Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant

[InsideOut, 2020]

Intro: Meletis Doulgeroglou
Translation: Lefteris Statharas

We have mentioned this many times before; the Australian scene is a great provider for the progressive metal sound. One of its main representatives is Caligula’s Horse from Brisbane, who has been contributing for a decade with its alternative progressive metal / rock.

The trademark of Caligula’s Horse parts is the arabesque sounds of the talented guitarist and founder Sam Valen and the multifaceted voice of Jim Grey. Their debut Moments from Ephemeral City (2011) created great impressions that continued with The Tide, the Thief & River’s End (2013) and slightly less with the more commercial Bloom (2015). At that point there were reshuffles in the line-up which changed by 2/5. That change, however, fueled the band in composing its most remarkable material in In Contact (2017), an album that continues to be mentioned and applauded (see our reviews here).

Taking advantage of its impact, Caligula’s Horse toured and after three years they delivered Rise Radiant.


 

One of the most remarkable suggestions for this year

As the modern music industry requires, before the release of Rise Radiant, three songs had already been released. The common heavy and djent component and the 15-minute shorter duration (the simple version, without the covers) of the album than its predecessor, prepared us for a more direct sonic identity.

Rise Radiant is not sculpted from exactly the same material as the excellent In Contact, but in some moments it bridges with it and paves the way for future musical adventures. Overall, this is another remarkable record, although this is to be expected by those watching the consistency of the Australian band.

In the three year gap between In Contact and Rise Radiant, Caligula’s Horse toured almost all the lengths and widths of the world, so that their musical coexistence with other bands influenced their sound. It is true that the riffs that build Rise Radiant are mostly heavy, modernized by the powerful effect of djent which has always been subject to their compositions, but is now more pronounced. The album is genarally darker with several aggressive points. So do they renounce their progressive character? Luckily, no. Even if a composition is unleashed in a torrential manner, the changes in pace and style give the extra dimension that prog fans desire. For example, the exceptional The Ascent, which is the longest song here, clearly demonstrates the compositional ability of the band. Of course, it is not the only one, as songs like Salt with its even more pronounced contrasts are a staple for Caligula’s Horse legacy. All the material that was officially released before this album was pure prog, and although the chorus in Slow Violence has been imprinted in my brain, the real diamonds are hidden in the rest of Rise Radiant.

Caligula’s Horse has always been a band with a tendedency towards melody, which is why some elegantly crafted and short compositions such as Rein aren’t missing, the corresponding Capulet from In Contact in some way. In general, the melody will find a way to emerge from the compositional layers, which demonstrates the maturity and creative ability of the progressive quintet. Jim Grey is clearly now one of the leading performers in the prog metal field, being sensitive, ironic, imposing, with a forceful voice. His musical companions accompany him idealy and woe to anyone who does not recognize Sam Valen’s personal sound and impressive ability to produce memorable riffs. Of course, he’s not the only one responsible for the wonderful guitar parts. Adrian Goleby’s contribution is significant and was shown by the excellent In Contact. His contribution as well as that of the rhythm section in In Contact had signaled the new path and the bond of this line-up is evident now (with Dale Prinsse on bass now). Technically, the album is flawless with less emphasis on solos. Lyrically, this time it is not about a concept, but issues such as religion, life with all its manifestations and human existence are the main topics in Rise Radiant. The stories are told in an acute way, reinforcing the album’s partially darker character.

So far, the impression may be that this the magnum opus of  Caligula’s Horse. In my opinion, his forerunner deservedly acquired this title and that is why expectations are high, but not all are verified. Some elements are missing from Rise Radiant. The jazz mood is reduced and the overall sentimentality may fall short a bit. The atmosphere is more charged towards a rougher sound, but the absolute balance shown to us three years ago is absent. In addition, the significantly shorter duration abruptly terminates the overall experience (although as mentioned above, the epilogue is epic). Of course, it is worth stressing that Rise Radiant needs several listens. Already after 15 listens and more details are being revealed.

To sum up, those who haven’t heard of them yet, you’d better do it, because Rise Radiant is one of the most remarkable suggestions for this year. It does not outweigh its predecessor, but stands deservedly beside it, and if for some reason they had not established themselves as one of the strongest cards of progressive metal, that is now certain.

7.5 / 10

Meletis Doulgeroglou

 

2nd opinion

 

Time passes and the Australians Caligula’s Horse have finally reached their fifth record, during a growing popularity, well-earned, as in the decade we are it is a common admission that in the trivial values defined by traditional progressive metal, these guys have managed to star with really good releases. With the basic parameters being Jim Grey’s exceptional vocal abilities and the band’s ever-present compositional urge and energy, they are now a first-class name that seems to set the rules. And though they’ve come a long way since the excellent Moments from Ephemeral City and the Tide, The Thief & River’s End that put them on the map, Rise Radiant comes as the new big bet. Once again we listen to rich compositions, melodic lines that give perfect passes to Grey’s voice, but also “modernist” glances with more Leprous elements, rather than djent influences to cater for all tastes, presented as the natural sequel of In Contact. Mostly, though, in the second half of the album, with compositions such as The Ascent and Valkyrie, the Australians seem to win the bet. Overall, a highly rated release that won’t go unnoticed by the new prog audience, but doesn’t seem to be the best album by Caligula’s Horse so far.

7.5 / 10

Panos Papazoglou

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