Some bands evolve in leaps and bounds, but other bands progress slowly and subtly. Caligula’s Horse is definitely the latter. The maturation and evolution of their ideas has been gradual, but it’s definitely there. Their upcoming new album “Rise Radiant” is most probably their best album yet. It releases on May 22nd through Inside Out Music.
Caligula’s Horse (CH) are part of the vibrant progressive scene in Australia. The band has risen through the ranks to the point where they are even planning a North American tour. I love seeing their success. The band currently consists of the illustrious Jim Grey on vocals, Sam Vallen and Adrian Goleby on guitars, Dale Prinsse on bass, and Josh Griffin on drums.
Caligula’s Horse has always been about high emotions, polyrhythmic grooves, and utter energy. Their brand of progressive metal is extremely modern in sound, with pulsating bass lines, technical guitar fire, and off-kilter choruses. This type of music can often come across as dense and crowded, and Caligula’s Horse has certainly fallen prey to that in the past. With this album, though, I feel like the band has learned to space things out a bit more, giving us room to breathe.
Jim’s voice is the primary reason I started listening to the band back in 2011. He was the vocalist for the now-defunct band Arcane, of which I’m a huge fan. I’ve always had the rule that more Jim Grey vocals is always a good thing, and I’m glad that I took the plunge with CH. Here’s the thing: Jim has gotten better and better in his writing, and so the lyrics come across as fiery social and human commentary. Jim’s emotional and passionate displays are exactly what lifts CH to a different level than many other modern prog metal bands.
“Rise Radiant” has perhaps the best pacing of any CH album. The first few tracks are vicious and heavy, but then we get a break with the beautiful musings of “Resonate”. We then again get a couple heavy tracks before once again getting ambient and melodic reflections with “Autumn”. The final song on the album, “The Ascent”, is probably the best song to represent the record overall, as it switches back and forth between soft and heavy portions. It’s a wonderfully balanced track in its own right. This album structure is important because it makes the album feel more sincere, inspired, and self-aware.
The band released three of their heavier tracks as singles: “The Tempest”, “Slow Violence”, and “Valkyrie”. I like all three tracks, but especially “The Tempest” and “Valkyrie”. The former is a great way to start the record with driving rhythms and an effervescent chorus. “Valkyrie” itself has one of the catchiest choruses on the record, too.
My three favorites are “Resonate”, “Autumn”, and “Salt”. “Salt” is pretty damn interesting. The reason for this is that I can hear clear Haken influences on this song, such as the vocal rounds and quirky, stabbing bass and guitar. In some ways, now that I think about it, this album is CH’s “The Mountain”.
Anyways, I am not ashamed to admit that the album’s two slower songs are my favorites of them all. “Resonate” stays true to its name with beautiful melodies, soft pop vibes, and a quiet performance from Jim. In fact, this reminds me of a couple songs, such as “Womb (In Memoriam)”, off Arcane’s final record. “Autumn” is the absolute pinnacle here, though. It is delicate, catchy, and acoustic, for the most part. Jim builds the memorable chorus more and more until the band unleashes itself at the very end. It is, aside from “Songs for No One” off CH’s last record, my favorite CH song.
I’m happy to see Caligula’s Horse experimenting and diversifying their sound. It has been a slow change, and there is some credence to the argument that many of their albums sound similar. However, their progress is definitely there, and you can hear it the most on “Rise Radiant”. With hopeful, future-forward lyrics, gorgeous softer moments, and breath-taking climaxes, this album is perfect place to start listening to these Aussies. I hope the band gets even bolder in their compositions for the future.
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