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Caligonaut - Magnified as Giants CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

4.18 | 213 ratings

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5 stars Caligonaut is a relatively new name to the prog scene, albeit with the backing of some of the best bands from the norwegian scene. Prog nerds such as myself will notice the unmistakable voice of Andreas W. S. Prestmo. However, the full roster reveals that this is essentially a Wobbler/Airbag collaboration: the bass, keys, and vocals of Wobbler with the guitars and drums of Airbag. It's interesting that as of this review, Caligonaut is considered a crossover prog band. While airbag certainly has crossover moments, this album is much more in line with symphonic prog.

The opening track, Emperor, is an amazing choice for an introduction track. While Prestmo's appearance on vocals certainly rings wobbler to my ears, the most Wobbler thing about this album is the understated bass work of Kristian Karl Hultgren. It has that clear and full bodied rumble that fills up the entire soundstage. Mixed with Bj'rndal's guitar work, this is a very lush symphonic album that has some bite but mostly awe-inspiring moments. Take, for instance, the mid-climax of Emperor that then strips back to piano. The introduction of synths at the second climax is so amazing, and it also calls in a beautiful guitar solo. This album really doesn't sound like a solo project in that Bj'rndal does not necessarily dominate with the style of Airbag (contrast that with Bjorn Riis, who continues Airbag's sound in a more toned back setting on his solo records). That is, the elements of each song are finely tuned and in balance.

Hushed begins with some technical but mellowed acoustic guitar accompanied by voice and piano. The best part of Hushed is how it balances and develops its textures. Everything flows so finely and directs tension so well, especially when the scratch-like sound effect brings in the backbeat in the beginning. The vocal harmonies in the post-chorus are especially awesome, a mix of the direct sound of Bj'rndal's voice with Prestmo's and the others. The violin on the first two tracks, courtesy of 'sa Ree, is beautifully done. Ree is another musician in the Norwegian scene, featured on Jordsjo, Wobbler, Tusmorke, etc. Another great moment on hushed is when the bass comes in. It builds into a great scene featuring cathedral-style organ. This is symphonic gold!

Magnified as Giants opens with some Genesis-style acoustic comping and such a beautiful vocal melody. The introduction is very much prog folk, featuring mostly acoustic instruments and more of those vocal harmonies. The "pain and remorse" line is one of the most awe-inspiring choruses I've heard in modern symphonic prog in general. The title track might be one of the shortest and most digestible songs on this record, but as strong as it is, it almost feels like a prelude to the epic Lighter Than Air.

This record spends the perfect amount of time dwelling on the most beautiful mellow moments. Lighter Than Air is obviously the flagship song from Magnified as Giants. This is the most airbag-like of the 4 songs just in tone and in atmosphere. That said, the symphonic elements are way more present than any individual Airbag record. The first synth solo is utterly iconic, mixing and harmonizing with itself in such an amazing and airy way. The chorus of Lighter Than Air marks one of the most intense points on this record. The guitar solos throughout this song are often really dissonant, atmospheric, and intense. There's a later section that almost breaks into the ambient realm with how spacy it is.

In summary, Magnified as Giants is another welcome addition from the Norwegian prog scene. Especially in the context of this year, this is definitely a contender for the album of the year for me. While not nearly as inventive and fresh as Black Midi's Cavalcade, this is one of the best executed symphonic albums I've heard in the last decade. This is definitely one of the best crossover events (supergroups?) in prog history as is.

mental_hygiene | 5/5 |


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