Caves of Steel – Troposphere/Magnetosphere EP – 85%

Troposphere/Magnetosphere cover art

Caves of Steel are a four piece from Olso, Norway.  It seems like every other band I review these days are from that region of the world. We all know the music scene in America has gone to the dogs in terms of who is financially successful. Chris Brown and Deadmau5 sell out arenas while the likes Opeth and Dream Theater struggle to pack 75-year-old concert halls, at least in my experiences as a Seattle concert goer. Case in point, Europe is clearly doing it right in terms of the type of musicians they produce and what still makes money across the pond these days. “Troposphere/Magnetosphere” is the latest offering from CoS that is only 23 minutes long. What it lacks is length it makes up for in sound.

While the intro track “Last Citizen of the USSR” might fool you into thinking you’re in for a deeply emotional ride as it is a much more formulaic track that builds in intensity and has all the elements of a standard post-rock song, this album is actually quite fun. I can always appreciate a band that realizes they can get away with naming their instrumental tracks whatever they want and “Lisa Nowak Love Story” is about as crazy as it gets. If you don’t remember, she’s the psycho astronaut who kidnapped another astronaut in a weird love triangle a few years back. This track has a really fun Matrix like sound going on for it that is unlike anything I’ve heard lately in an instrumental track. It’s kind of like the background music you would expect to hear during a late 90’s movie scene where guys break into a corporation and start hacking a bunch of computers as a sea of green characters fill the screen.

The guitar tones are vibrant and full of energy, the riffs have strong math-rock inspiration in them, and it’s no secret the band likes to experiment (“Gemini XII” has some crazy robot like vocals). The thing I love about CoS is that their bass lines are often their own layer to the sound rather than a layer used to complement the guitar work. Bass can often be heard in the low laying levels of the mix, especially on a song like “Honey Trap” for example. This combined with some clever wailing of a 70’s experimental prog-rock sounding guitar while a layer of static does it’s thing in the background makes for one hell of a spacious track.

It would be easy to write off Caves of Steal as JUST another post-rock band, but it’s clear they’re not just that. Sure, their album cover is a boring picture of some clouds and the sky and their Facebook timeline cover is your generic black and white live shot. But behind that lies the sounds of a band not afraid to mix standard post-rock song writing with whatever prog, math or experimental rock concepts they find appropriate. In fact, in thinking of a post-rock partner CoS sound would mesh best with I’m drawing nothing but blanks. The Norway rockers have created a unique sound and that’s a winner in my books. 7-24-12

Available for $4 on bandcamp:

Also available on vinyl: