The ironically-titled White Silence, Cave In’s first full-length since Perfect Pitch Black in 2005, finds the band almost entirely back in the furious, pummeling mode captured on their first several recordings. Like its predecessor, White Silence largely (though not completely) eschews the mellower aspects showcased on spacey albums like Antenna, instead favoring more of the aggressive, metalcore-bred style that informed earlier releases like Beyond Hypothermia.
This is not entirely surprising. The band’s most recent studio output—2009’s brief EP Planets of Old—dripped with the raw energy that drove the band’s harder work, but coupled it with a sharp production and enough clean vocals to bridge the gap. White Silence follows a similar path, but not precisely. At nine tracks (totaling just over 35 minutes in length), the album is frontloaded with a lot of rigorous auditory bashing (driven, it must be noted, by the ever reliable percussion work of J.R. Connors). The album crashes out of the gate with a no-nonsense attack in the titular track, which in its brief duration of static and shrieking manages to establish that Silence promises to contain anything but, before bleeding seamlessly into the even more punishing speed of “Serpents.”
This frenetic energy continues virtually unabated for two-thirds of the record, resting only fleetingly (the tuneful outro of “Summit Fever”; the eight-minute-plus “Sing My Loves,” which offers the record’s first true melodic respite) and reaching a fever pitch on album highlight “Centered,” the staccato squalls of which are staggering. And while all of this brutality is handled very capably, what perhaps makes the record most interesting is its concluding third. “Heartbreaks, Earthquakes” dodges any preconceptions conjured by its title by offering up jangly, vaguely Beatles-esque instrumentation overlaid with fragmented (but characteristically strong) lyrics about a failed relationship. “Iron Decibels,” though comparatively muscular, is similarly melody driven, and finds vocalist Stephen Brodsky in an almost bluesy mood. However, most noteworthy is album closer “Reanimation,” which owes a large debt to Pink Floyd and comes alive through both its beautiful harmonies and lyrical images like “healing signs of neon spines.” These three songs work together to save White SIlence from being a one-trick pony, however well-performed that trick might be.
Overall, Cave In’s return from a six year absence is remarkably cohesive, sounding more like natural continuation than derivation. The album is certainly not perfect. With such an unwavering commitment to bludgeoning heaviness for the bulk of its early runtime, White Silence runs the risk of sameness. By that same token, the partitioning of all of the album’s breathers to the very end is an interesting choice—but one that works in context. It is difficult to imagine these melodic numbers, beautiful as they are, doing anything but hindering the energy of the opening barrage. In fact, the current sequencing feels a bit like Opeth’s Deliverance/Damnation project in terms of musical construction, albeit on a much smaller scale. Regardless, the fact that Cave In is able to keep six tracks’ worth of aggression interesting is a testament to their songwriting skills and instrumental flourishes. That the band can then somehow up the ante with a subdued final act only cements this.
White Silence is currently available for purchase and download from all major services; The Sound Garden in Fells Point offers new physical copies for $12.99, the best price one is likely to encounter at this point.