Metalcore goes prog rock, indie band jumps to the majors, "Big Riff" becomes "Bigger Riff" -- such is the story of Cave In. It's a rather boring story, but one that's repeated time and time again wherever you see the name Cave In in print. Sure, you can get into some raging debates over these issues -- were they better when they screamed like banshees, did RCA really make them re-record for lack of a radio hit, will we see them hobnobbing with Carson Daly anytime soon? Are they Bitch Slap? -- but here's the real question: just how much do we need Cave In? Are these men merely fanboys, straining to capture some fraction of the glory that the bands that so admittedly admire had? Or are they the best band rock and roll, as it exists in 2003, has to offer?
If you ask me, they're the latter.
Don't try to get off by calling them decent, or very good but not great. This is an either/or. Either Cave In are bowing to their every Failure fetish and submitting riff-tastic burnt offerings to the altar of Jimmy Page, or they're assuming their place among rock's greats by rising above the genre's numbing current. It's a tough call. "Anchor" could very well be the best song Failure never wrote, and the whole affair reeks of Zeppelin through and through. But just listen to that extreme competence, that almost virtuosic command of each and every instrument. Name a bassist that can do what Caleb Scofield does; the man's basslines undercut the guitars, serve as the songs' foundations and amplify the bombast of the drums all at once -- and it's entirely in the context of a staunchly guitar oriented band. Jupiter's stark guitar signatures continue to instill the songs with a sense of timelessnes, as if they're harnessing the elemental powers of the moon, the tide and the earth. The songs may pay excessive homage in spirit, but their composition and divergent tones are wholly original.
Want specific examples of Cave In's immense rock power? Try the galactic sway of "Joy Opposites" and the throbbing, driving "Penny Racer", with its scorching lead. Three of these songs you've heard before -- "Stained Silver", "Lost In The Air" and "Rubber And Glue" (formerly "Bigger Riff") -- and no, the major label demons have not changed a thing, aside from a few minor vocal inflections, and, as expected, Cave In adds even more sounds to their constantly growing sonic gallery. "Beautiful Son" carries a lo fi, singer-songwriter timbre, with a spaced out electric guitar accenting the chorus, while "Seafrost" is a nine minute epic built upon a filthy low end thwomp and peaking with some Bono-esque croons.
Is every single note captivating? No -- and it can actually be argued that Jupiter said more in less time -- but Antenna is still a sprawling collection of mammoth songs.
Despite their flaws, Cave In have risen to a plateau that few bands have ever seen -- a place where instrumental aptitude and a studied approach to songwriting yields songs that practically write themselves. Cave In's music stands as a defining model of creativity and integrity. It will take one seriously amazing album to get Antenna out of my CD changer for the next six months.