March 28th, 2018, the world of music suffered an unfathomable loss when Caleb Scofield, bassist of the band Cave In, died in a car accident at the age of 39. Caleb’s song-writing, bass-tone and skilled chops defined Cave In’s unique musical sound, and later in their career (and in their live show), Caleb’s thunderous vocal roar gave the band an edge they hadn’t seen since they burst onto the scene with their hallmark hardcore classic Until Your Heart Stops. At the time of Caleb’s untimely passing, Cave In, a band known in recent memory for frequent hiatuses, was demoing material for their first album since 2011. To honor his memory and give his friends, family and fans one final piece of music, the band mix and mastered the demos, wrote lyrics (some of which deal with Caleb’s death) and completed a collection of songs that serve as Scofield’s Final Transmission.
The titular first track on the album serves as both a beautiful tribute and a crushing reminder of the loss. It is a voicemail left by Caleb following a writing/demo session, which features Scofield playing an acoustic guitar and singing a melody over it. From there, the album kicks into “All Illusion,” a song that features lyrics written by Scofield that was taken from a journal after his death. It’s where the album starts to establish its return to the spacey sounds of Cave In’s seminal album Jupiter with delay and effects heavy guitars from Adam McGrath, singer/guitarist Steve Brodsky’s soaring vocals, and of course, songs driven by or punctuated by the rhythm section of drummer JR Conners and Scofield himself.
There’s no better example of this than the best track on the album, “Winter Window.” Drifting through different sections, the track starts off with harmonized, melodic guitars driven by powerful drums from Conners and a very active bassline from Scofield. The rhythm section then gets breakneck heavy behind a falsetto vocal run from Brodsky during the verses, only to then take a backseat to another section driven almost entirely by Scofield’s powerful bass. It weaves in and out of sections effortlessly, balancing heavy and melodic with perfection. It’s some of the best material Cave In has produced. Caleb’s presence is also felt on the final track of the album, “Led to the Wolves,” a song that sounds like it could easily fit onto White Silence, which to no surprise featured many songs written by Scofield himself.
When the album isn’t showcasing Scofield’s songwriting and bass skills, the other members of Cave In take time to experience musical catharsis, especially with the track “Shake My Blood.” It’s a track that almost has the feel of an instrumental, until Brodsky enters about halfway in, speaking the words “don’t leave,” This is Brodsky’s first direct lyrical addressing of the loss, and it’s an emotional vocal performance, with the rest of the band joining him on vocal harmonies.
It is unclear just how finished Final Transmission was at the time of Caleb’s passing. Unintended to be released in its form, the album naturally has a slight feeling of a collection of songs that occasionally lack cohesion. The album also lacks a bit of a vocal edge with the absence of Caleb’s screams which helped redefine and blend the bands eras of music as seen on Perfect Pitch Black and White Silence. Still, It’s a collection of tracks that see a band who has been gone way too long deliver on their signature sound and really lean into big hooks and melodies. Cave In can be tremendously unique when they combine these elements with spacey guitars and some of their heavier roots, which can also be seen on full display on the fantastic track “Strange Reflection.” But perhaps most importantly, Final Transmission is a touching tribute to the life of Scofield, allowing his immense talent to be enjoyed by the world one last time.