5 out of 5
Label: Hydra Head
Produced by: Drew Arnt, Steve Brodsky (mixed by), James Plotkin (mastered by)
Setting aside my fire-me-from-owning-music take on UYHS, the availability of this testament to the gutsy power of these compositions is the all-killer variation on the album. This is music only – no vocals – and definitely bears the roughshod aural quality hallmarks of early 4-track tape recordings, but I have to believe our mixers (Drew Arnt, Steve Brodsky) and masterers (the, er, masterful James Plotkin) did a ton of clean-up work here, as the music comes through pretty damn clear on all fronts – drums, bass, guitars.
Stripped of the ambient stuff – the segues, the end of ‘Controlled Mayhem’ – that cuts an hour-long disc down to about 40 minutes of music, minus Ebola and swapped in a Beyond Hypothermia track presumably recorded as part of these same demos, Ritual Famine. Now it’s not exactly that I felt that that specific ambient stuff was what created the mixed-tonal messy nature of the final release, but regardless, sans that and with our quartet of musicians focused solely on rocking out, UYHS Demos is exactly that – focused. Brutal. Madly impressive.
It would probably be odd for this to be your “intro” to Cave In, and it certainly wouldn’t be ideal in that sense, since it’s not really indicative of their sound, even on the studio version of UYHS – as a standalone, it reads more like instrumental Keelhaul – but it is absolutely listenable without any other context with the band. That’s impressive enough; add in the context and I think it gets an extra boost – nostalgia, awe at how sharp this stuff was even in this distilled format – plus an extra extra boost for lame-os like me who can’t appreciate the polished version.