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Caligula's Horse - Colossus CD (album) cover


Caligula's Horse

Progressive Metal

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Andy Webb
Retired Admin
4 stars Short in stature, colossal in depth

Caligula's Horse is a young Australian Progressive Metal band founded in early 2011. The band was originally intended to be Quandary guitarist Sam Valen's solo project, until he found vocalist Jim Grey whose powerful voice fitted Valen's fresh prog metal music quite wonderfully. The duo's debut album Moments from the Ephemeral City contained about 40 minutes of truly delicious and quite fresh-sounding prog metal takes, so when the duo recruited a full band and recorded two new tracks with the new lineup pointed towards release as an EP and as bonus tracks on the physical release of the band's debut, I was excited. I was not disappointed. The two-track EP Colossus only runs a short 10 or so minutes, but the two tracks host a wealth of creative spirit, exciting styles, and inventive sounds.

The short EP contains the title track and the song "Vanishing Rites (Tread Softly Little One)." The EP is much the same style as the preceding full length, with adventurous, dynamic, and diverse sounds all melding into a continuous stream of powerful and very progressive metal. Grey's strong voice perfectly accentuates Valen and Zac Greensil's well-placed guitar playing, and Dave Couper and Geoff Irish, bassist and drummer respectively, hold down a wonderful rhythm for the entire band to play around. Now a full band, the EP is also less guitar-centric, with the bass and drums both being much more prevalent in the mix, which makes the music sound much more full and embellished. The diversity of the music is also very much present, with the frequent shifting from mellow melodic rock to happy-go-lucky near-shuffle-esque "metal" to djent-inspired prog metal riff sessions - all of which are quite wonderful for the ears.

The Colossus EP, the second release from this young and promising Australian progressive metal band has blown me away in much the same way the band's debut album did - the guys in the band have made it quite obvious that they are chock full of creative talent, compositional know-how, and the ability to produce a kick-ass album. The two tracks are dripping with some of the better modern progressive metal to emerge from the scene in the last few years. I can see this band becoming one of the "big ones" in the near future. Highly recommended. 4 stars.

Report this review (#538197)
Posted Friday, September 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Seahorse

After buying Moments from Ephemeral City, listening to it on repeat in my drives down from Brisbane to Uni, I realised I needed more C-Horse. The Colossus EP is a follow-up to Moments, it's an EP dedicated to the fans, a way of thanking them for the support of this extraordinary project.

Sam Vallen's songwriting, production and performance are incomparable with most musicians in music today. Colossus is a step towards the next C-Horse project in terms of production and performance. Colossus still has that pristine sound like Moments (and that sexily pure guitar tone Mr Vallen) but rather than being Vallen's project, Colossus features the band, signifying a movement from Jim and Sam's project. The intensely layered vocal harmonies and great vocal production on both songs are becoming a trademark for the C-Horse sound, not at all meaning to detract from the phenomenal performance of Jim Grey, whose intelligent phrasing of lyrics, dynamic changes in melody and virtuosic technique make for a pungent ear load of organic vocalisation.

"Colossus" opens with a beautifully harmonic vocal section and a cool electronic, borderline dance track. The song then progresses into a verse that ebbs and flows vocally, with a chorus which opens up in terms of rhythmic complexity to something that shows some very intriguing chordal changes and again the amazing vocal harmonies. Dave Couper's bass playing comes to fruition in Colossus with his smoothly contoured bass lines contribute in a huge way to this eclectic mix of sounds, inclusive of some truly tasteful fills and well meshed tight doubling with guitars. Dave's clear, present tone, full of chunk is complimented by that cool fretless bass, more proof Dave's great proficiency in his instrument. Geoff Irish, whose ginger locks make his performance just that much better, has an artistry in his drumming style which incorporates a great feel, ghosting on the snare during the song and moving through some sweet sweeping tom fills like the one leading into the first verse. This song also features a short solo from Zac Greenshill, tastefully chosen notes which form a melodically compelling solo. Though there is a clear difference between guitar styles when Sam introduces his typically grand solo, the change in guitar feel genuinely makes me want to hear Zac come alive in the next C-horse album.

Vallen's songwriting has once again digressed from anything I've heard before in "Vanishing Rites (Tread Softly Little One)"; disagree with me if you want. Vanishing Rites has such a crazy range of musical styles it can only be described as prog-vante garde. Strangely however, as a person who 6 months ago thought the epitome of technical music came with Karnivool's "Cote" in 15/8, this song is a personal favourite of mine, including almost any other band I listen to. The vaudeville verse with the shuffle drums is an aspect of music I've not yet discovered in popular music, the way that Sam blends the verse transition into the chorus and back again, the change in dynamics from the sporadic build up in 5/8 to the jazz fusion interlude gives me a musical hard on. The peak of this song, and it gets me every time, is the teeth exploding sub drop into the brootul djent section that makes you want to destroy furniture and Smart cars. I reciprocate the same compliments in this song from Colossus to the band members, with special mention to Geoff's performance, who once again makes a cupcake out of polyrhythm. Not unlike Meshuggah, Irish's playing on this track makes the rhythmically complex, accessible to the audience smashing that china in simple 4/4.

This review is pretty much just an outlet for me to express how much I'm in love with Zac, Dave, Geoff, Jim and Sam's work. After seeing them at the Beergarden on the 27th of October, proving that they are not only a brilliant studio band but an encapsulating, tight, engaging, virtuosic [go get a thesaurus] band when playing live.

Report this review (#552250)
Posted Tuesday, October 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Caligula's Horse - What can I say? This band is absolutely wonderful. I feel lucky to have shared the stage with this bunch of talented Australian musicians. This 2 track offering is slightly more straightforward to my ears but it really packs a punchy considering the art undertones that permeate its musical existence. The musicianship this time comes in the form of a full band as opposed to the debut two-man-band approach (which was albeit very successful sonically), which provided me with more enjoyment and was perceived as a well rounded affair. Little can be said apart from the fact that Caligula's Horse have a unique approach to Prog Metal which is not found too often in the world of Symphony X and Dream Theater clones. Sam Vallen and Jim Grey proove that they are perhaps the most exciting guitarist and singer in an Australian metal band. I look forward to more releases especially with the unified front of band members that make this EP slam so much harder than the debut album. 4.5 Stars.
Report this review (#610581)
Posted Monday, January 16, 2012 | Review Permalink

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