Have you ever found an album, and after only a few listens wondered why you had never heard this band until now? I have this experience more than most people, but I have recently felt this way with a new band I found through Twitter. After only a few repeats, I cannot stop playing the band Caligula’s Horse.
A band with one hell of an interesting name (I’d like to hear how they decided on that), Caligula’s Horse resides in Melbourne, Australia, which my readers should already be familiar with my almost unhealthy obsession with Australian rock. The band consists of Jim Grey on vocals, Dave Couper on bass, Geoff Irish on drums, Zac Greensill on guitar, and Sam Vallen on lead guitar. The sound they create is incredible, one that ranges between progressive and alternative metal, with even some moments of djent and tech metal. Their latest album “The Tide, The Thief, & River’s End” is a collaboration of extremely talented musicians, and is a culmination of everything great about progressive metal.
Right from the start, “The Tide…” hooks the listener on the song “A Gift to Afterthought.” The album begins with a voice declaring “Here, and now, it ends,” which sets the tone and creates anticipation for what’s in store for the entire album. After a delayed clean guitar riff reminiscent of the band Karnivool, a deep snare-driven drumbeat, and a djent-like rhythm, the album is underway. I am immediately hooked on the song as Grey sings in a very hushed voice, as if drawing the listener closer to tell a secret, only to declare a chorus full of warning. With a vocal style similar to Tool’s Maynard James Keenan, Grey belts those lyrics and lets loose throughout this album. The entire song is full of rises and falls, and my heart beats faster and slower as the song progresses. I personally vote this song as one of the best intro songs on an album ever. (Sound off below on what your favorite intro song is!)
My readers may have noticed a pattern of progressive rock and metal albums mentioned in this blog, but may have a hard time differentiating between the albums due to the similarity of the bands in this niche. One of my favorite aspects of this album is what makes this progressive metal album different from the rest: the unpredictable and sudden shift from slow and soft to fast and hard. The first time listening to this album, I was almost frustrated because this drastic change occurs many times throughout this album, especially between the songs “A Gift to Afterthought” and “Water’s Edge.” After several listens though, I must compliment Caligula’s Horse on their flawless execution. The change in tempo does not diminish the album at all, and gives the listener a chance to catch their breath. The drum work and guitar riffs flow perfectly between these changes, and only adds to the listener’s emotional state throughout the album.
I do have to admit, though, that when listening to this album in the car, I must turn the volume up during the softer parts, only to get a jolt when Grey, Irish, and Greensill blast in unexpectedly. In a way, they master this technique to a fault, as I want to either bash my head longer, or live in the soft moments just a little longer.
I had the opportunity to ask singer and lyricist Jim Grey about the album’s lyrics and theme. Here’s what he had to say about the concept around “The Tide…”:
“Basically the story of the album surrounds two cities – one with a tyrant that ends in disaster, and the other of survivors of the disaster, former prisoners of the tyrant who escape to form a new home.
But the old habits creep up in their new city, and the same corruption and violence begins anew. There is a lot more in there with specific characters, but that’s the overarching theme of River’s End.
Sam and I had worked on the material for the new album for a while before we realized this concept in full – there was a conceptual basis for the content of each individual song, but along the way we decided to weave those stories together, and began working on the full piece. We couldn’t be happier with it, and we’re glad people are loving it around the world.”
Overall, Caligula’s Horse is a great addition to the progressive metal scene. They provide originality, flawlessly changing between an atmospheric and melodic sound to a technical and deep sound. The lyrics are sung with such passion that are sadly missing in many albums I’ve listened to. Irish is a beast on the album, providing the most precise and technical drums hits I’ve heard. Greensill and Vallen compliment the djenty rhythms and blaring solos perfectly. Couper rounds the band out with his great bass lines that bring everything together. There aren’t too many albums like this, but I could compare them to bands like TesseracT, Hemina, and even bands like Dream Theater and The Dear Hunter. Please support this band by checking out their Bandcamp and Facebook pages.
Enjoy a complimentary listen of “The Tide, The Thief, & River’s End” through Bandcamp below!