4 out of 5
Produced by: John McBain (mastered by)
Label: Valley King Records
Okay, you got me. When I first gave Cavity’s 15-year-return album a spin – the digital download that came with the vinyl – all I heard was some growling and a couple of distorted notes. But I was on my computer, working, so I chalked it up to distraction and loaded it on a portable player for a closer listen. But that closer listen – my second spin – prompted me to question if this was even the same Cavity, or just some last member standing shell or something. The ten minute long, slow, poorly recorded, unchanging songs; I legitimately wondered if this was intended to be a joke on the listener, i.e. Long Awaited Album! …and now here’s a half hour of drone.
The media blurbs accompanying the release seem to confirm that this was, indeed, legitimately Cavity; while I wasn’t able to find much helpful in the way of reviews, I did find a sort of preview / interview regarding After Death here. And I realize I’m easy to sway, but just hearing the band speak to the purposefulness of the recording made me want to listen to it again, to see if I could hear Cavity in the music after all.
The rating likely spoils the result.
Still, the record is undeniably raw, but as the album sloooowly lumbers from the heavy, throat-shredded shambling opener to the comparatively gentle (yup) and tuneful closer, it sincerely seems like there’s something more afoot, and maybe a ‘joke’ after all – or a trick, rather, with the group starting out with hallmark elements stripped to their most minimal versions, then inch their way into different fare over the course of the four tracks. Some lyrics peek out – violent imagery – but it’s not as important as the mindset during the journey, which, once you’ve allowed yourself to be swept up in the plodding guitar squalls and thumped drum, is a trancelike state that’s urged toward contemplation: Anger and fury slowed down to a snail’s pace. It’s an interesting place to be in.
The recording is similarly pretty bare, but it slots in with the sort of machine-like sound the group seemed to favor, in which their volume is organic but curtailed by some rigorous, square-corners god. Cavity’s music teetered on the edge of uncontained madness, and After Death maintains that, somehow, boiled down to the barest of instrumentation and vocals.
On both fronts – the production and composition – repeated listens suggest the skill with not indulging in metal blowouts for these dirges. Developments come at the tail end of the long tracks, and often amount to only a slightly changed beat or riff, but again, once swept up in the tide, the change feels momentous and powerful.
After Death is Cavity, and it’s also a group coming back around to make music they want, completely on their own terms. Shamefully, without the group’s lineage, I don’t know if I would have given this beyond-slow-burn experience subsequent goes. But I did. And while I would nod in agreement with anyone questioning the value of the album – there’s something to be said for anything that has a learning curve to appreciate – that I’ve now been stuck listening to it on repeat means I equally wouldn’t hesitate to defend this here four star review.