Last week Caleb Scofield, bassist and co-vocalist of metalcore crossbearers Cave In as well as drone-doom supergroup Old Man Gloom and his solo outfit Zozobra, died too soon in a tragic interstate incident in New Hampshire. The outpouring of support for his wife and two kids has been a small glimmer of light, where an online donation fund initially asked for $1k but swiftly passed $90k as of this writing. Of course his bandmates, the heavy scene here in New England, and fans across the world have been knocked flat by Scofield’s premature passing.
His bands, and Scofield’s contribution to them, cemented my early entry to an appreciation of metal welded with hardcore. They could be blamed for penning the blueprints of screaming and singing in the genre, but their compositions are more raw and playfully arranged rather than meticulously orchestrated like many of their spawn. There’s a magnetic appeal in their licks and lyrics, which were given an impeccable base to spring from by the rhythm section. Each one is approachable but open to the treasure-hunts of repeated listening, layers of noise peeling themselves back as you go. Often imitated but never duplicated, Cave In, OMG, and Zozobra crafted singular molds in the genre and then obliterated them over and over again.
Cave In is probably what Scofield is most known for, despite the fact that the late 90’s and early 00’s were not too kind to the recording of bass guitars in metal and hardcore. On their first proper full-length Until Your Heart Stops Scofield holds down one of the album’s gnarliest tracks with his still young roar, which this live version properly captures.
After that album the band dropped Jupiter, a prog-metal-hardcore masterpiece that found the band vilified by closed-minded old fans and heralded by legions of more adventurous new ones. Where main vocalist Stephen Brodsky dropped most of his shouts for some angelic crooning, “Big Riff” finds Scofield bringing some of the album’s only harsher vocals, bridging old and new Cave In and cracking the song wide open.
A few ups and downs followed, involving major labels and more radio-friendly arena tunes which are fantastic if a smidge too shiny. There wasn’t much guttural action from Scofield, but the band had a comeback album with White Silence, which dropped most of the sheen of Antenna and found the band exploding song structures and embracing the licks, distortions, and screams alongside the cleaner vocals again. Cave In had reached a more complete evolution here, tightly-packing every instinct and influence they’d previously exhibited. Scofield in particular stands out, as producers and recording equipment finally caught up to his rock-crushing bass lines and his growl had been tempered through years of use, particularly on “Serpents”.
While Cave In was going up and down, Scofield was invited to take part in Old Man Gloom, a kind of Voltron of heavy-hitters including members of Converge and Isis. OMG spreads out the grit, mixing drone, doom, and standard riffage with a sense of humor, so as to keep the listener from getting too cozy or complacent. There are three vocalists in this one including Scofield, who brings a monk-like chanting to the table. My personal OMG favorites are NO and The Ape of God, both of which bring Scofield to the front on a few occasions, including “The Forking Path” and “Eden’s Gates”.
For a while there Scofield was crafting jams on his own under the name Zozobra, which is often described as doom or drone metal. This project feels particularly meditative but still rollicking, such as on my personal fave of these Bird of Prey. Scofield and his bass are front and center, carving out grooves that slowly build and layer, casting off the sneaky twists and turns of his other bands to nestle into gain-soaked nooks instead.
Scofield will be missed by many, and left a considerable legacy of albums and performances in the wake of his passing at merely 39 years. His music found kin across the globe, and Cave In, OMG, and Zozobra are rotational mainstays for me. We were lucky to have him for as long as we did, and luckier still to have the rich legacy of riffs and friendship he left behind.