Innovation in artistic expression is often under appreciated, especially in a music industry with sensibilities unaccustomed to dramatic change—the early 90s was still reeling from a preceding decade of increasingly doom-laden apocalyptic sounds from bands like Saint Vitus and Candlemass, not to mention death metal’s relative infancy. So it’s no surprise that Birmingham doom quartet Cain (John Pickering – guitars/vocals, Peter Nash – bass, Steve O’Connor – guitars, Clive Meldrum – drums) and their 72 minute Self-Titled opus flew quietly under the radar in 1992, with its penchant for experimentalism and the melding of Celtic Frost via Sabbath riffs with droned out psychedelic freak outs. What was then a blend of seemingly incongruent styles is now a bonafide blossoming genre by today’s standards. Luckily, Rise Above Records has unearthed this visionary release to give us some perspective on the evolution of psychedelic doom from the arguable originators.
Having cut their teeth in various extreme metal and crust punk bands throughout the 80s (Filthkick, Doom, Extreme Noise Terror among others), the group was no stranger to individualism and borderline anarchical philosophy; with Cain however, the aim, it seems over the album’s eight tracks was to take this anti authoritarian, disregard for the status quo mentality and channel it inward – to push the limits of introspection to the point of emotional agony.
Bookended by tracks that reach the 10-minute mark, laced with samples and extended soundscapes (check closer Lone Wolf), there’s a cinematic grandiosity to the whole affair that demands a focused investment from the listener. Fortunately, it pays off quickly as opener Oberon: Desolate One sets the tone with a crushing heaviness that feels more like a suffocating thicket of languid smog – vocals are detached and monotone, solos are drenched in reverb and delay, and the one or two main riffs become single points of meditation, massaged to the point of hypnosis.
At its heart, this record is unadulterated viciously brutal doom.
If not anchored by strong song writing, the intended impact of an album this weighted and varied could fall flat. At its heart, this record is unadulterated viciously brutal doom – Screams Of The Reaper, and to a lesser degree Into This Skull – both tracks are the aural equivalent of perpetual psychological and physical torture; kind of like slowly melting your brain with boiling sludge. But it’s the psychedelic flourishes that truly colour the vibe of this album and give it depth. The band is patient with song development, allowing the compositions the room to breathe and evolve organically, like entities almost humanoid in their capacity to willingly inflict pain.
The industrial experimentation on tracks like Ultimate Elevation have more in common with bands like Godflesh – seminal album Streetcleaner was relatively new at the time, but still highly influential; it’s the stylistic similarities between the two that probably drew Neil Mclaren (then soundman for Godflesh) to sign them to his label Take The Pain Records in the first place. We’re fortunate to have the chance to hear this album after 27 years of near obscurity.
To the band’s luck, Mclaren’s appreciation for their vision and a respect for art in general allowed them the freedom to create not just a cool record, but also an experience that leaves a lasting mark on the psyche. Maybe now the world is finally ready.
Label: Rise Above Records
Scribed by: Jeremy Moore