Many of you know Adam Bartlett as the man behind Gilead Media. He also has a distro called Eroding Winds and a real-life, literally brick and mortar record shop in Oshkosh. Pretty crazy. But did you know he plays drums in Cavernlight, the depressive doom band he founded over 10 years ago with guitarist/vocalist Scott Zuwadzhi? Now you do. And now finally, after much toil (and their 2015 demo, Corporeal), their debut LP As We Cup Our Hands and Drink From the Stream of Our Ache sees the light of day. The only problem is, there’s nothing light about it.
Cavernlight deal in abject misery. Their doom is suffused with a lifetime of pain, suffering and illness, drenched in darkness, cloaked in despair. It’s the kind of doom that sucks at your feet, breaks your spirit and collapses the world around you.
As We Cup is five tracks of slow, droning, atmospheric heaviness. Sometimes it gets a shot of adrenaline that rockets the bpm up a few notches. In these cases though it doesn’t feel like anything is rising from the shadows. No, it feels more like an escape. Flight. Desperately clamouring for change. A change that does not come.
Slogging “riffs” and miserable atmosphere burn long and slow, subjecting the listener to seemingly endless sadness and struggle. It continuously punishes, forcing a weight upon you, squeezing your heart, wrenching tears from a downturned face. Even in its lighter moments, like “Wander, Pt. II”, the pain echoes still, throbbing like a barely detectable heartbeat just barely holding onto life.
All the suffering is reflected in the vocals as well. Anything but clean, vicious screams and lamenting howls (and ritualistic chants) push from the middle distance with a passion rivalling anger. Yet here one must remember that “mad is a hat for sad” so lashing out in such a way seems natural given the gloom, desolation and anguish manifested therein.
Bartlett and Zuwadzhi (aka Scott Burns) are joined in their ruin by Patrick Crawford (guitar) and Brandon Pleshek (bass, synths) as well as guests Rachel N. of False, Michael Paparo of Inter Arma and session guest Sarah Green. Green’s clean vocals and cello on closer “A Shell of One’s Former Self” takes the melancholy to another level. Paparo also contributes on this track while Rachel brings up the back end of opener “Lay Your Woes Upon the Ground and Know That the End Will Soon Swallow You”. Even the song titles express just how sodden this album is.
Cavernlight was never really intended to be a “public” band. It was meant to be a personal catharsis for the band’s founders but sometimes you just have to get it out there. How many times have you heard someone say “Band X got me through some tough times?” That’s mostly because the sufferer connects with the album and doesn’t feel so alone. We’ve all been there. As We Cup is that kind of album. It’s sombre, desperate, anguished and devoid of happiness. It’s the sound of struggle. We all suffer through things at some point so we get it. As morose and unsettling as it can be As We Cup makes punishment a shared experience.
Massive doom, dreadful atmosphere, and insufferable burden coalesce with discomforting vocals to create a harrowing and agonizing album afflicted with an ache that can never really be silenced.
As We Cup Our Hands and Drink From the Stream of Our Ache on Bandcamp cavernlight.bandcamp.com/album/as-we-cup-our-hands-and-drink-from-the-stream-of-our-ache.
Cavernlight on Facebook: www.facebook.com/cavernlightnoise.
Gilead Media: www.gileadmedia.net.