Album Review: CALIGULA'S HORSE Bloom
I have no clue what sociopolitical affairs are happening about in Australia, but it sure is working for the music scene. As their third album comes out, this progressive group will certainly solidify their presence amongst the other established and varied likes within the country. After all, when you receive endorsements from Ne Obliviscaris about your latest material, you're doing something right.
To be specific, this Brisbane-based band was formed by guitarist/vocalist Sam Vallen and vocalist Jim Grey (Arcane) in early 2011. Following their past release of The Tide, The Thief, and River's End, Caligula's Horse will land their Inside Out label debut as a properly titled Bloom LP.
The title track opener acts as the perfect teasing foreplay to the prog-orgasmic expedition that is "Marigold." These pieces surely can stand on their own, but are miles superior together and I am more than happy that the group is taking these complementary compositions to their live show in a back-to-back fashion. Everything from the Pink Floyd subtleties to the more accessible Opeth aesthetics evoke a striking amount of greatness. The mood winds way down in tempo and intensity for "Firelight." In contrast to the previous two, this track is certainly less dynamic and borderline underwhelming, but on the bright-side, possesses Porcupine Tree meets Devin Townsend vibes.
I'll admit to filling the previous paragraph with big-name band comparisons, but it should be made clear that Caligula's Horse is their own unique entity. And as I continue to reference other bands further, it will be known that they share similarities, but would never be mistaken for each other. To prove my point, "Dragonfly" presents a composition containing all the ingredients of the progressive rock/metal recipe, but the dish is served in a fresh and exceptional manner. Similarly, "Rust" comes close to the genre's tropes, yet redeems its likability with a head-turning breakdown, which transforms to an Animals as Leaders-like soundscape.
This review would not be complete without commenting upon the vocals as "Turntail" exemplifies not only the range but the flow of Mr. Grey. The production and mix accentuates the dynamic delivery consistently, leading to an understanding that this frontman has a voice of his own. Another aspect worthy of praise is the group's ability to smoothly transition and layer sounds. "Daughter of the Mountain" begins with a Mastodon-esque riff before sliding into some vicious Symphony X styles, and eventually a full-on guitar face-melt off. Heck, this track is a model representation of the many paths of heavy progressive music.
If it were purely based upon the first two compositions, this release would be a solid ten, but some aspects of further songs dull that score down a tad. The softer tracks such as "Firelight" and "Undergrowth" seem to lack substance and a memorable quality; if only these issues would've been either reworked or omitted, the entire experience would feel more complete and cohesive. Nevertheless, most of the musicalities uncover a plethora of impressive songwriting and virtuosity, determining Bloom to be an extraordinary exploitation of progressive metal at its finest.