Cave In – Final Transmission

3 out of 5

Label: Hydra Head

Produced by: Cave In

A color scheme that recalls Antenna; album art that definitely recalls Jupiter.  That Cave In’s sixth album, Final Transmission, sounds somewhat like a hybrid of those two releases is either purposeful or one heckuva coincidence.

Final Transmission has a bit of a veil hanging over it: after recording the unfinished tracks live to tape – which accounts for the album’s rather mushy sound, despite a bang-up job by Andrew Schneider and James Plotkin for mixing and mastering, respectively – bassist Caleb Scofield was killed in a car accident.  This event looms over the album as a result, most directly as a melody hummed and strummed by Caleb opening the disc, and then indirectly in that everything that follows sounds more like a demo.  The group had quite a long pause between their previous release, White Silence, and this one, which may certainly have accounted for the dimmed vibe of these tracks, but there’s also the sense that it wouldn’t have felt “right” to record on top of or rerecord the tracks as they were with Caleb.  So Final Transmission feels more like a capture of that last time playing together than an actual album.

But what’s here, as mentioned, is like a crossover between Antenna and Jupiter, taking a lot from the former in terms of its pared down structure – some songs even start to broach, like, Soundgarden-y type metal – with some psychedelic influence from the latter sprinkled atop here and there.  However, both of those albums had a certain amount of pretension fueling them, which had its detractions, certainly, but also pushed each album into unique and fascinating directions.  And Final Transmission is lacking any sense of that.  It’s very laid back; it’s a group getting back together without much need to do any of that pushing.  It’s not really metal; it doesn’t really rock that loud.  Had it had the opportunity to be sharpened up in a studio, I’m sure more of that would occurred, but in its released state, it’s merely an average disc with some good ideas and riffs, played effectively, but nothing that stands out on its own or as a Cave In record.