December 1, 2015 | by Bryne Yancey

Ask anyone why a certain song is one of their favorites and you’re likely to get a deeply personal, heavily contextual response.

Often a song serves as a soundtrack to a great memory, some kind of important life event, where hearing it again, no matter where we may be physically or just in our lives, whisks away our minds to that time and place. I have a long list of songs that fit this criteria and I’d bet that you do, too. Our brains are all different and we associate with everything in our own ways unique to ourselves. Brains, for all the weird shit they do to us, are actually pretty cool. Edgy opinion, I know.

Cave In’s “Ataraxia” is one of my favorite songs because hearing it instantly takes me back to the first time I saw them live, at The Social in Orlando in October 2004. I was a couple months shy of my twentieth birthday, still very much in my formative stage as a music fan, and the band’s sound, which melded aggressive, energetic heaviness with more spaced-out overtures, was very agreeable. They had everything, but most of all—and this seemed like a foreign concept to me at the time, at least through the lens of heavier music—they were fun.

Having been dropped by RCA a year after failing to crossover into the mainstream with Antenna —and also after recording the demos for Perfect Pitch Black, which the label found too heavy—Cave In embarked on that fall 2004 tour of North America with Converge and Between The Buried And Me. It’s hard to say for sure, but one would assume that amidst all the label turmoil and uncertainty of the band’s future, that getting back out on the road was probably at least a temporary respite from all that. The band began sprinkling in new songs into their sets, including “Ataraxia,” an instrumental primarily driven by John-Robert Connors’ thunderous, galloping drumming and a singularly repetitive riff launched into the stratosphere by guitarists Stephen Brodsky and Adam McGrath and pulverized into the ground by bassist Caleb Scofield. The song’s predictability and outward simplicity, which generally yields artistic vacancy, worked to its advantage here, primarily because the riff was so catchy, the percussion so on point. And it was all extremely fun to watch in a live setting. In addition to the time and place aspect of the song, my love for it also largely derives from these little technical moments.

Cave In have been more inactive in the last decade, releasing one EP and one LP in 2009’s Planets of Old and 2011’s White Silence, respectively. They’ll play a show once in a blue moon but to call them a functionally active band in the traditional sense would be false. Members have continued with other long-running projects, such as Scofield in Old Man Gloom, while Brodsky formed Mutoid Man with Converge drummer Ben Koller. The band debuted with an awesome EP, Helium Head, in the fall of 2013, but hit their stride earlier this year with their debut full-length Bleeder. Opener “Bridgeburner” has everything: An instantly and eminently memorable riff; smooth, catchy vocal melodies from Brodsky; dizzying tempo changes driven by Koller’s frenetic drumming; and other fun little moments like that syrupy low end intro, that quick solo between the first and second verses, and that sludgy breakdown towards the end. Something great happens roughly every two seconds in it. Through it all, the song has a ton of personality and a palpable sense of fun that most deadly serious heavy metal bands wouldn’t dare to broach. Try to listen to it without smiling or laughing or resisting the urge to play air guitar and air drums. You just can’t. This isn’t a time and place song for me yet, but my brain associating it with just about everything else I enjoy about heavy music makes it a definitive favorite, and an escape in its own way.