REVIEW: CALIGULA’S HORSE – “Rise Radiant”
Nearly a decade has passed since Caligula’s Horse released their debut album ‘Moments from Ephemeral City’. Not only has the Brisbane quintet risen to new heights in just 9 years establishing themselves as a key piece in the contemporary progressive metal movement in Australia but they are also an outfit to watch out for on the international stage.
The band’s previous album ‘On Contact’ brought them commercial success down under reaching the top 50 in the Aria album charts and gave them the opportunity to tour the world over. 3 years have gone by and their creative arsenal is ready to unleash sonically explosive dynamite once again with their 5th LP ‘Rise Radiant’ set to drop on May 22nd on the prestigious prog label Inside Out Music. The artwork depicting a deer staring at a majestic snowy mountain sums up the music in one breathtaking image. I would imagine taking this album on a journey into the North American Rockies would provide a magical soundtrack to the wilderness.
In the last few weeks the band has given their fans a taste of the opening composition “The Tempest” and the official single “Slow Violence”. Both songs resemble the metallic edges that Caligula’s Horse have mastered and perfected throughout their career. “The Tempest” is a highly emotive song and detonates with an enraged performance from all band members but especially from front man Jim Grey who bellows “we are the tempest, the rapture and the rage as well” alongside some amplified but gorgeous guitar playing by Sam Vallen most notably in the bridge section, it’s a solid opening track for any album. “Slow Violence” hits you with a primal groove and feels like you’re being chased by a hungry Velociraptor with a very accessible chorus to sing-along to. This is predominately a modern metal record however the progressive elements shine through like shades of light in a dark forest. Other compositions like “Salt” or “Resonate” balance out the violent thrashing nature of the album’s songwriting with the elegant keyboard work that many of the 70’s progressive rock acts were excellent at crafting.
The production on ‘Rise Radiant’ is another highlight worth mentioning, the guitar, drums and bass tones are crystal sounding on songs like “Oceanrise” and “Valkyrie”. At times the instruments go from distorted to clear in an instant like if you were walking from the street to the inside of a concert hall, giving the listener a fly on the wall type experience of their studio trickery. The acoustic guitar also gets its moment on the beautiful composition “Autumn”, the song’s melancholy leads quite cynically into the darkest and most haunting composition on the album “The Ascent”. What progressive metal fans like the most is music that takes your imagination into the darkest places of your psyche and finds comfort and light in amongst the bleakness; think of bands such as Opeth and Tool who do this incredibly well. Caligula’s Horse’ artistic statement takes you into wicked and hellish corners and finds glimpses of serenity amongst it all, book-ending the album in a truly progressive manner.
Their previous album ‘On Contact’ was a solid creative outpouring and gave Caligula’s Horse a footnote as one of this generation’s progressive rock/metal bands to pay attention to. ‘Rise Radiant’ is a solid follow up and perfects their craftsmanship, it builds on what they’ve accomplished rather than pushing for a new direction to evolve sonically. Their notoriety comes at a time when a plethora of metal bands are experimenting in diverging disciplines like robotic strutting and down tuning phrasing or an organic approach to writing lengthy compositions and playing in a unbroken train of thought like the classic 70’s acts were renowned for. Caligula’s Horse acutely combined these two approaches, satisfying both artistic paths in style.