Despite the recent passing of former bassist Caleb Scofield, Final Transmission, Cave In’s newest album, manages to include him in more than spirit. Built off of early demos that include his playing on each song, the album is well mastered and delivers a clean product. Final Transmission sees a turn away from the brutal audio of White Silence back to their more prog driven sound of Perfect Pitch Black or even Jupiter. It is a polished, mostly hi-fi production that bangs.
The album begins with a memo from the late Scofield in “Final Transmission.” The recording of an acoustic sound with sung drum noises, sets the tone for the album. Sometimes soft and other times heavy, it is always powerful. The album clearly makes its case from the very beginning. Following this final transmission from the fallen band member, Final Transmission jumps into a heavy, prog style. The tracks are mostly smooth with few unexpected transitions. The tracks seem very pattern oriented as they drive forward. Harmonies come and go, but the songs will let you know when some change is coming and when to expect lyrics. There is little room for solos as all instruments work towards a solid groove. The unmistakable energy from the kinetic weight of the music carries the listener through the album.
Overall, the album seems concerned more with feelings and sensations than any particular idea or story. The clean, yet sometimes unintelligible, vocals together with the instrumentation set a mood in each track. Excellent songwriting Final Transmission draws the listener in to feel some primal emotion. The slow, but powerful, force of each song gives the album weight and emphasizes how heavy it is. Together with the distortion and some heavy drumming, each song exudes a clear, intelligible weight.
Each track of Final Transmission seems to build towards some sort of breaking point. Often they resolve themselves in a mixture of created, electronic sounds rather than pure, clean instrumentation. As a whole, the album seems to work on the same level as each track. The album feels as though it is working towards an crescendoing apex, but we are left with “Led to the Wolves.” Described as a Scofield song by band members, it feels out of place at the end of the album though it is admirably included. A return to the lo-fi, growling style found in White Silence or even Until Your Heart Stops is a jagged ending to an album. Reliant on drumming over all other noise, it feels so unpolished that it breaks with the amazing mastering what was put into the rest of the album. Despite some of its flaws, Final Transmission is a testament to the influence Caleb Scofield has had not only to Cave In but also to others. His sound is all over the album in the basslines that can be heard throughout and it is a testament to him that Cave In went forward with the album at all. It is a powerful listen that has an understated strength.
Rating: 7.2 out of 10