Inside Out Music
Words: Craig Hartranft
Caligula's Horse. Now there's an excellent name for a progressive metal band. (Maybe even a death metal band, considering the Roman emperor was a murdering leach of a man.) And never having heard of the band, with a name like that, I could only speculate as to what they might sound like. Being signed to the prestigious Inside Out Music label, I figured they can't suck.
Well, suck they certainly don't. Yet, after a few spins, I'm not sure what to make of these Australian prog wizards. Worse, I'm not sure I like or was all that entertained by their third album, Bloom. My first observation, gut reaction, was that they sound like a more metal, sharper, Muse. No doubt, a likely oversimplification. So, this is what I hear.
First, the usual prog wonkery: a mixture of poly-rhythms, tempo changes, and time signature geekery. After these usual suspects, I hear an intensely guitar-shaped sound. There's a plethora of riffs that range from dense and heavy to sharp and abrasive. They come at you like an out of control weed whacker, nipping and slicing at your sensory perception. I'm sure some of this comes from guitarist Sam Vallen's substantial input. Whether it's him or other guitarist Zac Greensill, one has, or both have, an affinity for eclectic and intricate turns on the fret board.
Amidst the childlike hyperactivity of the guitars, there's a lot of flailing drums, once steady, often staccato, sometimes bonkers. Kind of fits with the whole Caligula's Horse scenario. One thing I had difficulty finding, at times, was the melody and harmony. Believe me, it's there, most carried by the vocal arrangements, but otherwise run over by the technical arrangements. As for those vocals, there was something oddly monotonous about them. Even with their inherent harmony, they merely sound like droning over the music.
Ultimately, my conclusion is that Caligula's Horse, as brilliant and talented as these musicians are, create this excessively busy music. Busy, technical, and elaborate. So much so I don't really hear "songs". Each piece is more like a bluster of creative and musical self-indulgence with merely a starting and ending point. There's nothing accessible or catchy for your ears and mind to hang their listening hats upon. That said, I'm sure there are plenty of nuances to be found with repeated and prolonged listening. Unfortunately, Caligula's Horse hasn't given me much reason to do so. But, hey, that's just my opinion and you can hate me for my honesty. I'm sure others will go ape-shit crazy and drool all over this album.
Ultimately, my conclusion is that Caligula's Horse, as brilliant and talented as these musicians are, create this excessively busy music. Busy, technical, and elaborate. So much so I don't really hear "songs". Each piece is more like a bluster of creative and musical self-indulgence with merely a starting and ending point.
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