The name might not be as familiar as their contemporaries who emerged from the late ‘90s/early ‘00s metallic hardcore scene, but Cable was in the thick of things around the time Botch, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Cave In, Coalesce, Drowningman, Isis, and more were blurring lines and re-writing the rules of heaviosity. Scan the length of Cable’s discography and a major issue as to why the Connecticut band always seemed to be the proverbial bridesmaid becomes clear: momentum. Or lack thereof. The band’s lengthy list of full-lengths, EPs, comps, split releases and whatnot has been issued by as nearly a lengthy a list of labels. This can’t bode well for anyone trying to sustain impact on a crowded scene in a saturated musical world. Never you mind that some of the labels they’ve worked with over the years have been, well, let’s be diplomatic and say, ‘less-than-experienced.’
Of course, exterior forces aren’t only to blame and point fingers at for Cable’s relative obscurity. There have been issues with lineup consistency and personnel/personal instability which, when you’re trying to work as a unit for the long-term, will curtail everything from touring and playing live to progression and collective musical maturity.
It’s been a crying shame that Cable has never got their due. They’ve always been effective at managing to take that cold northeastern noisecore dissonance and attach a different sort of life to it via the warmth of slo-mo sludgy Sabbath-isms and sequences of loose southern swagger. Take the Stairs to Hell is album number seven and as if in recognition of their own trials and travails, “It Cost Me Everything” lopes in like Buzzov-en’s Kirk Fischer slashing at random wrists with a rusty razor before Fudge Tunnel’s Alex Newport arrives on the scene in a cape and tights to save the day.
A fit of almost passive-aggressive anger can be felt throughout the track’s bluesy stomp before passing the baton to the post-black thrust of in the first part of “Black Medicine” (where an appropriate vocal guest spot is given to Tombs’ Mike Hill). Demonstrating both musical and vitriolic range, they deke that track around a slalom course of Sleep-y stoner metal, classic rock and melodic hardcore. Huzzah for non-linear songwriting!
As the album goes on, the quintet’s reluctance to deviate very much from a mid-pace, quarter-note strut may negate some of the dynamic excitement, like in the way the life of “Eyes Rolled Back” seems muted and stunted, but there many more highlights to be had. These are delivered in the form of “Low Man” (reminiscent of early Helmet easing up on the staccato), “Rats on Fire” (for its KEN Mode-meets-Oxbow spoken-word verses), the title track (its slow burn has a Nick Cave-like baritone complemented by their running of Cave In’s Jupiter through a minor key meat grinder) and the overwhelming dark cloud of album outro “Come Home” which sounds more like a stairway to an amorphous hell than the title track itself.
How far the band is willing and/or able to roll with this is anybody’s guess. While there have been periods of inactivity, since forming in 1994, there has never been a deliberate break-up, disbanding or hiatus. Cable are lifers, in it for the long haul, even if most never get to hear or experience them. Will the band's ongoing subpar luck and frazzled direction continue to drive their story or does older begat wiser? Whatever the case, you can get on the angst-ridden rollercoaster via Take the Stairs to Hell and at least enjoy this latest ray of miserable brightness.