As We Cup Our Hands and Drink From the Stream of Our Ache
- Year 2017
- Genre DoomSludge
- Country United States
- Label Gilead Media
- Rating Excellent
Doom and sludge are two genres that are typically able to capture the bleakest and intense of human emotions, encompassing ugliness, despair, hopelessness, and pain. How bands have chosen to portray these feelings has varied wildly, with some cranking up the volume and distortion to the point that they cause the listener physical pain, while others have gone for dark melodies that capture the emotional and mental aspects. On their debut full length ‘As We Cup Our Hands and Drink From the Stream of Our Ache’ Cavernlight has captured the latter in a way few bands can match, while also reaching some abrasive, body shattering peaks. With instrumentation that uses doom and sludge as its base while also incorporating elements of black metal, post rock, and even some drone, each of the five tracks comes through as a stunningly relatable portrayal of the dark and uncomfortable side of being human.
Rather than bludgeoning away with brute force, the intensity builds through both the abrasive build-ups and darkness of the melodies, leaving the listener feeling just as broken and exhausted but in a very different manner
Other groups in this genre have a tendency to sprawl outwards, teasing at bleak melodies and crushingly dense riffing early but taking their time to reach their climax. But Cavernlight wastes little time in tugging at your emotions, with opener Lay Your Woes Upon The Ground And Know That The End Will Soon Swallow You establishing an incredibly dark melody that seems to be wallowing in despair and nothingness at its very core. From there the instrumentation builds to a driving tempo, upping its intensity naturally until it overwhelms you and has you drowning in negative thoughts. It’s a powerful way to start an album off, and what these guys have written comes through as more nuanced than many of their peers. Rather than bludgeoning away with brute force, the intensity builds through both the abrasive build-ups and darkness of the melodies, leaving the listener feeling just as broken and exhausted but in a very different manner. Each song is built around the solemn, hopeless sounds created by the guitar, but how Cavernlight gets there always changes. Doom and sludge give way to some of black metal’s distortions, natural pauses give off a drone feel, and there are even some mellower moments that recall some of the darker acoustic singer/songwriters out there. You’ll also notice the cello on closing track A Shell Of One’s Former Self, which is perfectly suited to the type of sound this group is going for. The album is a bit short at 35 minutes, but I’ve found myself torn over the last few days as to whether any longer would stretch the ideas too thin. It does seem as though they’ve hit that sweet spot where the listener will be crushed with deep, dark emotions and still want to come back for more.
As you might expect from an album that’s expressing some dark, uncomfortable emotions, the vocals come through as harsh and tortured screams that cut through the recording with jagged edges. The main pitch is a familiar one that’s somewhere between a scream and a growl, but it’s delivered with enough intensity and power to do the music it’s supporting justice. You’ll also notice that there is variation to the pitches throughout the course of the album, though sometimes they’re a bit subtle. Cavernlight brought in some guests to help them as well, with Mike Paparo (Inter Arma), Rachel N. (False) and Sarah green making an appearance. Unlike most guest appearances they’re not as obvious upon first listen, perfectly integrating with the material in a way that feels more natural than these types of additions tend to be. Once again the closing piece A Shell of One’s Former Self deserves mention, with somber female vocals leading things off before becoming intertwined with the abrasive ranges. It’s a stunning way to finish ‘As We Cup Our Hands and Drink From the Stream of Our Ache’ off.
Cavernlight didn’t transform into its current incarnation until a few years back, but the core duo of Scott Zuwadzhi and Adam Bartlett has been writing music together since 2006 and it’s clear this longer incubation period has been put to good use. ‘As We Cup Our Hands and Drink From the Stream of Our Ache’ is captivating from beginning to end, and it captures the darkness and depressive side of the human psyche in a way that feels a little too relatable. It seems appropriate that one of the bleakest and gloomiest releases on Gilead Media in 2017 features the owner of the label, and I see this disc remaining a highlight in the coming months.