Cave Bastard – The Bleak Shall Devour The Earth (2018) REVIEW

In reaching for a progression beyond the hardcore-fueled sludge metal of their self-titled 2016 demo and 2017 split with BLKOPS these San Diego extreme metal suburbanites grapple with a mix of modern sludge sounds and extreme metal flourishes. The opening ten minutes of ‘The Bleak Shall Devour the Earth’ is thickly atmospheric and heavy, yet no single driving force stands out as the leader. Like prog-sludge darlings Conjurer I feel the spectacle of the music rarely provides a concrete example of metal-assed metal outside of aesthetics. What Cave Bastard do best is atmosludge-core that is a good fit for the Converge style metalcore crowd with their unpredictable, often indirect, approach to sludgery. In dancing to their own hardcore-shaped deathly atmospheric tunes Cave Bastard is hard to nail down and all the more interesting to delve into. How memorable the experience is might be relative to your interest in sludge/hardcore hybridization.

The atmospheric sludge metal elements of Cave Bastard‘s guitar work, when they aren’t bellowing out sped-up High on Fire riffs (“Massacre Reaction”), reminded me of Cult of Luna if they’d been a little bit more metalcore edged on their earliest albums. These are odd delineations to draw for a band with member’s legacies tied to groups like Gutrot and Cattle Decapitation but the filth and fury of those projects is included here to some measure. A notable death/doom atmosphere hangs over the otherwise hardcore influenced sludge of Cave Bastard and I wanted a bit more of that atmosphere to shroud the record generally speaking. Though ‘The Bleak Shall Devour the Earth’ was overseen by the legendary Billy Anderson‘s team, the mix from Justin Weis drops the vocals too far in the mix and buries them entirely beneath the down-tuned thud of the record. I ‘get it’ on a conceptual level and it does sound cavernous and very ‘death metal’ in a sense, but barely competes with similarly produced recordings as of late.

So far I don’t consider any of these points negative outside of the obscure, stylized mix and there are some excellent atmospheric death/sludge moments that almost hit it out of the park. “Trapped in a World of Formlessness” is the longest and most ambitious composition here that challenges itself to not rely on brutality for effect. The faster, shorter tracks like “Methane Epistaxis” and “Martial Asphyxiation” keep the spirit of their earlier material alive and help to pick up the pudge whenever the album’s chugging atmosphere drags. Cave Bastard are always just right on the edge of being a death metal band and that sort of hardcore/sludge edged sound is a bratty tease for my tastes. I think if you’re looking for just a little extreme metal edge to your hardcore influenced sludge metal then Cave Bastard are the perfect fit. If you want full on rip-roaring death you’ll probably still be happy to keep ‘The Bleak Shall Devour the Earth’ around as a drool-inducing appetizer. Excellent debut and I’m looking forward to hearing more.

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Artist Cave Bastard
Type Album
Released March 23, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp! Follow Cave Bastard on Facebook
Genres
Atmospheric Sludge, Hardcore Punk, Death Metal

Morbidity, fecundity and the lash. 3.0/5.0

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