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It happened. It actually fucking happened. I finally like Cane Hill.
Look, I definitely wasn’t a big fan of Cane Hill’s 2016 debut album, ‘Smile’ – it had some decent songs (‘True Love‘, MGGDA‘) but overall, I still don’t like it all that much and the insufferable hardcore kids that sweat it are all still fuckin’ insufferable. But surprisingly, the quartet’s recently released second full-length, ‘Too Far Gone’ has, for the most part, really won me over to this New Orleans outfit. It’s a record that takes you deep inside the band’s twisted minds and as someone who loathes their previous two releases, this new LP really is a solid release from a band that’s fast becoming fully worthy of their hype. (Doesn’t at all change how I feel about ‘Smile‘, though. That thing will forever be mediocre).
However, let’s not pretend, Cane Hill are still pulling all of their influences from their favourite ‘90s artists: your Slipknot’s, your Alice In Chains’, your Korn’s, your Limp Bizkit’s, your Pantera’s, your Marilyn Manson’s, and your Machine Head’s. Whether its James Barnett’s take on Wes Borland pit-riffs, Dimebag Darrel-reminiscent dive-bombs and Alice In Chains-esque solos; the simplistic but air-tight and stomping rhythm sections on offer that are all about dat bounce, frontman Elijah Witt’s clearly 90’s-influenced timbre, nu-metal phrasing and impressively dynamic vocal performance; to the ominous theme of self-hatred, inner decay and emotional insanity that runs throughout the swampy veins of this record, ‘Too Far Gone‘ is directly derived from the artists that clearly inspire Cane Hill’s alternative/metal/nu-metal sound.
Yet the key difference between ‘Too Far Gone’ and ‘Smile’ is that unlike this bayou band’s first full-length, this sophomore has those clear influences present but it’s now so much than just mere imitation like its predecessor was. With this new album, Cane Hill are really starting to bloom into their own sound and they’re really becoming their own band now. And that’s genuinely exciting to watch unfold.
The key factor in this growth is the band just offering better, more effective songwriting; developing further the depraved themes, deep self-loathing, dark tones and menacing vibes that first began with their self-titled EP and ‘Smile‘.
For instance, the record’s opening title track is Cane Hill amped up on steroids, with what this first-off-the-ranks banger being the riffiest, grooviest, most mosh-inducing song of the band’s career so far. It doesn’t redefine what this band have done up until now musically; it just does it the best, starting this record on a real high point. Similarly, the contrasting nature of the gnarly ‘Erased’ balances creepy ambience, melodic light and heavy darkness very well and the angry, hard-hitting descent into the interpersonal hell of ‘10 Cents’ yield this record’s strongest moments. In fact, this trio are three damn fine examples of how clean in instrumental tone but also how gritty and heavy this record sounds; a killer by-product of its killer mix and production. Another wicked example of this is the equally crystal clear sounding and filthy, sludgier pace of ‘It Follows’ (fantastic movie by way). Plus, the way in which Cane Hill weave in smoother melodies throughout this track is just the delicious cherry on top.
It’s songs like these that position Cane Hill at their most lethal yet, which is aided by the fact that ‘Too Far Gone‘ is simply bigger, better, bloodier and more badass than anything else this group have done. It also displays how well they’re really progressing as a band too, which shows in the final product. As yet another example of this, the band set loose their faster-paced hardcore and squealing heavy metal roots on the brief but scathing thrasher, ‘Scumbag’; a raging middle-finger towards racism, extremism and fascists everywhere. While of not such a brisk tempo as ‘Scumbag‘, the story of a long-dead romance that fuels ‘Why?’ shows said songwriting improvement off in spades as well. Also on ‘Why?‘ Witt stretches his wider vocal talents as he offers a higher register and more chilling vocal delivery than ever before, and how the guy switches back and forth between his cleaner and harsher styles is so well written and executed here. So too is how this sinister Southern-rock track reaches its pleading, yearning end.
Elsewhere, the low-key intro of the self-loathing ‘Singing In The Swamp’ – with it’s lethargic, delayed guitar and distant noises of moody night air and far-off dogs barking – explodes once the tectonic drum hits and driving riffs kick in. The song’s swaying chorus is just packed full of pristine clean vocals and phase-tinged guitar leads, Plus, the band have ironed out this song’s structure to create the finest impact possible, what with a heavier bridge section arriving after the mid-point with a swirling guitar solo that eventually gives way for a final uplifting chorus to make for what is arguably the most conventional and hooky Cane Hill have ever sounded. But it works wonders, making ‘Singing In The Swamp’ one of this record’s best cuts.
However, ‘Too Far Gone‘ isn’t all soaring highs throughout, oh no. ‘Lord Of Flies‘ borrows Slipknot chugs and Stone Sour choruses for a more hard-rock approach to the band’s sound, and it’s painfully clear why this track was given the single/music video treatment, what with its forced-as-fuck chorus. And while not truly bad, this is easily one of the weaker songs of the whole release as it just doesn’t reach the same height and level of impact that its fellow siblings here do. The very same goes for ‘Hateful‘ too, which feels like an edgy B-side from the ‘Smile‘ days. Moreover, the religiously themed closing track, the suitably titled ‘The End’ (which is four minutes and twenty seconds long because of fucking course it is) is this off-putting, ominous and at times eerily drifting piece; one that isn’t dipping down into those average shallows of ‘Lord Of Flies‘ or ‘Hateful‘, but one that also isn’t standing tall and proud like the titular track, ‘Singing In The Swamp‘ or ‘10 Cents‘ do earlier on in the album. Those low-points keenly in my mind, I can happily say that ‘Too Far Gone‘ is still a solid release, one that reveals so much more of Cane Hill’s inner potential and what success is more than likely awaiting them down the line.
Of course, before I even reach far enough to put on ‘Too Far Gone’, I’ll have either grabbed ‘Iowa’, ‘Chocolate Starfish…’, ‘Follow The Leader’ or any other classic ‘90s metal/rock record first instead of this indeed solid LP. Still, that’s more than I ever could’ve said about Cane Hill up until this point. If you’ve never understood the hype, interest or vibe of Cane Hill, then this just might be the record that turns you to the dark side. Because that was just the case for me, and I never once thought that I would be saying good things about the band who wrote shit like this.
- Too Far Gone
- Lord Of Flies
- Singing In The Swamp
- It Follows
- 10 Cents
- The End
‘Too Far Gone’ is out now.