Album Review: Cave Dweller – Invocations

Album Review: Cave Dweller - Invocations
Reviewed by Sam Jones

I’m going to be honest here. When I heard the first track of this album and looked up more of the information regarding Cave Dweller, I realised this wasn’t the record I thought I had asked for. But I decided to stick with it and see what I had in store for myself. I know exceedingly little about Cave Dweller; it would appear Invocations is set to be the band’s second full length release, having dropped their first album some time ago titled Walter Goodman. Cave Dweller have been described as a Neo-Folk dark metal band; whatever you may discern from that is up to you. But, other than that, I know nothing else about Cave Dweller so I decided to go in with no expectations and discover what precisely this sonic enigma was all about.

Many albums open themselves up with explosive vigour or have some form of gradually ascending might that eventually opens us onto the first real tracks of the record. Cave Dweller gives us something similar where the music is swelling towards how we’ll receive the rest of the album, but it’s done slowly and with an incessant horn section in the background all the while soft vocals are speaking over them. It’s a deeply atmospheric introduction precisely because the band take their time to immerse us, it’s like stepping back in time and beholding some pagan ritual in the woods. But I thoroughly enjoyed how Cave Dweller can make a track where seemingly little takes place, and still retain the guts to deem it a full realised song within their track running. This is the case throughout much of this record where you’re always on edge for that explosive climax, yet it’s one that never comes. The longer you listen, the more you’ll come to realise Cave Dweller aren’t here to provide bombastic flourishes.

Cave Dweller refuses to play by established rules. One may think, going into this record, that they’ll be bombarded by a deluge of blackened folk-laden riffs or vocals that try and pierce the skies yonder, but that isn’t this band’s prerogative. If anything, the electric guitar, that stalwart of heavy sound across thousands of albums, is in decidedly rare sections here. Seldom does the electric guitar appear with a riff, opting however for a piano, horn section, perhaps an acoustic guitar etc. if you’re looking for an empowering and nuclear, blast beat driven performance you’re best off looking elsewhere because Invocations couldn’t be any more opposite to that notion. You’ll think that once one part of a track ends, and the particular ambience dies down, that the band are going to unveil the raw power they’re holding on for you. Yet, this isn’t the case and it’s odd to acknowledge that I thoroughly enjoyed my dissatisfaction herein. Cave Dweller know what audiences havecome to expect from songwriting and thus have crafted a record that actively revolts against those expectations. Not only is that difficult to do, it’s difficult to attempt to do owing to how conventional audiences may react.

Album Review: Cave Dweller - Invocations

So, we’ve established this album isn’t looking to be overly bombastic; surely then, the power will immediately follow quieter segments? No. This is not that form of album. A huge part of this record isn’t what the band can impart, rather it’s where they’ll be taking you. A substantial element here is the ambient force where, at nearly every second of the album’s running you’ll be subjected to ambient pieces and sound bites that excellently enthral and immerse you within the wooded, secluded space Cave Dweller have prepped for us. Not even the ambient pieces have a semblance of force to them either, when they are utilised into the songwriting it’s always for quieter and more serene purposes. You could bash your head and power-craving frustrations against this album all you want, yet it’s futile because, as we’ve covered, Invocations is not going to satisfy you with what you want; it’s concerned only with what it can give us. Whether it be rain drops, wind, swaying trees etc, it never truly swells to meet some dawning climax. It simply… is. I believe many will judge this record unfairly, but those that do will not be Cave Dweller’s target audience. Fans who enjoy bands like Heilung, Panopticon etc will dearly love Invocations.

With a record that isn’t going to provide any conventional displays of strength as a thrash/black/death metal record would do, it’s all the more imperative that Cave Dweller got their pacing right. Truth be told, Invocations isn’t that long to experience yet, due to the absolute absence of deafening soundscapes and riffs that barrel us along, the length of time perceived experiencing this album can feel greatly accentuated. We’ve got some longer tracks on here that reach 7/8 minutes; that’s a good amount of time often spent singularly on ambient samples and sporadically placed vocals without a single typical instrumental aspect in sight. It’s why it feels better to note how the ambience doesn’t just remain in one place; it’s constantly moving us from place to place and it manages to do so with atmospheric flourish too. Sequencing a long track like this with a shorter piece in succession means we’re not going to be bogged down in ambience we may deem excessive, shortening how we experience this album in terms of time. For an album that seemingly has little going on, there’s a substantial amount of content to take in.

In conclusion, I have to admit that I did enjoy this record. This is a titanic departure from what I usually check out. The reason for this, honestly, is that this isn’t the record I thought I had accepted to review. Upon venturing into this record though I can thoroughly state that this is a pleasing surprise and something genuinely different to enjoy from time to time. I’ve always enjoyed atmospheric records where there’s an ulterior driving force laced into the record’s makeup, but Invocations takes that idea and ramps it up to 11. The ambience, other than a few acoustic pieces scattered round, replaces the conventional songwriting entirely. There isn’t a typical drum beat, bassline or ripping chord anywhere at any time throughout this album and yet, it’s bizarrely therapeutic not to receive the usual affair of band instrumentation. I think an album such as Invocations is necessary from time to time if only to cleanse your palette should you be a fan of the more crushing variant. But ultimately, I know that I did enjoy this record and it wasn’t even my intended choice. I call that a win-win right there.

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