Cherish The Light Years’ lead-off slugger “The Great Pan Is Dead” will be hard to eclipse — not only by the rest of the album, but by just about any other song this year. Singer Wesley Eisold leans on his former hardcore influences harder than ever, evinced in the first seconds by the tremolo-picked guitar assault. The edge in Eisold’s croon screams, “Yeah/I will come running/gunning through the years/hunting heart/crushing fears” on the fist-to-air chorus, eliciting some vision of epic love that fights through the fire of time, as if an apocalyptic blockbuster movie was rolled into a singular rock anthem. The onslaught is further propelled by synthetic keys and drums landing just ahead of the downbeat, with the whole song swelling and galloping off into some abyssal void. Or: this song rocks real hard.
“The Great Pan Is Dead” is such a large stake in a new tract of land for Cold Cave that it becomes the hitching post for the album to come. The tepid lo-fi new-wave influences of their debut album Love Comes Close are injected with a richer production (thanks to Chris Coady, who has helmed sessions with TV on the Radio and Yeah Yeah Yeahs) that begs to be let loose in an arena. If their debut felt like a one-off experiment for an ex-hardcore icon, then Cherish The Light Years is a fleshed out realization of Eisold’s previous endeavors. Ideas run deep throughout the record causing a fresh sound to be carved organically out of experience and not a cut and pasted from a record collection. Even after the immaculate opening track, Cold Cave manages to keep pace — dragging the listener by hand down dimly-lit streets, through seedy alleys, and into the club — where underneath its new gloss, Eisold guns through the years, hunts heartily, and crushes fears indeed.
Still trying to stay in overdrive after the first track, “Pacing Around The Church” propels forward filled with Manchester textures and mainstream radio formulas. It doesn’t take long to hear Eisold’s newfound confidence in his vocals. He still slips off many notes as if he’s unsure of his footing, but like Morrisey before him, there are these little melodic gems that couple great meter and rhythm, illuminating a tiny moment in a song. One instance is on “Confetti” as he trickles out the words in his baritone, “I feel guilty being alive/when so many beautiful people have died”, recalling something more akin to Poe than other Hot Topic tropes.
Then there’s the exciting finale of the album — the closing pair of the slowly screwed ode-to-industrial “Burning Sage”, and the brilliance and fireworks of the climactic “Villians of the Moon” best exemplifies Cold Cave’s brush with a 2011 album, and not a retro-genre act. Together they display, fangs out, what Cold Cave is driving at on CTLY: crashing into the hearts of those familiar with their 80’s context, and those not. This is the album that will make Cold Cave a common name, easing listeners out of the light and into the dark.
Elsewhere, swallowing Eisold’s ethos becomes a matter of persistence and taste. The swatch book of genres on CTLY is focused, and includes more extroverted industrial and arena-rock tabs. But the palette Cold Cave works from rarely yields subtle results — the band paints with steady aggression and use exclusively dark colors from top to bottom. There’s no shortage of macabre catch-phrases and hooky shout-a-longs, but if you haven’t the patience for this much gloom, then the album’s 40 minutes can drag in the middle.
That said, Cold Cave never comes off as naive — only very deliberate, and trusting Eisold and his history helps CTLY‘s stock immensely. In fact, the confidence on display here is what makes each track so seductive. It may not have the subtle variety a band may possess at their peak, but every sound on here lands true. If Eisold is at his peak here, it’s still a remarkable imprint on the current landscape. But hopefully, this is just another strong step in his dynamic career.