You say “Slayer-influenced metalcore” to me now and I just punch you in the face (kidding, you could most likely kick my ass), but back in 1998, metalcore visionaries Cave In dropped the most amazing piece of Slayer-influenced metalcore the world had no idea it needed with their debut real full-length, Until Your Heart Stops.
But it wasn’t just Slayer-infuenced: there were huge, Meshuggah-like grooves (before that reference also became exhausting in metalcore), emo-core tendencies and, most interestingly, melodic aspirations that nod to their next album, the brilliant Jupiter.
Until Your Heart Stops made our Hall of Fame way back in our July 2007 issue, but it’s on our minds now for another reason: the band is performing a special Until Your Heart Stops set at our Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest: Los Angeles event, going down December 10 and 11 at The Belasco in LA.
So, what better time than now to deep dive into the record’s 10 tracks and rank them from worst to best? From concise thrashers to sprawling noise-rock experimentation, this album has a lot going on, so sit back and enjoy Until Your Heart Stops one more time, before you enjoy it one more time again in LA next month.
10. Segue 1
We’re not giving every interlude its own ranking here, but this one stands out, as it’s actually a very cool little breathing-room interlude track, 1:17 of weird ideas and far-reaching sounds that are nowhere near metalcore, more like experimental emo-hardcore of the era, and I’m on board.
9. Controlled Mayhem then Erupts
Of course it’s a 14-minute album closer: this was 1998 metalcore, after all. And you kinda know by this point in the album what’s going to happen: heavy part, atmospheric part, meandering/noisy/experimental part… But Cave In manage to do a great job even if the runtime of this one is a bit exhausting. Love the manic spoken/screamed vocal part that leads into the Meshug-groove and the sideways-Slayer riffing. I love everything Cave In did on this record, even if everything after about five minutes here is filler noise that I could really live without, hence the lower positioning.
Some good guitar heroics here on a song that is more mean median metalcore than most on this record, “Ebola” buried deep and not thought about often when this album comes up, but it does what it needs to do: uses shards of thrash riffs in a smart metalcore context to shred faces. Shred faces “Ebola” does, especially during the song’s awesome climax. The quiet part that follows carries just as much weight, in that special way that only Cave In can really pull off.
7. Until Your Heart Stops/Segue 2
The second half of the album kicks off with the massive title track, pounding double-bass and jagged riffing, atmospheric melodies and experimental noise rock. It meanders, but it meanders well, despite being pretty difficult to warm up to. Segue 2 (which I’m just smushing into this song like it’s presented on Apple Music, deal with it) is more or less a disorienting guitar loop, which we can totally get behind, especially in the context of the full album. Also, we love the context of this: the title track of this record is a sprawling, eight-minute (if you include “Segue 2,” which we are, deal with it) far-reaching metalcore/mathcore/noise rock/noise piece. In some ways, it deserves to be higher here, but, hey, this song doesn’t even care if you like it, so here we are.
6. Bottom Feeder/Segue 3
This one sneaks in as song 8 of 10 at under three minutes, with tempos at mid and vocals at clean and smart, the band sounding like Helmet at their most relaxed during the verse here, before things get noisy and ugly (although the Helmet reference can still make sense in those parts, too). Totally a forgotten tune here, at least for me, this one is actually really cool in its own way, and then “Segue 3” (which we’re combining with “Bottom Feeder,” you still gotta deal with it) is 30 seconds at the end for weirdo noise, as is this album’s way.
5. Halo of Flies
In some ways, “Halo of Flies” is everything great about Cave In, from the thrash riffing to the atmospheric bits, the builds and ebbs and flows, the emotional release, and the unexpected clean singing—which works better here than anywhere else on the record, and sets the stage for what’s to come next for the band. It doesn’t have as much visceral impact as your “Juggernaut”s or “Moral Eclipse”s but it’s an incredibly solid Cave In song. Plus, the ending climax and riff rule.
4. Moral Eclipse
The Slayer on smart-guy-metalcore attack of this song still just totally smashes, years later: when the band strap in and ride the horses, it’s borderline too much, but then the make-Meshuggah-jealous rhythm-section attack, the Coalesce-loving breakdown, argh, it’s just too good. Lots of this stuff sounded amazing at the time but hasn’t aged well; “Moral Eclipse” shows its age and is most certainly of a certain time and place, but man has it ever held up great. Some days this one sneaks into my number-three spot.
3. Terminal Deity
Cave In are bringing the groove here, the youthful attack totally unrecognizable when held up next to the band’s later-era releases, but it’s also a whole hell of a lot heavier and, you know, glass-eating or whatever. “Terminal Deity” has tons of great riffs, manic drumming, and a production that can barely hold it all together—and it sounds awesome. Some early attempts at more melodic singing try to sneak in here, but they barely make it above the carnage. Love it, and when the final-Unbroken-7” moment near the end of the song when an unbelievably memorable vocal line hits at around 2:30, it’s clear this is a classic.
The first two songs here are killers, but it’s on the third, “Juggernaut,” where Cave In truly established themselves, starting heavy but then dropping some space-rock aspiration, taking us on a completely unexpected journey. Sure, they can throw down King/Hanneman riffs, but they also swoon us through the stars, something Slayer could never do. Then the big grooves, the locked-in rhythm section, the almost Thin Lizzy guitar heroics, the kinda stupid but hey something is happening here riff at 2:11 (brother riff to Dillinger Escape Plan’s circus riff, itself a long-lost stepson of a Toxik riff, if we’re getting serious)… It all comes to a head a couple minutes before the song even considers ending, when things get noisier and noisier and then a quick break and then, good lord did metalcore ever have promise at one point. It’s all here on this most masterful of tracks.
1. The End of Our Rope Is a Noose
So the band lays down three songs that mainly mosh to the finish line, although showing more smarts and aspiration than your average ‘core band of the time, then drop this epic. Really, “The End of Our Rope Is a Noose” is the centerpiece of the album, the band showing their first dive into clean, second-album Sunny Day Real Estate emo-weirdness here, sandwiched between the Slayer and Meshuggah parts… I mean, this is brilliant stuff, and this song is memorable, massive, and moving, and I’m not even trying to alliterate here. Each riff builds on the last in this eight-minute juggernaut (sorry), until the psycho is-it-really-ending fadeout, and, no, it’s not ending, here’s a few more minutes of broken-glass riffing and memorable vocal lines before fuck you we’re done.
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