Review by Greg Maki
New Orleans’ Cane Hill made major strides in 2018 with its second full-length album, “Too Far Gone” (read Live Metal’s review). The record, which I named the best release of the year, expanded the band’s sound, adding different textures and flavors while remaining true to its heavy, groove-laden roots. Almost a year to the day later, the quartet is back with a very different kind of album, one that takes any preconceived notions you have, stomps them into the ground, then picks them back up and drops them into a garbage disposal, grinding them up and sending them off, never to be seen again.
The six-song EP “Kill the Sun” runs just 22 minutes, yet it accomplishes so much; not a second is wasted. The sound is that of a band opening itself up to the world in a way it never has and few seem to do these days. Kris Crummett’s layered production makes it ideal for headphone listening, with acoustic and occasionally electric guitars, piano, percussion, electronics, even saxophone all swirling together in hypnotic fashion. It’s the kind of record that cries out to be heard in a dark room lit only by candles so that the listener can focus on nothing but this honest, emotionally raw music.
Leaving his signature barks and growls far in the rearview, frontman Elijah Witt shines with a soft, tender vocal performance. It’s hard to believe the gentle croon of “Empty” comes from the same man who spat out the vitriolic lyrics of “Scumbag” and “Hateful” on the previous album.
Though there isn’t a weak song here, I’d go with the closing “Smoking Man” as a favorite for the way it juxtaposes its heavy bassline with the acoustic guitars up front until electronic sounds take over in an almost Nine Inch Nails-like fashion.
It seems too easy to refer to “Kill the Sun” as Cane Hill’s “Jar of Flies,” yet the comparison is inescapable, in terms of both the acoustic-heavy sound and the overall quality of the music. I wouldn’t say any of the songs directly sound like Alice in Chains, but the influence certainly is there, and they seem to have been written and recorded in a similar spirit.
Let’s be clear: This is no imitation; it’s an artistic statement by a band that refuses to be hemmed in by genre or any other artificial boundary. Who knows, maybe 25 years from now we’ll be talking about bands releasing their own “Kill the Sun.”
(Rise Records, January 18, 2019)