It’d be good to smoke to
Nature is one of the OG’s of artistic inspiration and expression. From paintings and sculptures to endless beautiful lines of poetry, there’s much inspiration to be found in the natural wonders of the world. Look at Seattle’s deathCAVE, who as a band is named after the Apache Death Cave in Winslow, Arizona, and from a discographic perspective named their debut after a peak not too far from their home base—Smoking Mountain. These natural formations have opposing features—height versus depth, beautifully misty versus damply chilling darkness and other things that can produce haunting differences. In ways, the differences in these geologically referenced features align with the various and sometimes disjointed way deathCAVE have pieced certain sonic elements together. It’s every type of doom and more, but sometimes, it’s a little too much.
That’s not to say this necessarily a bad thing, deathCAVE pack in a lot in only five tracks. Album opener and fairly self-titled “Death Cave” could easily be a thrash classic. Assertive drumming and ’80s-sounding riffs bring high energy right out of the gate, meeting a strong and rasping vocal style. At times, the vocals bear a strange familiarity, like if Conan’s Jon Davis had a southern panache. Follower “Last Breath” is a chugger, while “The Road” is a pretty middle of the road doom track heightened by a guest spot from Botch vocalist Dave Verellen.
He’s not the only guest to lend his voice to the album. In fact, the whole latter half is driven by its capricious vocal features. Black Breath’s Neil McAdams brings a brute rasp to closer “Poison Wizard,” ending on a toughly paced amalgam of every element included thus far. The one track that seems to be a mild issue for Smoking Mountain is “The Seer,” which features Holy Grove’s Andrea Vidal. The song is advantageous, seeming to weave in and out of sludge, psych and doom in a way that doesn’t seem the most pieced together. Vidal’s contributions add quite a beautiful element to the second half of the song, redeeming it from the six or so minutes that come before it (the track is the longest on the album at over 12 minutes), but getting to her part in the song was like dragging one’s feet through mud. The package would’ve worked much better had they shaved a few minutes off it, but the song does have some saving grace moments.
Overall, the Pacific Northwest trio has released a solidly definitive doom record with Smoking Mountain. They’re not doing anything that hasn’t been done before, though they don’t really need to on a debut record. deathCAVE is proficient in many ways, so here’s to hoping their next releases will be tightened up and more experimentative.