The Boston Hardcore Scene Remembers Cave In's Caleb Scofield, Its Beloved Pioneer
Members of Unearth, The Red Chord, and more reflect on the tragic passing of a musician who helped define an era of Massachusetts music.
photo via Profound Lore Records
A horrifying crash video at a New Hampshire toll plaza went viral last week, eliciting an outpouring of sympathy for the victim’s family.
But for the Boston metal and hardcore scene, Caleb Scofield’s death was much more than just a terrible tragedy caught on video that befell some anonymous person. They had lost a brother, a touring buddy, and a key member of a band that helped lay the groundwork for the massively successful wave of metalcore bands that have come out of Massachusetts over the past 20 years.
“They were a huge influence on our band. You can hear it in our songs,” said Unearth vocalist Trevor Phipps. “Especially with [guitarist/vocalist] Ken [Susi] with the clean vocals on our songs. That’s a direct influence from Cave In. They were heavy, hardcore, and metal, and then they had those atmospheric singing parts. That was the brand we wanted to bring into our music. They kind of invented that and brought it into metal and hardcore. We still use that influence, as well as influences from their heavy stuff.”
Scofield joined Cave In in 1998 just as the band was about to release its landmark studio debut, Until Your Heart Stops on Hydra Head, an influential underground Boston label founded by Isis’ Aaron Turner. The album, which saw a proper release in 1999, was produced by Converge’s Kurt Ballou, and is widely viewed as a groundbreaking piece of musical art that melded elements of hardcore, metal, punk, and prog with songs that ran up to 13 meandering minutes.
The band, which also included guitarist/vocalist Stephen Brodsky, drummer John-Robert Conners, and guitarist Adam McGrath, elevated their experimental style on the acclaimed 2000 album, Jupiter, which further explored their psychedelic rock leanings and was named the second-best metal album of the 2000s by Decibel magazine.
“Cave In innovated by naturally bridging a few styles that hadn’t been done at that point: metal, hardcore, melodic, and atmosphere,” said Zack Wells, guitarist of Massachusetts metal supergroup Death Ray Vision, which included members of Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage, Overcast, and Cannae. “Today it is common, but at that time, it was new and exciting, and to me, still is. They are also one of the few bands that were able to evolve and change their sound over time, while still remaining true to the soul of who they were. Even though they are well regarded, I still think their influence on heavy music continues to be undervalued.”
Brian Fair, vocalist for Shadows Fall, shared many stages with Cave In and Scofield over the years and said he was “very saddened” by the horrible news. Grammy-nominated Shadows Fall came up in the Massachusetts scene a few years after Cave In and Fair said they changed his outlook on the heavy genre.
“As a band they were always light years ahead and always inspired me to imagine heavy music from different angles,” said Fair, who also fronted Overcast, Death Ray Vision, and his new band Downpour. “His voice was monstrous, his bass tone and style were incredibly unique. My thoughts are with his family and friends. His music will continue to inspire. May he rest in power.”
"His voice was monstrous, his bass tone and style were incredibly unique."
Scofield was also a member of Zozobra and another Massachusetts metal supergroup, Old Man Gloom, which featured Turner and Nate Newton of Converge and Doomriders.
Clouds bassist Johnny Northrup, who shared a practice space with Cave In for many years and filled in for Scofield in many Cave In side projects, said: “I liked him very much personally and looked up to him as a fellow bass player tremendously.”
“I always felt like Caleb was pouring his guts into his music and I think that's what made it and him so special,” Northrup added. “And when you got to talk to him, he was so damned clever and funny. I can't believe I'll never wander into a studio or practice space or a club or just a get together and see him sort of leaning against the wall, waiting for the exact right moment to deliver a line that would crack up the room. This is a hard loss for many, many close friends, brothers, sisters, allies.”
“I always felt like Caleb was pouring his guts into his music and I think that's what made it and him so special.”
Guy Kozowyk, singer of the Revere, Massachusetts, band The Red Chord remembers: “Going to shows in Massachusetts in the late 90s, Cave In were like royalty. The energy they brought to various legion Halls and small clubs and their distinct sound forged my fascination with underground music. When he started taking over more vocal duties, the kid just had a huge battering ram for a voice. My heart is truly broken for his family and friends.”
Mark Vieira, a Boston-bred metal publicist now based in Los Angeles, added: "He was a really good dude and immense talent. The news was just devastating."
"[T]he kid just had a huge battering ram for a voice."
Dave Tree, vocalist of See This World and seminal Boston hardcore band Tree, recalled seeing Cave In for the first time at the legendary Middle East in Cambridge just as they were breaking out of the Massachusetts underground.
“Cave In came out of nowhere and all of a sudden they were huge,” Tree recalled. “They didn’t just stick to one thing. They kept breaking it up and challenging people with their music, which is taking a huge risk, and it worked. It just sucks. I feel for his family and his bandmates.”
Tree also recalled seeing Old Man Gloom at a recent show at Boston club Great Scott and was blown away by the heaviness.
“They were the tip of the spear of that western Mass metal scene. You listen to Converge and you listen to Cave In, they’re very different bands. Their music was very emotional,” Tree says. “He left an incredible legacy of music behind.”
“He left an incredible legacy of music behind.”
Scofield, 39, is survived by his wife, Jen, and two children, Sydney, 7, and Desmond, 10. Born in New Hampshire, Scofield grew up in Pembroke, N.H. and met his wife in Boston. The family lived in Los Angeles for many years but moved back to Boston in 2010 and has lived in Bow, N.H. since 2014.
His wake and funeral will be held tomorrow (Wednesday) in Concord, New Hampshire. A memorial fund for the family has been set up and is taking donations at this Youcaring page. Hydra Head will be reissuing Zozobra and Old Man Gloom material with proceeds going to the Scofield family.