro Harmonix-processed rock n’ roll solos, the album’s only common thread (possibly best embodied in thrash hodgepodge “Centered”) is a jagged layer of brutal dissonance and sensationally wanton texture experimentation that inexplicably seals Cave In’s most organic record to date.
The album finds its keynote only three songs in with “Sing My Loves”, a groove-heavy piece whose jaw-dropping double guitar crunch perfectly jives with a rhythm section straight out of a messy Judas Priest drum take until unfolding into a soaring, smoothly-harmonized arena rock climax and denouement. The band continues its stride through a series of Converge-quality off-the-wall screamers until bringing the album’s breakneck speed to a halt with “Summit Fever”, a mountain-climbing pound of doom that builds on Cave In’s career-spanning theme of oxygen loss and suffocation. After which, the remainder of White Silence seems intent on lulling the listener into a state of peaceful reflection.
Closer “Reanimation” may be one of the only songs here that overtly belongs to one of the band’s members. Beginning with minimalist guitar picking reminiscent his most recent solo effort Here’s To The Future, Stephen Brodsky’s crudely rudimentary – yet always refreshingly straightforward – lyricism brings the gradual cooling of the album’s intensity to a muted, heavy breath before the rest of the band reappears for a beautiful and sprawling conclusion that adds a strange symmetry to a record that began on series of violently black notes.
Again, it isn’t necessarily the case that Cave In needed to make this album, as they’ve carefully curated for themselves an environment in which time apparently stands still and eight years between proper albums is a non-issue. Nevertheless, White Silence is that album; one that sounds and feels like it was recorded by a group of brand new musicians with an entirely original take on creating music. Obviously, the members of Cave In are anything but new. More appropriately, this is the refocusing of a band that was at one time in danger of falling victim to the vice of creative apathy and its own ingrained predilection for bucking mainstream recording industry conventions. Instead, they’ve centered their hyper-evolved (or is it “supremely antiquated”?) idea of what a band should be and made an album that serves to both validate their ceaseless genre-shifting and affirm their earlier praise as artistic innovators.