Where will we go during the 42-minute jaunt that is Caves of Glass’ Mariana? A little bit of everywhere, actually. We’ll check out some post-rock moments with razor-wire guitar, take a couple of bass-loaded death-metal pummelings, and even get dragged through a howling screamo maelstrom. Best of all, we’ll enjoy it all along the way. Caves of Glass is a collaborative fronted by Larry Hansen of Zora and including members of five other bands, all falling into the post-rock/post-industrial category. As such, Mariana is a big album, sonically speaking, and a powerful one. Yet Hansen and company are smart enough to modulate the ride so it’s not just one long beating, and that turns Mariana into a diverse and intriguing listen. The roadmap here is to start in a fairly quiet space, then either build it in intensity or just slam it into high gear by bringing in those magnificently overamped guitars and the whole metal/industrial mindset to lay waste to the place for a few minutes. After the listener’s been thoroughly saturated in those raw, solid blocks of pent-up energy and emotion and probably left breathless, Caves of Glass then throttle it back down to complete the thought. The first track, “The Hollow,” sets the stage. For its first 90 seconds, it’s just a single guitar playing a finger-picked ballad over glittering electronics. It fades, and then the drums drop in and we’re in a full-on rock space. Two minutes in and they fire the screamo rockets and kick the thing into a whole new, aggressive passage that should get your inner animal up on its hind legs. A tempo shift leads into a searing guitar solo that could leave casualties. And then–abruptly–we drop back out to a quieter space. Glitchy crackles fleck the background. Oh, but they’re not done. Massive power chords drop like missile strikes a few minutes later and you’re back in intensity-land. And this is how the disc tends to go. The title track follows this lead and is a standout track for me. It opens as a quiet post-rock piece with ambient-style guitar sighs and melodic playing that reminds me of Slow Dancing Society or My Majestic Star (excuse my slightly vague references). It does its melancholy thing, keeping to itself, for five minutes or so before, with no warning at all, it erupts in fuzzed-out, uptempo, indie-rock joy. For me, it’s fantastically cathartic. The centerpiece here is the 12-minute opus “Barren Earth.” Again the group covers every side of their sound, laying it out in a smoothly shifting narrative. There’s a lot of drama, great changes of energy, metric tons of feeling. The piece breaks at the halfway mark, moving from grinding bass and heavy drums to a solo piano. This is just to give the gents a fresh base to push off and upwards from again–and when that launch comes, if you don’t start throwing rock fingers like Dio and swinging your head, you have no rock and roll soul to speak of. The savagery fades out to an ambient-perfect drone to give you time to exhale.
While the heavier industrial aspects and the occasional screamed vocals may ward off some timid listeners–and this kind of stuff isn’t normally my preference–it all works so well, and is doled out in such well-thought-out proportions, it would be a shame to skip Mariana because of it. This is an album that pulls you firmly in and makes you feel what it’s got to say. Hansen and his cohorts mess with your personal sliders, bringing you up and down as they please, and they make sure you’re not sure where you’re going next. Which is awesome. To come out of the black-hole density of “Barren Earth” and into the bright, quieter guitar and piano of “The End”–well, it does something to you as a listener. It does what music is supposed to do. It gets a reaction. Across the span of Mariana, Caves of Glass get a lot of reactions. This has been a pleasure to listen to over and over, and it deserves a lot of attention. Take a chance, and keep your hand on the volume knob for those moments when maximum sonic assault is called for. This is a superb release, with lasting effects, from Caves of Glass.
Available from the Caves of Glass Bandcamp page.