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Caligula's Horse - The Tide, The Thief & River's End CD (album) cover


Caligula's Horse

Progressive Metal

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5 stars Well here it is, one of the most eagerly awaited albums for these ears in quite some time. I have been quite vocal in my support of this band since their debut release 'Moments from Ephemeral City' and I guess the big question has been would their follow album compete or better their previous slab of Progressive meat. I put it to you that it does indeed compete and then some with this album and is sure to make my top albums of 2013 with Steven Wilson's 'The Raven that Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)', Tesseract's 'Altered State', and Haken's 'The Mountain'. But to those who haven't heard the band before, what can you expect to hear? Caligula's Horse possess the juggernaut riffing of Periphery, the delicate emotional sensibility of Pain of Salvation, the perfectly tasteful and never over or understated rhythm section of Porcupine Tree, all cast to the harmonic ingenuity of Steely Dan. Some of you may be reading this and getting a little excited, it is exciting - it's downright awesome and executed flawlessly by a cohort of young yet seasoned masters.

"Here and now, it ends", the album opens with a lulling slapback delay motif which pumps into forceful guitar riffage that will feel familiar and comforting to those returning to the C-Horse, Jim Grey's vocals are commanding and have an intimidating presence which is glorified by the massive gang vocal sections that sound like an army backing up its fearless leader, somehow I feel as though conceptually this may link in with the album too from behind the scenes videos I have seen that detail the recording process of the record. I must admit, I have not fully delved into the conceptual side of the album yet and have been enjoying it on a musical, production and lyrical level at this point in my journey with the album. I find this to often be the beauty with concept albums in that there is a greater philosophical or even cosmic level to gain from such works of art that gives a record staying power and long term appeal. Certainly this will be the case for "Tide".

Whilst I feel as though the band has cut some of its fat (the Shrapnel Records übershred), which was something I have always praised the band for in terms of the impressiveness, I think it has actually improved the overall vibe and sincerity of the boys' output. Don't get me wrong, you will still hear more 16th note quintuplets than the average bear but I feel it's done in a way to serve the song and album as a whole.

'Water's End' is harkens back to the eastern flavours and delicate guitar work one will remember from 'Alone in the World' and 'Equally Flawed' from Moments. It is a beautiful journey through modal harmony and hushed falsettos highlighting his dynamic tenor voice. With a return of the roaring gang vocals and some clever metric modulation, the piece alludes back to some of my favourite guitar work on Moments' opening track 'The City Has No Empathy' which if I am being honest is still my favourite Caligula's song. This chanting melody towards the end of the track is particularly encapsulating with all instrumental members (Sam Vallen, Zac Greensill, Geoff Irish and Dave Couper) locked in fiercely creating a busy groove of utmost precision and ferocity.

'Atlas' is a beautiful mixture of terraced harmonies and breathtaking music akin to another of my favourite songs that the band released as the eponymous track on the 'Colossus' EP. There is a moment when a really dissonant chord enters and a separate layer comes in to accentuate it. It tickles my musician bone something chronic. I adore this attention to subtlety and detail more than words can ever say and that in itself says something special in that music like this transcends intellectualisation and really captures a feeling which is enough to give that wondrous shiver or goosebump moment that music at its peak is capable of delivering.

'Into the White' is one of my favourite tracks is my pick for one of the greatest songs on this album. Beautiful acoustic guitars, graceful melodic bass that Pete Trewavas would be proud of, the beautiful drum ambience, live woodwinds and playful, melodic soloing riding over syncopated djenty rhythms makes this track a true standout.

This album is completely self produced and mixed apart from external mastering and is a complete testament to Sam Vallen and Caligula's Horse's abilities. It sounds brilliant with a slightly softened presence giving a vintage edge to a modern sound. The tracks retain a lot of dynamic range with most tracks at DR7 and one at DR8 and DR11 each. I believe it's important to include these figures in my reviews nowadays as I believe the loudness war has gone on too long, thankfully Caligula's have not been the worst of victims.

'Old Cracks in New Earth' is a largely instrumental track bar the end initial ooh chant and incessant chants of madness/determination that conclude the piece. The track is what you'd expect on this album, the full gamut of dynamics, guitar insanity full of shred and tingling vibratos and feel. It also plays the functional role of melodically reprising key themes of the album unifying the concept and tonality of the album as a whole.

'Dark Hair Down' is the track that most would be familiar as it was the lead single of this release with a music video that has already had some serious mileage. It is the most straightforward in terms of structure and dynamics with a hard hitting prowess that pushes the whole track along with momentum. This does not stop it from being one of the most enjoyable. Its verse riffs with extremely tight syncopations and beautiful guitar layers make it a powerhouse of tune. It's the closest thing to a pop song on the record and I mean that in a complimentary way. The darkened fast Leslie organs augment the murky, visceral tones of the track with graceful splendour.

'Thief' is a light ballad and serves as a blissful interlude and pause from the relentless riffing of 'Dark Hair Down' which once again shows off the beautiful guitar playing and rich vocal timbre of Mr Grey. It is a gentle track that reminds me of the penultimate track 'Reflections' from Above Symmetry's 'Ripples' album and it serves a similar purpose of setting up the final monster.

A medical breakthrough; an organic cure for impotence for sure - this opening groove to 'All is Quiet by the Wall' is jizzworthy. This absolute monster intro groove will surely get your chubby pumping or some similar biological reaction for female listeners. Once you've adjusted to your self-produced dampness, this track will decimate you. The grooves, the delicateness, the sheer power and command of the band and gang vocals; this is the band unified at its peak and it's breathtaking. I hope you too will smile when you hear how in your face the guitar solos are mixed - these puppies soar! Perhaps one of my few criticisms of the album is that the beginning of this song sounds better when played in isolation from the album as an entire entity as the level of the previous track feels a little high compared with the start of the track. This is a similar criticism I have of one of my favourite songs by my favourite band Pain of Salvation on the title track of their 2000 album 'The Perfect Element, Part 1' so it is likely an idiosyncratic perception of this reviewer rather than what can be seen as a flaw.

All in all this record is one to surely shatter permutations of inferiority complexes of the Australian music loving population in the fact that we can present work that competes with and often exceeds that of the International market. 'The Tide, the Thief & River's End' is quite simply put - near perfect. 4.75/5

Standout Tracks: A Gift to Afterthought; Into the White; All is Quiet by the Wall.

Report this review (#1049144)
Posted Tuesday, October 1, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Caligula's Horse ' The Tide, The Thief and River's End

The progressive music scene is ever changing, as is the inherent nature of the style. As an ideal, musicians strive to look forward. Progressive music will always be a genre that artists aspire to add to, whether crossing genre styles, technical proficiency, or using phallic sex toys in lieu of drum sticks.

Caligula's Horse utilise all of these in 'The Tide, The Thief and River's End', and they've had two years between the Colossus EP to not only refine their sound, but redefine the band. What started out as a one man band, has now come into fruition as a band of musicians all contributing their musical prowess to this album. As a progressive/alternative rock piece, TTTTARE is not only an abbreviation that sounds like a pirate sound, but it's progressive music cloaked in a blanket of pop vocals, captivating songwriting, and pristine production, with Vallen's idiosyncratic guitar style.

I think a lot of people will find similarities between 'Tide' and Caligula's debut 'Moments from Ephemeral City', and the first one that I noticed is the track order and the dynamic of the album, not just in regards to loudness, but also emotionally; relentlessly emotional. Whether it's words of frustration, phrases of profound ecstasy, I feel involved. Often Grey blurs the lines between these two, committing to the most fervently charged performances in the bridge in 'Atlas' or the outro of 'Into the White'.

For the first time we see writing credits extended to Greensill in 'Dark Hair Down' the single and video clip release for the album. If his contribution to this killer track is worthy of credit, his own project 'Opus of a Machine' is very anticipated on my behalf. The marriage between Irish and Couper has never been stronger, and I hear so much Opeth influence in this drum and bass relationship, particularly in the latter half of 'All is Quiet...'. The stop-start accents in 'Into the White' make what feels like the calm before the storm still have so much playful personification in the music, in parts that seem larger than a band we are reminded of the 'realness' these musicians create.

As a listener, we are consistently narrated to by Jim and the backing choir (in particular the end of 'Old Cracks...' I tend to imagine as a subtle reference to Halo). Yet what is clearly a concept album, it is still deeper than what is narrated to us. I'll use 'Dark Hair Down' as a prime example for Vallen, Greensill and Grey's integration of storyline based lyrics and musical ideas, with a blatant theme involving the power of religion and it's impact on women still to this day. And that is one of the key ideas behind this album, that the story and the entrenched issues can be put in the context of any period of time, whether it be 100 years ago, or 5000 years ago when Earth was [with absolute certainty] created. The point is that to this day we are battling these basic human rights.

For anyone looking for the next wave of progressive/alternative rock music, Caligula's Horse have produced that album. In stores from October 4, The Tide, The Thief and River's End will be available for sale through the usual music purchasing outlets.

Report this review (#1049756)
Posted Tuesday, October 1, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars After their awesome debut, CH return to blow our minds! Not exactly classified under Prog Metal IMHO, since you can sense more tech structures on the guitar and alternative vocal lines, but ok. Anyway, this is a great release for this year.

First of all there is an extraordinary guitar work on leads and on rhythms, accompanied by a flawless rhythm section. Also the great melodies and structures in the voice remind me of Butterfly Effects and Rhisloo, nevertheless it shines. Great hooks! Keys bring a layer under this, helping to create a more rich sound, something that the crystal production significantly helps.

I think they call it Prog Alternative Metal... surely Australia has this alternative style on their prog music. Anyway we get a crossover release with identity that shows us its teeth and claims a piece of this years prog pie. It deserves it and we wait a lot from these guys in the future. This genre of prog music needs acts like Caligula's Horse.

Report this review (#1074045)
Posted Friday, November 8, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Caligula's Horse has crafted songs that are so alive and so powerful that I get tears in my eyes. Their music makes me do more than just listen, I'm feeling it, I'm living it.

What impresses me the most is how Caligula's Horse has managed to compose unexpected and modern music with plenty of classic rock and progressive metal elements put together into a perfectly coherent collection of tracks. I've heard many concept albums before, but never have I experienced one where every single note and mood fits into the bigger picture so naturally. The subtle, carefully placed changes in melody and tone become very powerful once you get to know the songs and the record as a whole. Everything is tastefully built around the many solemn, mellow passages, with the heavier, more aggressive parts providing powerful dynamics and variation. The transitions between the many ever changing moods are seamless and smooth and as a result it creates a flow through all of the songs that is truly captivating.

Report this review (#1078950)
Posted Tuesday, November 19, 2013 | Review Permalink
Second Life Syndrome
4 stars The Aussie prog scene continues to impress me with its sheer intensity, creativity, and attitude. Prog metal band Caligula's Horse is no different, and itself showcases some great concepts and ideas. Caligula's Horse is no ordinary prog metal band, as they utilize tech metal structures and riffing styles, but somehow they come off as softer than most metal. It's actually a puzzle as to how they pull this off so well, as the result is technical and a little djenty, but melodic and atmospheric, too.

These guys know how to play really, really, well, too. Geoff Irish, the drummer, is a beast of a player, and has masterful control of the bass pedals. I'm also impressed by both Sam Vallen and Zac Greensill on guitars, as we get great solos and also djenty chugging rhythm guitars that hit hard and feel so satisfying for some reason. I think part of this may be because of Dave Couper on bass and his awesome ability to fill and complete the sound of the band.

As for vocals, Jim Grey is one of the best, in my opinion. He may sound a little reminiscent of Maynard James Keenan, but only a little. He doesn't sound like anyone else. His voice is powerful and incredibly melodious, and he seems to sing with little or no effort. He really is a special talent, and I especially enjoy his other band Arcane (due to release a monster of an album in 2014).

This album has many twists and turns that I find rather refreshing. One moment the band will be jamming pretty hard, but the next they will be playing some delicate flute or doing a little bit of guitar noodling. I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of the guitar noodling, such as on "Old Cracks in New Earth". I have to say that this is the one element that has caused me to lose a bit of connection with the album. On the other hand, I find this album superior to their debut album, especially in the riff composition and their melodies. "Atlas" is definitely my favorite track, but "A Gift to Afterthought", "Water's Edge", "Dark Hair Down", and "All is Quiet by the Wall" are all superb tracks that have some mind-blowing moments.

I do feel like I'm still waiting for Caligula's Horse to create their masterpiece. They have all the elements and they craft amazing music, but I'm still waiting to feel a complete connection with the lyrics and music. That said, Caligula's Horse is an excellent representative of the Aussie prog scene. I really hope people start paying more attention.

Report this review (#1082821)
Posted Wednesday, November 27, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars CHorse's 2nd album rides what some are calling the new wave of progressive metal, and it is riding it somewhere near the top, ready to drop in on the unsuspecting masses of mediocre prog metal.

CHorse blend their influences to create a unique sound, which probably has a bit more development in it yet. Yes, probably born of Tool, raised by Dream Theater and Pain of Salvation with regular baby sits by Opeth and that naughty Djenty uncle, but there is more going on than that, maybe Jeff Buckley, Paul Macartney and Roger Waters dropped by a little and there's an occasional loungey vibe too. Basically, there's a bunch of facets which keeps things interesting.

'A Gift to Afterthought' starts proceedings with a clean riff before cranking it up. Vocally you can hear the resemblance to Tool, but CH are more song oriented and there's more of an emphasis on melodies and the use of falsetto to enhance that.

'Waters Edge' cruises along with gentle falsetto melodies and acoustic guitars, never losing your interest, before building to an Opeth inspired riff barrage.

'Atlas' starts soft and almost commercial before mixing in a djenty riff to spice things up. It's almost radio friendly in parts, and the chorus is nice and catchy, but alas, there's a tempo change so radio won't get it...

'Into the White' is the backbone of the album, showcasing some beautiful melodies that build to a crescendo at the end of its 8 minutes. Nice and powerful. At this point it's worth mentioning the loose lyrical theme of the album, which seems to be based around a prediction of the worlds demise and the witnessing of the same. I'm sure climate change, refugees, oppression all had a bit of an influence. Well worth a read.

'Old Cracks in New Earth' is an instrumental piece, starting heavy but then showcasing a nice mix of smooth jazzy leads which showcase Sam Vallen's fluid lead guitar work. It is these leads which do provide that extra class to CH.

'Dark Hair Down' is the first single and begins with some nice lead work before cranking into a powerful Djenty riff in the verse. The strong chorus will get I your head and just wait for the blistering solo from SV.

'Theif' is a tasty acoustic piece with a nice calm feel, leading into the finale.

'All is Quiet by the Wall' kicks in with a big riff and another shredding solo before a nice riff in the verse that really grooves . The gang shout chorus is done well. There's still plenty of light and shade in this, one of the heavier songs. Happily, there's another couple of solos before a few choruses lead into the slow building finale a with the lyrical theme summary that "this is our home".

Caligula's Horse have what it takes to be appreciated by many. They have the class, they're savvy in the new business of music and they're only young. There should be plenty more to come. Look out!

Report this review (#1093969)
Posted Saturday, December 21, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars I've rekindled recently interest in typical prog metal, because of the new bands out there that, while not radically changing the formula, subtly mix up the ingredients and adding a new layer. Well this Horse is why I stop at the boundary of prog metal and noisy American-style alternative and math metal. Listening to this, somehow I'm reminded of the band Zero Hour - that while mastering the technicality fails at the melody, and so relegated to obscurity, - and also Haken for certain vocal inflections. Here you've got your non-linear structures and your changing dynamics, but the whole affair is too noisy and guitar driven - and, with some exceptions, unmelodic one, at that. Vocals also kind of meh. Best songs probably the starter, for its the most melody-driven, the almost instrumental Old Cracks in New Earth (sans the weird chant), with good variation, and Water's Edge, cause its quieter.
Report this review (#1124052)
Posted Wednesday, January 29, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars This will be my fourth attempt to post a bit of a review of The Tide, the Thief & River's End. (The site was having some issues with accepting my posts previously) I LOVE this album. Staring with the opening line of "Here and now, it ends..." which launches into A Gift To Afterthought all the way through to the concluding song All Is Quiet By The Wall, I love this album through and through. My personal favorites are A Gift To Afterthought, Atlas and Dark Hair Down (which I posted a video of a little while back). Solid from end to end, great guitar, bass and interesting vocal melodies and harmonies, I think this one is a winner! A genuine 5 stars in my opinion. As always, your actual mileage may vary...
Report this review (#1327647)
Posted Tuesday, December 23, 2014 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars CALIGULA'S HORSE are a Prog-Metal band out of Australia and this is their second release from 2013. They remind me of fellow Australians ARCANE with the way they contrast the heaviness with the mellow and also both bands have very emotive vocals. This is a concept album about isolation, exodus and the human spirit overcoming insurmountable odds.

"A Gift To Afterthought" opens with guitar that reminds me of IRON MAIDEN but then it turns heavy before that guitar line returns along with vocals and drums. Man these guys can change the tempo and mood so quickly and often over the course of a song. "Water's Edge" is a really enjoyable tune with it's laid back sound with vocals. Double tracked vocals before 4 minutes with acoustic guitar in this feel good section. Then it all hits the fan 5 1/2 minutes in without vocals at first with some killer guitar over top. It stays heavy to the end.

"Atlas" has a relaxed intro then it's the drum show as it all turns powerful with the vocals in tow. Contrasts continue. An okay tune. "Into The White" opens with piano before reserved vocals, bass, acoustic guitar and a beat take over. It's building 2 1/2 minutes in but not for long as a calm arrives as contrasts continue. I really like the pastoral sound after 5 minutes then it's heavy again a minute later.

"Old Cracks In New Earth" is intense to start, complex and heavy. It mellows out before 3 minutes then it's building after 5 minutes as the heaviness returns. "Dark Hair Down" is heavy with riffs to start, love the guitar solo that comes out of that. A calm follows before it kicks back in with vocals. Another calm but it's brief. A guitar solo lights it up around 4 1/2 minutes then back to the heaviness. Great ending to this one.

"Thief" is a short ballad-like tune with fragile vocals, atmosphere and acoustic guitar leading the way. "All Is Quiet By The Wall" has this heavy duty intro with some ripping guitar before we get a calm with reserved vocals. It picks up and the vocals continue only more passionate here. Excellent instrumental section 4 minutes in as they are shredding it up. This section ends with a scream but it continues heavy until another calm arrives as contrasts continue.

This just hasn't clicked with me but the instrumental work is outstanding.

Report this review (#1526559)
Posted Sunday, February 7, 2016 | Review Permalink

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