You could be forgiven for forgetting that not even two years have passed since Melbourne’s Caged Existence released their first single “Demonized” in early 2018. Fast forward a year and a half later and the four-piece are fresh off a European tour with Knocked Loose with a brand new three-track for our ears.
As short as it is fierce, The Burden of Purpose is a small but tenacious collection of songs that reinforce the hardcore act’s position of one of Australia’s most exciting exports. As a band, Caged Existence feel stronger and more refined than ever, while sonically the EP feels like a natural step forward for the four piece, both in terms of song writing and production.
Caged Existence is Steffanie (vocals), Jake (drums/vocals), Will (guitar) and Pablo (bass).
Opening with lead single “Liar’s Tongue”, the menacing drum fill that prefaces the song is foreshadowing of the storm to come. It sets a severe mood that continues through the entirety of the EP and, alongside harsh guitars and divisive bass work, it’s almost daunting. It feels distinctly like what fans came to experience with The Body Prison, yet the band’s unrelenting flavour just seems to hit even harder this time around.
While instrumentally the band seems to have improved, the change in the presentation of the band’s vocals is what captures me the most. While not distinctly new, there feels like there is a new found balance between the vocal performances of both Steffanie and Jake. While the dual vocals have been a feature of all previous releases, it feels like the band has struck some kind of equilibrium that is being employed with much greater effect.
Along with the addition of unnerving spoken word vocals scattered across The Burden of Purpose, the vocal performances within the EP are undoubtedly one of its most prominent features. Steffanie is at her commanding best, yet the extra layer from Jake compliments her vocal ferocity almost perfectly. To be sure not to understate just how much I enjoyed them, it is a dynamic powerhouse performance from both members.
Yet conversely, what The Burden of Purpose achieves without vocals at the forefront is equally as impressive. While each song is distinct in its own right, there’s an incredible consistency between all three tracks. While at times it can make certain parts of songs feel recycled, for the most part it’s merciless and unrelenting, giving no time for reprieve as breakdowns and beat down are shovelled on top of each other.
Interestingly enough, I found at times that instrumentally the EP seemed to find itself at some kind of crossroads between hardcore and 2010’s metalcore. Most prominent in what I think to be the standout track “Buried Beneath”, the breakdowns feel almost familiar to those that I heard during my years of obsession with top-tier ‘Risecore’ bands like Miss May I. It feels refreshing, and while this might only be a personal recognition it provided me another thing to enjoy when listening to the three-track.
Thematically, The Burden of Purpose feels frustrated, with an undeniable sense of exasperation audible when listening. In taking the title literally, it seems to hone in on the concept of being forced to exist and the grievances that exist within that. It begs attention to the dilemma that we all face, in that we’ve been gifted a life that at times, is no gift at all but a constant struggle to find purpose in something that sometimes feels meaningless.
While short, running under ten minutes, the release feels surprisingly long. The songs are enveloping and persistent, evidenced by my own listening habits which have had the EP on a loop since its release. Even though certain elements feel reprocessed at times, there are more than enough original and extraordinary moments within The Burden of Purpose to entertain any hardcore fan.
Whether it’s the phenomenal vocal performances, the beating drums or the gruelling riffing, it’s difficult to see how these songs will be met with anything but absolute chaos when Caged Existence take the release on tour. You can see fists flailing and feet flying in the EP’s opening seconds, with the imagery evoked a testament to The Burden of Purpose’s undeniable quality.
Certain instrumental sections feel recycled at times.
Incredibly enjoyable, albeit short release that takes the most enjoyable parts of Caged Existence and take them to a brand new level. When “Buried Beneath” goes half-time, oh boy.