For centuries, authors, painters, poets, and filmmakers have sought out the edges of consciousness. Often equally euphoric and nightmarish, the psyche’s outer limits transform into a powerful, albeit fickle muse. While writing their second full-length album Too Far Gone [Rise Records], Cane Hill pushed those limits psychologically, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, coming back from the precipice with ten unforgettable stories masquerading as hook-heavy metallic swamp grunge.
A year of insane experiences and a handful of mind-altering substances later, the Louisiana quartet—Elijah Witt [vocals], James Barnett [guitar], Ryan Henriquez [bass], and Devin Clark [drums]—emerge with a dark, disruptive, defiant, and definitive body of work.
Don’t try this at home…
“We went too hard down this big spiral of LSD,” admits Witt. “A lot of these songs reference a time in our lives when we were really headstrong about what we were doing as far as drugs were concerned and believing we were invincible. It took this shift as we realized we were losing ourselves. I think it’s lucky we recognized that before it became a problem. We definitely went a little bit past our limit, and we’re coming to terms with those mistakes. We went too far gone with everything. The title encapsulates the entire era.”
This era would also be a breakout moment for the band. An orgy of off-time riffing, provocatively ponderous lyricism, and delightfully smutty recklessness, their full-length debut Smile quietly instigated a movement. In addition to acclaim from Metal Hammer and New Noise Magazine, Alternative Press proclaimed it among “The Best Debut Albums of 2016” and “5 New Albums from Hardcore and Metalcore Bands That Aren’t Afraid to Make a Statement.” In under a year, total Spotify streams for Smile surpassed 2 million as the band averages 70K monthly listeners on the platform.
Moreover, their versatile style enabled them to fit in comfortably on the Warped Tour and Rock On the Range as well as on the road with legends such as Superjoint Ritual. It built upon the momentum established by 2015’s self-titled EP, which earned them nods for “Best New Band” at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards, “Best International Newcomer” at the KERRANG! Awards, and “Best Underground Band” at the Alternative Press Music Awards.
In order to expand on that foundation yet again, Cane Hill diligently spent six months penning the follow-up.
“What ties these songs together is a theme of acceptance about life being incredibly futile, finite, and having a very distinct beginning and end,” he elaborates. “Smile was all about pushing boundaries and not really caring about death. Too Far Gone is about the realization that death is forever following you and can hit you at any time. It’s the acceptance that your life has consequence and your choices can and will haunt you forever. Whether you decide to change or continue living that lifestyle is one-hundred percent on you. I’m just writing about it.”
The boys returned to Los Angeles in order to record with Smile producer Drew Fulk [Motionless In White, Fear Factory]. However, the process evolved as they brought a wealth of ideas into the fold and expanded the palette with guitar solos and an emphasis on live drums.
“This time around, we went in with actual content,” he continues. “One of the major differences was we knew what we wanted. We put a lot more focus on the instrumentation. Everything had to be as raw as possible. Drew was there to guide us and let us fully explore how weird or experimental we wanted to get. We also made sure to get the point across that we’re a four-piece with the bass taking a prominent role. We switched gears from being incredibly heavy all the time to experimenting with our softer side and getting emotions across more accurately and dramatically. We took the polarities of Smile and stretched them as far as we could.”
The first single and opener “Too Far Gone” trudges forward on seesawing distortion before snapping from menacing verses into a chant-worthy growl punctuated by a wild guitar solo. It directly speaks to a pervasive theme.
“It’s a very blatant look at what we did during that LSD period,” explains Witt. “It also examines how people reacted to us doing what we were doing. Just because of how open and public we were about it, many bands decided to run their mouths with negative opinions. It’s A. an introduction to the album and B. a call out to a few hypocrites.”
Talk-box cries wheez and wah at the beginning of “Lord of Flies,” which touts one of the record’s catchiest refrains, “I should’ve known you were the lord of flies, looking for Heaven in the devil’s eyes.”
“You meet someone who you feel has all of the good intentions in the world, but you realize it’s all a façade,” he goes on. “You’re looking for goodness in them, but they may be more terrible that everybody you know. The human condition is essentially imperfect. Searching for perfection in anybody is a fruitless endeavor.”
The emotionally charged “Erased” spotlights Witt’s ominous croon as he paints a melancholic picture of mental deterioration. “That’s about Devin’s grandfather who was more of a father to him than his dad was,” he sighs. “It’s the experience of watching him get Alzheimer’s, dementia, and disappear with no control. Time is unforgiving. It’s the most emotional song we’ve written.”
Elsewhere, “10Cents” details the humanity of one’s idols as “It Follows” goes for the throat with its admission of Witt’s “constant striving to create trouble in my life.”
Whether beautiful, ugly, brilliant, or brutal, each moment elicits a response in the end.
“When people hear this, I’d just like them to feel anything,” he leaves off. “You can make mistakes, change, and push forward. The recognition can make you a better person. Don’t let the past define you That’s the story.” – Rick Florino, November 2017