The fact that Cane Hill are totally bucking against the level that a band of their size should be is one of the most wonderful things about them. A successful debut EP and album can open a few more doors for an increased volume of creative liberties down the line, but given that 2018 saw not only a sophomore effort in Too Far Gone that had them cast their net far wider into grunge and alt-rock than the grisly nu-metal of their early material, but also a live album arriving in such flagrant disregard of the oft-established workings of newer bands, this is clearly a band more ready than ever to prove that being boxed in is simply not an option. And given the way that Kill The Sun has been touted, ditching nu-metal almost entirely for a primarily acoustic experience, this seems to be veering off into wildly unexplored territory for a band in their lane with a level of confidence that’s frankly unprecedented.
But after actually listening to Kill The Sun, however, it doesn’t actually feel like that much of a departure, at least not in intent. It certainly is one, that can’t be denied, but above all, it feels like more of an attempt to channel and isolate the stark Alice In Chains influence that so readily permeated Too Far Gone, though naturally through the modern filters that gives these dusty, acoustic-driven vistas a greater sense of low-end groove and swirling, almost psychedelic mugginess that can be totally spellbinding when done right. And of course, Cane Hill do get it right in almost every way; what could’ve easily been rushed or half-baked feels like a near-perfect expansion of a band that were already doing a great job of that, but only continue to view barriers as objectives to get over (or, more appropriately, ram right through) rather than setbacks.
Among all of that though, it can’t be understated how much these songs still feel definitively like Cane Hill songs, only pared back and appropriating softer, more contemplative sounds to allow the typical uneasy darkness to linger a great deal more. There’s a dankness to the atmosphere created by the acoustic guitars and drawn-out vocal harmonies, exacerbated by the electronic edge that comes from the clicking beat on 82d – No Escort or the evil eruptions of sub-bass or static noise that round off Acid Rain and Smoking Man respectively. It can be an intoxicating listen, decidedly more low-key that everything the Cane Hill have done up to this point but imbued with the same potency. Even then though, it’s all twisted in a way to benefit this sort of presentation, easing back on the blunt self-destruction and immolation for something more insidious and chronic, like the gnawing emptiness of the title track. Granted, it can be a bit up in the air with regards to whether Elijah Witt is the best person to front tracks like this – his constantly stringy falsetto on Empty is probably the greatest offender in terms of not playing to some clear-documented strengths – but for the most part, Kill The Sun plays with that sense of earthiness and dread excellently, in a way that makes for what is possibly Cane Hill’s most interesting and enrapturing release to date.
And while it’s uncertain whether this is a one-off experimental endeavour or the start of a brave, new direction for them, it’d definitely be worth exploring this route at least once more in the future. If the core purpose of an EP is to leave this listener wanting more, it’s hard to think of one that’s done so as effectively in recent times as Kill The Sun, playing to the band’s strengths while showing how beneficial restraint and retooling can be. Even if Cane Hill have never really clicked in the past, this is definitely worth diving into; it’s definitely a different kind of listen, but that’s also where its strongest features lie.
For fans of: Alice In Chains, Tool, Soundgarden
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Kill The Sun’ by Cane Hill is released on 18th January on Rise Records.