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Caligula’s Horse

Caligula's Horse - Bloom album art


16th October 2015 – InsideOut Music

01. Bloom
02. Marigold
03. Firelight
04. Dragonfly
05. Rust
06. Turntail
07. Daughter of the Mountain
08. Undergrowth

Progressive music is a tricky genre. By definition, it has to be constantly pushed forward, reinvented, and – if you will – progressed. Long gone are the days when Yes and Genesis were considered the forerunners of the genre. Bands like Queensryche and Fates Warning, progenitors of progressive metal, have suffered a similar fate. Dream Theater worship has already become passé, and while the band themselves have kept tabs on the newer trends, it is fairly obvious that they’re no longer the most inventive band around.

It’s the same with the djent movement, started in its most recognisable form by Periphery – and so a new wave of progressive metal bands must rise to fill the void. This is where bands like Haken and Leprous come in, but they alone cannot carry the weight of expectation – so enter Caligula’s Horse; a beast of burden if ever there were one.

Named for the absolutely mad Roman emperor – or more specifically his mount – the Aussies are a fresh new face in progressive metal, blending a variety of sounds in a manner that sounds entirely new. Their sophomore album The Tide, The Thief, and River’s End garnered a fair bit of praise, and was included in one of our own year end lists in 2013. This time, they’re back for another round with their third full length album Bloom.

According to lead singer Jim Grey, Bloom represents a change in the way the band approached music, specifically with regard to not wanting to write sad music anymore. As such, the album title is appropriate, and represents the band coming into their own; ‘blooming’ into something absolutely worth paying attention to.

Bloom is an album absolutely stuffed full of brilliant ideas both musical and lyrical. The guitar work is blinding, ranging from gentle and relaxing the title track, and flawlessly transitioning to the heavy, complex, yet effortlessly catchy on “Marigold” – and then going right back to something more laid back in the very next track “Firelight”.

Between the light/dark shifts of “Rust”, and indeed the entirety of “Marigold”, the duo of Sam Vallen and Geoff Irish showcase their brilliance from start to finish. “Rust” stands out for being a more vocally-focused song, with the guitar pushing through occasionally until about halfway through when they suddenly take on a very heavy, Leprous-like approach, before culminating in a beautiful guitar solo – a feature also used fantastically in “Daughter of the Mountain”. Grey’s vocal melodies are astoundingly good. Every song seems to contain compelling vocal lines, with including the uplifting chorus of “Turntail”. There are moments that draw very much from pop music vocal writing, creating the type of line that gets stuck in your head, but with more complex lyrical schemes. The way the vocals unfold in “Dragonfly” is truly lovely to behold. Jim Grey is just an immensely talented singer with the ability to conjure up very compelling vocal melodies.

The small acoustic track “Undergrowth” caps off the album after the supreme “Daughter of the Mountain”, and it’s a lovely little way to end the album. At heart, the musical ideas on Bloom seem to be a combination of progressive metal in a post-Leprous environment, taking cues from djent and pop when it comes to the construction of melody – and it’s this combination of elements that keeps the music of Caligula’s Horse from getting stale.

Bloom is a landmark album for both the band and the genre in general; another exhibit in the argument that progressive metal is not simply about playing as many notes as possible – and yet they show that they can do just that when they really feel like doing so. It should be the album that truly launches Caligula’s Horse into the spotlight. In a way, it feels like a perfect companion to the Leprous’ The Congregation from earlier this year; it puts down a similar sort of style, but interprets with more melody and in a less rhythmic way. It’s certainly one of the best progressive albums of the year.

Kevin writer banner Jan 2014