Review of Tales Of Ruin by Cavern

Band: Cavern
Album: Tales Of Ruin
Release Date: 4 March 2014
Record Label: Grimoire Records
Buy digital ($3) or cassette ($5) from Bandcamp: Here

Cover of Tales Of Ruin by Cavern

We’re back with another review of a release by a band on Grimoire Records, this time it’s the new EP by the Maryland three piece Cavern. Their sound is hard to categorize so I suggest giving them a listen by streaming the song at the end of the post or listing to the entire EP here while you read this review. And be sure to check out more of Tal’s writing on her blog here.

One of the cool things about reviewing albums is that I end up listening to things I would probably not seek out on my own – such as Cavern’s EP Tales Of Ruin. I’m usually more in the mood for atmosphere and melody or heavy, headbangable riffage, and didn’t expect to find either on an album with strong stoner vibes. While the album is dominated by a sludgy stoner sound, it’s not just that; there’s a lot going on that’s not covered by that label. (The same is also true of Cavern’s self-titled debut, released in April 2013.)

Tales Of Ruin starts out with a leisurely rhythm and melody, but the pace picks up about a minute into the first song, and the guitars charge into energetic riffs. Sometimes the band even races into hammering black metal-like segments or plays rocking classic metal riffs, though even these segments are thick with doom sound. Whether fast or moderate, their guitar riffs are pretty infectious – this is music you won’t be able to help bobbing your head along to. There are a few parts where the band slows down or gets downright spacey, but most of the album holds my attention with energetic and catchy guitar work.

In the first song, “The Pathway | The Void,” Cavern mixes it up constantly. Though they’ll repeat the same riff for several measures, the tempo and riffs change often. I love the moments where they launch into classic heavy metal riffs for a few seconds. The second song, “Colours,” is groovy, but the guitar riffs are rather repetitive. There are some intense moments, though, when the drums thunder or the guitars gallop into headbangable riffs. There’s a truly plodding part near the end of the song, but it’s relieved by a lovely sorrowful melodic lead. The third song, “Stretcher,” takes a while to build up with a churning intro, but once it gets going it has a nice momentum, helped along by the forceful, deep vocals. I enjoyed the bridge near the end, thick and heavy, atmospheric in a way different from the cold, dark sound of say, atmospheric black metal. After that, there’s over a minute of spacey distortion at the end of the song, which is a cool effect at first, but goes a little too long.

The vocals seem rather distant at the start of the album, nearly buried among the instruments. They come closer to the fore later, but are still a bit low in the mix. In the first two songs, the vocals are mostly an angry shout – not angry in a punk way, but more despairing. In the third song, the vocals are a gravelly baritone, which I find more fitting with the thick, heavy sound of the band’s music.

The last song is a cover of “Grounds For Divorce” by Seattle stoner/sludge band Big Business (who shares two members with The Melvins). This cover song is the most energetic song on the EP, with zooming guitars (that literally sound like a vacuum cleaner at times) and lively vocals. I can’t help headbanging to its insistent pace. Cavern’s take is a little thicker and sludgier than the original, with lower and gravellier vocals. The rest of the album sounds good, but this song sounds great – it’s the catchiest and most intense song on the album.

Despite not being a fan of stoner metal in general, I found myself enjoying this album, especially the guitars. The guitars were more energetic than I expected, even a bit catchy. I felt like the shouted vocals didn’t do much for the songs, though; especially when they were quite low in the mix, they just sounded like background noise. The gravelly vocals contributed more to the heavy sludgy feeling. With more vocals like that along with the catchy guitars, this EP might actually have converted me to their distinctive sound. The guitars at least should satisfy those who are already fans of sludgy stoner music.