Virginia death metal quartet, The Eating Cave, had already written their current album by the time they released their debut offering in June 2022. As a sophomore effort, The Miscalculation, does not sound rushed, nor does it settle into a comfort zone where all musicians play to their strengths and ignore their weaknesses. There might not be any weaknesses in this department. This is a record where each member of the band operates at maximum speed and intensity as if auditioning for a support slot with Archspire. As you can imagine, it requires stamina to listen to songs with a million shredded notes in each one, but the rewards are there if you look hard enough.
The band are happy to answer to the technical deathcore label, but you won’t find much in the way of binary riffs and stomping staccato movements in this music. Opener, ‘Ubiquitous’, starts with a fade-in of luscious finger-tapping movements like a firework display waiting for a crescendo before the guitar duo of Tyler Boylan and Evan Hope delve into a neo-classical frenzy. The guitar tunings are low enough to approach the Gorguts range of menace, yet the lead patterns aim for a Beethoven agitation of the soul. Thiago Campanhol’s vocals hiss and hurl words at you like a diabolical creature from Stranger Things. It’s a unique blend that ought to serve the band well for the rest of the album, but the lack of dynamic contrasts in the music soon becomes a problem when you get to the end of track number four (‘Awakening’).
The accelerated tempo on ‘Discovery’ and ‘Implications’ is relentless and exhausting. Too much fretboard action can leave you jaded once you accept that every riff and every counter melody will be perfect in its execution. The drop out of the drums and bass in the former exists to accommodate a spectacular thirty-second guitar solo, but little else stands out. They take only one minute and fifteen seconds to reach the first sweep-picking passage on the latter. A fertile sense of melody should emerge with more clarity underneath this audio cyclone, but the murderous pace of the music conceals its sophisticated brilliance like a tarpaulin cover on a crate of fresh sea bass. One cannot doubt the intellectual awareness of the scales and modes in the guitar arrangements, but they blind like sandstorms rather than dazzle like crystal-clear waterfalls on ‘Warfare’.
Tech death bands ask a lot of a listener’s patience, and The Eating Cave are no different. They want you to look in the gaps where the symmetry is not always as it seems. It serves them well on ‘Acceptance’, where a Decapitated riff powers the intro and leads into an advanced melodic phrasing of high-register scale patterns. Fans of Rings of Saturn and The Faceless will appreciate the technical prowess on display, yet the sole transition from blackout violence to premeditated assault in the form of a tempo slowdown at 03:40 reminds you that this band enjoy their brutish deathcore riffs as much as the next band. Closing track, ‘Indoctrination’, ought to be seven minutes of tedium, but they use the extended time to explore progressive dynamics and a wider variation of rhythms. We need more songs like this earlier in the listening experience to stay alert and focused on the complexity of the guitar work. It’s not enough to bludgeon us with a succession of rapid riff patterns and ferocious vocal abrasions.
Given their creative spark of the last two years, we should ask more of The Eating Cave on their next record. Let’s hope this one is the steppingstone to a more progressive form of technical death metal in the future.
Release Date: 21/04/2023
Record Label: Planet Eater Records
Standout tracks: Ubiquitous, Implications, Indoctrination
Suggested Further Listening: Rings of Saturn – Gidim (2019), Inhuman Architects – Paradoxus (2021), Hellbore – Panopticon (2022)