Every Record I Own - Day 202: Cave In Perfect Pitch Black
I’m so behind on these posts that I’m just going to share the press release I wrote for this vinyl reissue:
“So many bands gambled and lost in the major label game that flourished in the wake of Nirvana. For every Soundgarden, every Sonic Youth, there was a Jawbreaker, a Seaweed, a Melvins. Massachusetts’ ever-evolving big-riffing cosmonauts Cave In were wise enough to weigh their options carefully, but when RCA offered them a deal they couldn’t refuse, they signed the dotted line and crafted their stargazing opus Antennae. Critics cheered. But many fans that journeyed with the band from their emotive hardcore roots, through their Radiohead-meets-Slayer cross-pollinations, and on to their bottom-heavy space rock couldn’t follow the band to their foray into the world of major label rock. Never mind that Antennae was still a bold creative step forward—only a tone-deaf rock outsider would find the dense layers of interweaving guitars and off-kilter melodies as an attempt at radio-friendly pop. But like so many aspirational artists who make the leap to the majors, Cave In quickly found themselves on the losing end of label restructuring, and they were promptly dropped.
“Perfect Pitch Black was Cave In’s return to Hydra Head Records. One could argue that it should have been the band’s offering to the broader audiences offered up by RCA, not because it’s necessarily a better record, but because it taps into both the malevolent riffage of early records like Until Your Heart Stops and the sophisticated songwriting the band had increasingly incorporated since their Creative Eclipses EP. But not only was Perfect Pitch Black a reminder of the band’s roots, it also captured a band that was still interested in exploring and more than capable of conquering. Songs like “The World Is In The Way” and “Paranormal” are a perfect combination of erudite indie rock and troglodyte sludge. Where Antennae relied on walls of saturated chords, Perfect Pitch Black allowed the individual instrumental acumen to shine, as is evident on songs like “Off To Ruin” and “Ataraxia”.
“Beyond the band’s overall development, Perfect Pitch Black is an interesting document of the individual members’ personal evolution. Guitarist/vocalist Steve Brodsky hints at both the solo material he’d begun to pursue on “Down the Drain” and the audacious metal of his future project Mutoid Man with the monsterous rock shuffle of “Trepanning”. Caleb Scofield’s bass takes on the prominent role he’d later incorporate into Zozobra on the low-end-mongering “Droned”. Guitarist Adam McGrath and drummer J.R. Conners hint at the proto-grunge bombast they’d later employ in Nomad Stones on songs like “Screaming In Your Sleep”.
“As much as Perfect Pitch Black was touted as a return to form for Cave In, hindsight views the album as both excitingly complex and engagingly refreshing. Yes, the metal attributes had returned, but the band was exploring a multitude of new sounds as well. And furthermore, the album is perhaps the most fitting nexus of the stylistic forays taken by the individual members over the years.”