For long-time fans, news of a new Cave In record is always a bit of a treat. Despite this band being around now for nearly 25 years, they have only released 6 full length albums, and 4 of those 6 came out between the late 90s and mid noughties. Even more so, their last full length - 'White Silence', came out way back in 2011, so fans have certainly had a long wait for any follow-up material.
When it comes to their studio recordings, Cave In have always been a band that never seem to want to write the same album twice. This is evident by looking at their back catalogue of work; whilst their early releases such as Until Your Heart Stops are considered extremely influential metalcore albums, at the turn of the millennium they put out material which sounded much closer to the incredibly dense space rock you would expect from a Failure record, on albums such as the amazing Jupiter. With albums like White Silence returning to a heavier, more metalcore inspired sound, it would’ve been anyone’s guess as to what direction the band’s 6th release, Final Transmission, would sound like. Listening to the album it’s clear that they take a lot more inspiration from their Jupiter sound than White Silence did, but there are elements of their entire discography to be found on here. 'All Illusion', the second song on here and the first single to be released, sounds like a Jupiter deep cut, whereas 'Night Crawler' and closing track 'Led to the Wolves' sound like they would be right at home on one of their heavier releases.
If there is one thing that is consistent about this album, however, it’s the idea that this album is, at its core, a tribute to their late, legendary bassist Caleb Scofield. Despite only being a collection of demos and rough sessions, the album sounds massive, and the mixing and production really gives the bass the spotlight. Throughout the sombre and melancholic melodies in the guitars and vocals on this album, Caleb’s bass playing has really been brought to life more than on any other previous Cave In album.
The opening and titular track is a voice memo that Caleb sent to the band, and the closer Led to the Wolves was largely composed by Caleb as well. These two tracks bookend the remaining material which was completed following Caleb’s passing, and they help make the album flow with poignancy. No song ever feels unfinished or outstays its welcome, and despite being just over 30 minutes long, this can only really be described as the perfect swansong to, at the very least, Cave In with Caleb. The band has said that they’re unsure whether to continue or not, but regardless of whether they do, this is an album that really gives the proper due respect to Caleb and his contribution to the band.
It's impossible to escape talking about the quality of the material of this album without talking about the tragic events that surround it, but the catharsis and raw emotion that this album portrays is what makes it so brilliant. This album is hard to put into words. It’s minimalistic and ethereal, yet crushing and painfully dark. It’s never melancholic or bombastic, but there is also never a moment where you can escape the album’s utterly heart-breaking sadness.
Final Transmission is not an easy album to get through at all, and some may even shun the album for its unfinishedness, but what the surviving members of Cave In have done with these sessions is nothing short of inspired. The bass work is some of Caleb’s finest, and this band have managed to bring those ideas together on these nine tracks in a way that pay the utmost respect to one of the most underrated bassists in a band that more people really should be aware of. If there are no other albums you listen to this year, make this the one you take the time to hear.