I am not ashamed to admit I have my fair share of dark moments. It comes from a lifetime of battling anxiety that ranges from crippling to manageable, most times revolving around my health, the health of loved ones, and the fear we could be wiped from the planet at any moment. Those things are always there, and no matter how good things are at any current moment, I keep waiting for the door to slam closed, crushing my fingers in its wake.
From the time I have spent with Caïna’s catalog, I get that same sense form its creator Andrew Curtis-Brignell. He’s no stranger to dark subject matter, the kind that gnaws at your insides and forces you to confront the blacker, more unpleasant aspects of existence. On Caïna’s new album “Setter of Unseen Snares,” Curtis-Brignell tackles a story concept that is the ultimate in hopelessness and lonesomeness: The record focuses on the last surviving family on Earth and their attempt to escape a giant asteroid that’s setting on crushing them. That very idea fills me with dread and worry, because it’s not something that isn’t out of the realm of possibility. But following along with the six tracks on this album, I feel like I can cope because sometimes you have to say fuck it and throw caution to the wind. What else are you going to do? But make no mistake, you’ll take an emotional journey here that will force you confront a future that might be unpleasant.
Curtis-Brignell’s work here is his freshest, most varied to date. All along, his music has been morphing, growing, changing, and adapting, and if you followed his career, you’d know this from how each new release has offered something different. This is his first new full-length since 2013’s “Litanies of Abjection,” and his sixth overall. He’s been busy the past couple years though, issuing a number of EP, split, a small releases, but it all builds to this record, an album dripping with passion, heart, and a foreboding sense that at any time, it could all go black.
The record has an incredibly interesting start, as “Introduction” uses dialog from Rust Cohle from the first episode of “True Detective,” lamenting humankind’s role in reproducing and surviving and adhering to a system in which we were given no choice. This is the first instance I have run across of “True Detective” being used to enhance the messages on a record of any type, so, well done. That leads into barn-storming “I Am the Flail of the Lord,” a thunderous, assaulting number that feels like the Earth’s crust already has been penetrated by that cosmic force and is spraying land, rock, and water all over the place. The vocals are roars, an unsettling fury that rips into your soul as he howls, “All life is blasphemy!” The pace settles a bit, and some misleading calm trickles in, but then the song tears open again, with melody bleeding out and a vicious finish. The title cut follows, where Curtis-Brignell is joined on vocals by Michael Ribeiro. The guitars are blurry and chilly at first, but then tumult arises and we’re off to a dash through maniacal chaos and occasional streams of serenity. The vocals are monstrous, the drums are just crushing, and all of this panic eventually dissolves into the air.
“Vowbound” opens with swirling sounds that could dizzy you, with drubbing drums and chugging guitars emerging and taking control. The growls are harsh again, with black metal-style violence and gazey dreaming mixing together to duel with each other. The final moments do quake you, but there’s also a ton of atmosphere packed into this track. “Applicant/Supplicant” is moody at the start before it blows up and rages heavily. “We are the damned!” Curtis-Brignell roars, as the song manages to find a level of catchiness amid all of the fire. Things begin to spiral out of control musically, hinting at the terror present in the story, and the final minutes slip into psychedelic gothiness and clobbering blasts. Closer “Orphan,” which comprises the entire B side of the vinyl release, is one of the most interesting, vulnerable, daring songs of Caïna’s entire history, and it knocked me for a loop first time I heard it. And every time since. Vice Martyr handles the vocals on the front end of the track, sounding a bit like Roger Waters at his most desperate, and Laurence Taylor takes over the more vicious second part. The song runs 15:28, and it’s an amazing final curtain for this story, a song so impressive that it’s going to be tough to find a real rival for it the final 11 months of 2015. The song drips with emotion, sorrow, and desperation, it’s raw and in pain, and when the line, “I’ll never know home,” arrives, you can’t help but feel the abyss of hope, as death comes hurtling toward Earth, about to cancel out the world’s last remaining inhabitants.
What Curtis-Brignell accomplishes with “Setter of Unseen Snares” is extraordinary and a new, enthralling high-water mark for this project’s run. Yeah, the destruction of humanity is a very metal topic, but Curtis-Brignell handles it with a humanity, emotion, and depth most of his contemporaries generally wouldn’t apply to such subject matter. From the chilling open to that cataclysmic closer, it’s an amazing snapshot of staring death in the eyes, knowing your destruction can’t be staved off and that you’ll have to witness and absorb every moment. It’s enough to make your heart bleed to death, or it might be the jolt you need to embrace what’s in front of you now and make the best of it.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/cainaband
To buy the album, go here: http://brokenlimbsrecordings.com/shop/
Or here: http://hatecof.bigcartel.com/
For more on the label, go here: http://brokenlimbsrecordings.com/
And here: https://www.facebook.com/hatecof