After every full-length release, Cave In recalibrate their sound. The Massachusetts band has never made the same record twice, which can be exciting in its unpredictability but can also be inconsistent. Nevertheless, they have a range they stay within – extreme metal and a more alternative rock sound, much of it infused with spacious ambiance – and Heavy Pendulum, released through Relapse Records, is no exception. However, this album sees Cave In sounding more tenacious and well-put-together.
Unfortunately, 2019’s roughly-cut Final Transmission is Cave In’s last round of songs with their late bassist, Caleb Scofield, and arguably the most organic they’ve sounded in over a decade. But as devastating as coping with loss has been for the remaining members, Cave In lives on. Heavy Pendulum sees Cave In refreshing their intensity with a sense of enthusiasm. It’s balanced, spirited, and catchy in a way that their other albums haven’t been. It feels more genuinely metallic than what they reached for with 2005’s Perfect Pitch Black and 2011’s White Silence. You can feel their pulse through this album.
Nate Newton of Converge fame has been absorbed into the group as their bassist, filling Scofield’s vacant position. Both bands have held close ties since Cave In’s inception. Cave In and Converge often shuffle members into different formations as fellow Massachusetts metalheads, resulting in multiple side projects (including Old Man Gloom, Mutoid Man, Kid Kilowatt, and Converge’s 2020 collaborative album, Bloodmoon: I). Based on their close relationship, Newton may be the only musician who can complete the band and further Cave In’s longevity.
Newton’s presence and Scofield’s absence have changed Cave In’s sound dynamics. Newton brings his signature crushing, rumbling bass tone to their music, illuminated in songs like the steadily powerful “Blood Spiller” and the bluesy “Nightmare Eyes”. Cave In’s basslines haven’t been this compelling since 2003’s Antenna.
Lead guitarist and singer Stephen Brodsky and rhythm guitarist Adam McGrath’s guitar work is tighter than ever, executing grooving and nimble-fingered progressions. “Careless Offering” boasts high registered guitar licks complimented by Newton’s mammoth-sized, woolly bass. Similar guitar licks creep and tingle along “Searchers of Hell”.
Without sounding derivative, Heavy Pendulum feels informed by classic metal bands, complete with soaring guitar solos and bands that defined lesser-known subgenres. Listeners can find impressions of Black Sabbath to Motorhead to Neurosis, whether intentional or not. On a rare occasion, McGrath takes lead vocals on “Reckoning”, a powerful ballad akin to 1980s hard rock but with the utmost sincerity.
Heavy Pendulum gets sludgy and grungy at times. The title track and “Blinded by a Blaze” carry a noticeable 1990s alternative rock sound, featuring vocal harmonizations reminiscent of Alice in Chains. In “Waiting for Love”, Brodsky’s smooth singing resonates when stretched across a trudging, swinging tempo. Songs like these feel like they should be accompanied by wavering, slow-motion images of the band walking through a desert.
As a seasoned vocalist, Newton lends his voice for backup. Longtime fans of Boston metalcore will love the back and forth vocals between Brodsky and Newton on “New Reality”. In addition, Newton growls various sections on multiple tracks, casting a vibe that approaches the Newton-lead heavy metal band, Doomriders.
This is what fans of the Boston metal scene will love about Heavy Pendulum. It feels like a naturally collaborative album between Cave In and Converge, two longtime musical comrades. (Note: Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou produced the album). When musicians play with each other for years, they build an intuitive understanding of their creative sensibilities. It’s clear that they love making music with each other, and their mutual passion is emblazoned in this deeply compelling batch of heavy rock songs.