Album Of The Year 2020 – Number 9

Welcome to instalment number twenty-two of my 2020 ‘Album of the Year Top 30 countdown’. No big intro, just headlong into the action…

Apart from my normal reminder to anyone new to this series, to check out the links at the bottom of the post to find out who made the cut, from 30 down to 10, as well as my lists from previous years too.

Number 9

Caligula’s Horse

Rise Radiant

InsideOut Music

Score Of Much Metal: 96%

Those who read my original review, will know that I had a difficult time with ‘Rise Radiant’ to begin with. I nearly shelved it. But I didn’t. And that was a wise move, because I now love this record and am beginning to think that it is their best yet. And given the quality of their previous material, that’s saying an awful lot, believe me.

Over time, ‘Rise Radiant’ has proved itself to be a progressive beast of a record. It is heavy, confrontational and aggressive. But it is also fragile, raw, and poignant in almost equal measure. On that score, I really enjoy the impressive ebb and flow displayed by Caligula’s Horse here – the peaks are snow-capped, whilst the troughs are deep, introspective, and a little suffocating at times. This is an impressive skill, but these Australians have mastered it with aplomb.

And the melodies that initially left me cold have proven to contain some genuinely insidious hooks that have dug in without me realising it. Even if I go a week or two without listening to the CD, I will find myself with an earworm emerging when I least expect it, pulling me back for another listen. The whole band should take credit for this, although Jim Grey’s vocal delivery is undoubtedly one of the most important ingredients here – the guy puts in a masterful performance throughout.

All this is then topped off by a great production, and without doubt the best cover artwork of the year. Quality oozes from every pore of this album, to the point where it had to be in my top 10. Once I was able to let the music in and eventually take it to my heart, there was never any doubt about it. Sublime.

What I  wrote at the time:

“Oh, ‘Rise Radiant’, you have not been an easy mistress. Long have been the journeys with you by my side, where I have questioned and dissected our relationship in the most forensic of detail. ‘Am I just with you because of our past?’, ‘do you still do it for me?’, ‘do I still love you like I used to?’ I thought long and hard, as I listened closely to everything you had to say, trying to decipher the hidden meanings, and the glimmers of beauty within you. Would it be worth it, or ultimately all for nought?

It wasn’t an instant epiphany, but those melodies that I previously didn’t like because they didn’t go the way I was expecting, or wanted, started making more sense. The unusual, rather unique phrasings and delivery of vocalist Jim Grey that further drove the direction of the choruses and the various hooks contained within the songs began, finally, to work. The dynamics within each of the eight compositions that I didn’t initially appreciate also became more pronounced, understandable, and enjoyable. It meant that almost imperceptibly, I found that I was giving myself over to the music in ways that I simply hadn’t envisaged previously. It has now got to the point where I find myself wondering why I didn’t like the music in the first place, because it is sensational.

…with eyes now wide open, I can appreciate the subtlety of the music, the clever nuances, the juxtaposition between the heavy and the softer passages. Indeed, it is these marked contrasts, frequently within the songs themselves, that creates a greater sense of drama, urgency and potency to the material.

I can sit here now and state with categoric certainty that ‘Rise Radiant’ is the work of a special band, a band that has technical ability in abundance as well as a rare chemistry that allows the five musicians to speak as one. Put as succinctly as I can, Caligula’s Horse have grown to an extent that they have become masters at creating modern-sounding progressive music that is simply irresistible. ‘Rise Radiant’ is the unequivocal proof of this.”

Read the full review here.

The list this year so far…

Number 10

Number 11

Number 12

Number 13

Number 14

Number 15

Number 16

Number 17

Number 18

Number 19

Number 20

Number 21

Number 22

Number 23

Number 24

Number 25

Number 26

Number 27

Number 28

Number 29

Number 30

If you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here:

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant – Review

Rise Radiant_V1

Artist: Caligula’s Horse

Album Title: Rise Radiant

Label: Inside Out Music

Date of Release: 22 May 2020

Oh, ‘Rise Radiant’, you have not been an easy mistress. Long have been the journeys with you by my side, where I have questioned and dissected our relationship in the most forensic of detail. ‘Am I just with you because of our past?’, ‘do you still do it for me?’, ‘do I still love you like I used to?’ I thought long and hard, as I listened closely to everything you had to say, trying to decipher the hidden meanings, and the glimmers of beauty within you. Would it be worth it, or ultimately all for nought?

I’ve been a fan of Australia’s Caligula’s Horse since their debut, 2011’s ‘Moments From Ephemeral City’, although to be honest, it wasn’t until ‘Bloom’ in 2015 that my love affair with the Brisbane quintet became fully-fledged. Until that point, I’d merely enjoyed our time together. But suddenly, here was a band that demanded attention from the prog community. ‘In Contact’, released three years ago, built on the band’s reputation, raising their stock another few notches higher. In fact, to quote my review of that record:

“‘In Contact’ is very nearly a flawless record and demands Caligula’s Horse be placed at the prog top table with immediate effect.”

Based on their most recent output, expectations have been naturally very high for this next instalment, entitled ‘Rise Radiant’. Personally speaking, upon seeing the artwork that adorns this fifth album, my expectations went through the roof. It is a breathtakingly beautiful cover, one that would have had me shelling out my hard-earned cash just to have it in my collection, regardless of the music that accompanied it.

After the first listen through, I noted with delight that there wasn’t another spoken-word diatribe like ‘Inertia And The Weapon Of The Wall’ lurking within, so immediately, ‘Rise Radiant’ got a big tick in the box. Unfortunately, nothing else really caught my attention. So I listened again. Nothing. Not a thing. Deep down, I knew I was listening to some well-crafted, high-quality music, but that didn’t seem to help. Neither did the crystal clear yet powerful production that blesses the album. I also realised that the music on this record was not a dramatic sea-change and that the usual elements that always made this band so potent a force largely remained present and correct. So what was wrong with me? I just couldn’t get into the album. It felt like nothing stuck, nothing really made an impact on me. I started to berate myself and wondered what was going on. Am I not in love with the music of Caligula’s Horse anymore? It was a thought that I dreaded, but it was staring me in the face, refusing to back down.

‘But this is prog’, I kept telling myself. You’re not always supposed to like some music immediately off the bat; sometimes it takes perseverance and a willingness to open one’s mind a little more to the possibilities within. I ignored my inner voice and shelved the album for a day or two, in the hope that a fresh pair of ears might help. And you know what? I found myself listening to other music but thinking about ‘Rise Radiant’ and in the end, I desired a return for another go.

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It wasn’t an instant epiphany, but those melodies that I previously didn’t like because they didn’t go the way I was expecting, or wanted, started making more sense. The unusual, rather unique phrasings and delivery of vocalist Jim Grey that further drove the direction of the choruses and the various hooks contained within the songs began, finally, to work. The dynamics within each of the eight compositions that I didn’t initially appreciate also became more pronounced, understandable, and enjoyable. It meant that almost imperceptibly, I found that I was giving myself over to the music in ways that I simply hadn’t envisaged previously. It has now got to the point where I find myself wondering why I didn’t like the music in the first place, because it is sensational. Well you know what they say: ‘54th time’s a charm!’ I’m relieved because I never like writing reviews that are negative, especially when it involves a band with which I have usually enjoyed such a close relationship. And I’m also relieved because my hard-pressed love affair with Caligula’s Horse can continue unabated.

With fresh ears and an entirely revised opinion, I’m delighted to be able to delve a little deeper into the music on ‘Rise Radiant’ in positive fashion.

Since ‘In Contact’ was released, bassist Dave Couper has been replaced by Dale Prinsse. Other than that, the core of Caligula’s Horse has remained unchanged. It means that vocalist Grey and bassist Prinsse are joined on ‘Rise Radiant’ by guitarists Sam Vallen and Adrian Goleby, as well as drummer Josh Griffin. It is this relative stability that means that the band have been able to simply build on what went before and ‘Rise Radiant’, as I alluded to earlier, is the sound of a band that is becoming more and more adept at what they do. And what they do is artfully blend a wide variety of sounds and influences into an incredibly coherent and smooth listening experience that’s essentially progressive rock with plenty of heavy and more abrasive metallic moments.

I know I struggled at the beginning, but with eyes now wide open, I can appreciate the subtlety of the music, the clever nuances, the juxtaposition between the heavy and the softer passages. Indeed, it is these marked contrasts, frequently within the songs themselves, that creates a greater sense of drama, urgency and potency to the material.

Ironically, given my moniker and my general love of all things heavy, it was that two more sedate tracks that I initially gravitated towards once the mists began to clear, namely ‘Resonate’ and ‘Autumn’. The former is more of a mellow, almost ambient track that boasts Grey’s delicate vocals at its heart, joined by a minimalist soundscape comprised of the bold bass work of Prinsse alongside electronic beats, and sounds and textures more akin to a pop song than a rock band. But it’s beautiful and I have grown to love its seductive and disarming charm. ‘Autumn’ sees elegant acoustic guitars duet with Grey at the outset before it gradually increases for a beautiful chorus, the kind where I cannot quite believe I missed it for so long. Flamboyant bass playing segues into a gorgeous lead guitar solo that carries such emotion with it and before you know it, the song reaches its final throws via a rousing, yet understated crescendo, featuring the chorus melody at its heart.

‘Rise Radiant’ is not all calm serenity though, as you will discover after a second or two of pressing play. ‘The Tempest’ is correctly named as it comes leaping out of the speakers with a commanding, urgent riff and great drumming from Griffin. The contrast between this and the more restrained verses are stark, making it feel like the choruses, when they arrive, are a veritable whirlwind of power in sound form, battering the ears with intelligent control, whilst the fury of the musicians remains obvious to all. ‘Slow Violence’ features a great, off-kilter yet groovy, stop-start riff under which you can hear some subtle synths at play. The chorus is, once again, a stunning hook-laden affair that has my head shaking in disbelief that I couldn’t hear it or appreciate it for so long.

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Aside from a couple of well-placed bursts, ‘Salt’ temporarily applies the brakes to the more furious, angry-sounding material. But with tinkling keys and a vague nod in the direction of UK contemporaries Haken, it’s no less poignant, emotional or intense for the overall reduction in heaviness.

I hear more of a djent influence within the guitar work on ‘Oceanrise’ which is handled expertly and doesn’t sound out of place against the deceptively grandiose, melodic chorus that emerges. It is the kind of track that underlines the way in which Caligula’s Horse are always trying to push their own boundaries within the generally more forgiving confines of progressive music. ‘Valkyrie’ is a much darker-sounding and heavy composition to these ears, as well as being overtly prog in the sense that there is an awful lot going on from every corner of the band. It feels complex and technical for much of its five-minute length but is pulled together and made impressively cohesive via an arresting, vibrant chorus, and commanding performance from Jim Grey that demands your full attention; remarkably, he sounds both angry and insecure at the same time.

The album ends with ‘The Ascent’, which emerges seamlessly from it’s predecessor without missing a beat. It is an intense ten-minute thrill-ride, a culmination of everything ‘Rise Radiant’ stands for in many ways. The opening is heavy and complex, whilst throughout, there are some killer riffs to be heard as well as explosions of raw power. It is here that the contrasts that feature across the album are rammed home, with moments of gorgeously intimate, minimalist introspection clashing with these muscular and aggressive outbursts like nowhere else on the album. And yet, after 55 spins, I can only conclude that it works, as if the band are musical alchemists.

I make no bones about it, ‘Rise Radiant’ was not an easy album to get into. I nearly gave up more than once. But something kept pulling me back to it and subconsciously, I refused to be beaten. I’ve never been more grateful to my stubbornness, because I nearly let this record slip through my fingers. As it is, I can sit here now and state with categoric certainty that ‘Rise Radiant’ is the work of a special band, a band that has technical ability in abundance as well as a rare chemistry that allows the five musicians to speak as one. Put as succinctly as I can, Caligula’s Horse have grown to an extent that they have become masters at creating modern-sounding progressive music that is simply irresistible. ‘Rise Radiant’ is the unequivocal proof of this.

The Score of Much Metal: 96%

Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:

…And Oceans – Cosmic World Mother
Vader – Solitude In Madness
Shrapnel – Palace For The Insane
Sinisthra – The Broad And Beaten Way
Paradise Lost – Obsidian
Naglfar – Cerecloth
Forgotten Tomb – Nihilistic Estrangement
Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
Firewind – Firewind
An Autumn For Crippled Children – All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet
Havok – V
Helfró – Helfró
Victoria K – Essentia
Cryptex – Once Upon A Time
Thy Despair – The Song Of Desolation
Cirith Ungol – Forever Black
Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion
Nightwish – Human. II: Nature.
Katatonia – City Burials
Wolfheart – Wolves Of Karelia
Asenblut – Die Wilde Jagd
Nicumo – Inertia
The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
Omega Infinity – Solar Spectre
Symbolik – Emergence
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Irist – Order Of The Mind
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

Album of the Year 2017 – Number 7

Welcome to day 24 of my ‘Album of the Year 2017 top 30 countdown’.

As I get closer to the top five and then the top 3 for 2017, the quality of the music on offer begins to beggar belief. We are talking about at least ten albums this year that are the crème-de-la-crème and, to a certain extent, ranking them in order is a bit of a futile task. But for the purposes of this year’s extreme music advent calendar, I had to bite the bullet, climb off the fence, lay my cards on the table and do many other things that feature within some well-known clichés.

Just before I go any further and reveal my pick at no.7, there’s just time to remind you that links can be found below for all of my previous posts in this year’s series, along with a couple of ‘honourable mentions’ posts and the entire series from 2012-2016. Please enjoy the fruits of my labours.

Number 7

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Caligula’s Horse
In Contact
InsideOut Music

“From the irresistible cover artwork, right through to the deeply considered concept that flows through the album, it is clear that ‘In Contact’ has been put together with genuine passion and a tremendous attention to detail. Then there’s the music itself…

[Jim] Grey goes on to confirm that ‘In Contact’ features some of the most personal material of their career to date. I’m not surprised either because one of the first impressions I get with this record is that it is definitely a darker, heavier and altogether more intense listen than any of their previous output.

like all Caligula’s Horse material before it, ‘In Contact’ is not afraid to mix things up and so whilst much of the music treads a heavier path, you still get the quieter, more introspective and more soothing passages, where much more subtle soundscapes are experimented with. I love this mix of styles because it helps to create more depth to the music and, in turn, allows the different ingredients to make a stronger impact.

In a year that has produced some top-drawer progressive albums already, here’s another to add to the list. Caligula’s Horse may have produced a masterpiece with ‘Bloom’ but the more I listen to ‘In Contact’ and the more it burrows into my affections, the more certain I am that the Australian quintet have matched their past efforts, maybe even superseded them. ‘In Contact’ is very nearly a flawless record and demands Caligula’s Horse be placed at the prog top table with immediate effect.”

Read the full review here.

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Darker, heavier and more intense – three adjectives I used within my review of this album to describe the music on ‘In Contact’, the fourth full-length release from Australian prog metal band Caligula’s Horse.

However, there are several other adjectives that spring to mind now that the record is that little bit older and more familiar to me. I’d add ‘challenging’, ‘rich’, ‘passionate’ and ‘beautiful’, not to mention ‘complex’ and ‘immersive’.

I use the word ‘complex’ to describe both the music and the lyrics too, for not only is ‘In Contact’ full of very accomplished and technical material, the concept that ties things together is not simple either. And it adds a real gravitas to proceedings, making the whole experience that little bit more satisfying, sincere and deep. You realise very early on that much thought has been put into the concept but as time goes by and the words start to become clearer, the record develops another really important layer.

I’m still not a fan of the spoken word track, although over time I have ceased to skip it on every occasion. But still, regardless of this tiny hiccup, I simply cannot fault anything that Caligula’s Horse have provided us with on ‘In Contact’.

One of the big assets to ‘In Contact’, something that sticks with me and pulls me back for repeated listens is the almost inexplicable warmth in tone to the album. I know that overall the content is heavier, darker and more intense than previous releases but Caligula’s Horse have an uncanny, almost effortless, knack of making their music very pleasing on the ear. A lot of this has to do with the production of course, but it is also testament to the ability of each musician as an individual. You can hear every note of every instrument and it is patently obvious that everyone has brought their ‘A’ game to this record to make it the inviting and enticing beast that it is.

Then there are the melodies that litter this magnificent album. At first, I was concerned that I wasn’t going to like ‘In Contact’ as much as its predecessor, ‘Bloom’. But I wasn’t counting on the subtle and insidious nature of the hooks and melodies that would later find themselves burrowed deep within my subconscious. If I had a penny for every time that I have woken in the morning with an earworm, only to discover it is a Caligula’s Horse track, I’d be able to retire on the proceeds by now.

Essentially, ‘In Contact’ is deserving of such a high placing within my end-of-year list because it ticks all the boxes that I want ticked by an album. It is satisfyingly heavy, brilliantly complex, shrewdly up-to-date, wonderfully deep and sublimely beautiful. And it is getting better the longer I have it in my life.

If you missed either of my 2017 ‘honourable mentions’ posts, here they are should you be interested:

Album of the Year 2017 – honourable mentions Part 1
Album of the Year 2017 – honourable mentions Part 2

Previous posts in my 2017 Top 30 countdown:

Album of the Year 2017 – Number 8
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 9
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 10
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 11
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 12
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 13
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 14
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 15
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 16
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 17
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 18
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 19
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 20
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 21
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 22
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 23
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 24
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 25
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 26
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 27
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 28
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 30

And from previous years:

Album of the Year 2016
Album of the Year 2015
Album of the Year 2014
Album of the Year 2013
Album of the Year 2012

Caligula’s Horse – In Contact – Album Review

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Artist: Caligula’s Horse

Album Title: In Contact

Label: InsideOut Music

Date Of Release: 15 September 2017

When it comes to modern progressive music, this Brisbane-based outfit are currently up there with the very best. Caligula’s Horse stunned me with their previous album, ‘Bloom’, so much so that it ended up well within my top 10 albums of 2015, and rightly so. I have yet to grow tired of that record, such is its beauty and intensity. To quote my review at the time:

“I absolutely adore this record and I consider ‘Bloom’ to be a modern progressive rock/metal behemoth that will leave a hugely positive impression on anyone who likes quality music that is as beautiful as it is subtle and ambitious.”

I stand by what I said – ‘Bloom’ is a masterpiece. The only problem then is that it makes it tricky for the band when it comes to the follow-up. With expectations high amongst their growing fan base, could the quintet match the levels of excitement and anticipation with another high quality release? Being one of those rabid fans myself, this was my overriding thought as I entered the conceptual world of ‘In Contact’ for the first time.

If lead vocalist Jim Grey, guitarists Sam Vallen and Adrian Goleby, bassist/vocalist Dave Couper and drummer Josh Griffin felt any nerves or apprehension, it does not show. Instead, they have thrown heart and soul into this new record. From the irresistible cover artwork, right through to the deeply considered concept that flows through the album, it is clear that ‘In Contact’ has been put together with genuine passion and a tremendous attention to detail. Then there’s the music itself which I shall come on to in the fullness of time.

‘In Contact’ features ten individual tracks and, in stark contrast to ‘Bloom’, which was never long enough, has a running time that breaks the hour mark. But it’s more complicated than that. To quote Jim Grey from an interview he conducted regarding the concept:

“I had this idea, this big broad sci-fi thing. In the world in which this album is set, every piece of art that exists in the world is an attempt by human beings and artists to remember a dream that we all share that we have forgotten. That’s the fundamental idea. We found a way to tell that story by telling four separate very personal stories about artists that are displaced from each other by space and time across this universe. The stories are telling the things in their life that they are reaching for, that they are attempting to improve.”

Grey goes on to confirm that ‘In Contact’ features some of the most personal material of their career to date. I’m not surprised either because one of the first impressions I get with this record is that it is definitely a darker, heavier and altogether more intense listen than any of their previous output. The first notes of the opening track are heavy and rather uncompromising, setting the tone for what is to follow.

That said, like all Caligula’s Horse material before it, ‘In Contact’ is not afraid to mix things up and so whilst much of the music treads a heavier path, you still get the quieter, more introspective and more soothing passages, where much more subtle soundscapes are experimented with. I love this mix of styles because it helps to create more depth to the music and, in turn, allows the different ingredients to make a stronger impact. In addition, to use that age-old cliché, the music takes the listener on a journey, where you cannot help but become immersed in the story that’s being told.

At the hands of vocalist Jim Grey, that story really comes alive too. Here is a vocalist that has all the talent and intelligence to use just the right tone or delivery at just the right time. Whether that’s soft and vulnerable or something bordering on anger or frustration, his voice is damn-near impeccable, enabling the various emotions to come to the surface with sincerity and, on occasion, with spine-tingling results.

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Returning to the aforementioned opener, ‘Dream The Dead’, it certainly sets the album off in the right manner. In many ways it is the perfect amalgamation of everything that is so powerful about Caligula’s Horse, taking the blueprint of ‘Bloom’, but expanding it, refining it and making a glorious noise in the process. We have the heavy element, led by some commanding ‘wall of sound’ riffing but we also get plenty of melody, tons of variety and an ebb and flow that feels effortless. Given the technicality on display, the smoothness of the composition is quite incredible as is the immediacy. But this is all testament to the song writing prowess of a band that is becoming ever more secure in their own abilities as well as displaying a clarity of purpose and direction.

I love the way that, just after we are confronted by big stop-start riffs and a wailing guitar solo from Sam Vallen, the song almost dies, kept alive only by the subtle, tentative sounds of a lone guitar somewhere in the distance. Inevitably, the track builds and it does so in exquisite fashion, almost ambient post rock in tone initially. The melodic refrain as all of the instruments come together is gorgeous, creating an otherworldly, heart-warming climax that is as epic as it is beautiful.

‘Will’s Song (Let The Colours Run)’ follows and, as many of you will have already heard, it is classic Caligula’s Horse. Modern-sounding heavy progressive music imbued with some melodic intent that grows the more I listen. The quasi-hardcore shouted vocals are unexpected but I somehow like them, as they fit the more urgent and confrontational tone that flows through this track.

The piano and clean guitar sounds that dominate the opening of ‘The Hands Are The Hardest’ are magnificent and this is an instant favourite of mine. Underpinned by an expressive rhythm section, there’s a bounciness and cheekiness that is a total joy, whilst the delicate vocals from Grey are the perfect accompaniment. The chorus is magical too, showing Caligula’s Horse at their memorable best, giving me goosebumps each and every time I listen.

‘Love Conquers All’ could be referred to as something of an interlude but it is just too exquisite to be dismissed in such a casual manner. It is as light as air and features some of the most instant and sublime melodies of the entire record, bringing the first part of the album, entitled ‘To The Wind’ to a very agreeable and fitting close.

Part Two of the concept, entitled ‘Caretaker’ kicks off with ‘Songs For No One’ which wastes no time in stamping its authority via a heavy and frantic intro that then gives way to a cracking, chunky riff that writhes and twists. Grey unleashes his entire range, whilst the chorus delivers some delicious hooks and melodies that counteract the overt progressive nature of the remainder of the track.

The acoustic-led ‘Capulet’ is ethereal in in tone and features some interesting synth tones, whilst Grey’s voice is so delicate and sensitive. ‘Fill My Heart’ is a more forceful and confrontational beast but only in part, as it also displays the softer, more subtle side of Caligula’s Horse. By this point, I am marvelling at the crisp and clear production which allows each instrument the space to make their mark. On this particular track as with many others, my ear is drawn to the rich and powerful bass of Dave Couper and the flamboyant drumming of Josh Griffin which is both intricate and bruising when required.

If there’s one minor gripe that I have with ‘In Contact’, it’s the spoken-word monologue ‘Inertia And The Weapon of the Wall’. I appreciate what Jim Grey is trying to do here. It fits the concept, offers something different, and his delivery is intense and full of drama. However, personal taste dictates that I am left ever so slightly cold by it. When the band are as talented as this, I want more music, not a theatrical diatribe, however passionately delivered it might be.

Returning to the music again and the bruising, chug of ‘The Cannon’s Mouth’ assaults the senses, full of groove and interesting time signatures, closing out Part Three, ‘Ink’, with a bang. The way in which it flirts with melodies that are almost waltz-like in the way that they rise and fall in tandem with the vocals is very interesting as is the formidable djent-esque riffs that bring the track to a robust end.

The final song, ‘Graves’, stands on its own as Part Four of the concept and, at 15 minutes in length, it has every right to do so. It goes somewhat without saying that the track is an epic, multi-faceted affair but I am struck each time by the sheer variety which is contained within it. The quiet opening, the uplifting, feel-good melody that follows as the song breaks out of its minimalist cocoon, the effortless blend of heaviness and subtle complexities, the immediacy of some sections and the challenging nature of others, the vocal choir segment that has religious overtones despite not necessarily having any religious content; it takes a number of listens to take it all in adequately but it also gets better with each spin.

I really love the sense that within the ebb and flow, this track is slowly, inexorably building to profound climax. And so it comes to pass. The climax to this song brings back those defiant-sounding gang-type vocals and, a little alarmingly, a shrieking saxophone to enhance the urgency present at this late stage in proceedings. But these elements are then interspersed with a reprise of those lush, warm melodies heard earlier in the piece, giving ‘Graves’ a truly memorable finale.

In a year that has produced some top-drawer progressive albums already, here’s another to add to the list. Caligula’s Horse may have produced a masterpiece with ‘Bloom’ but the more I listen to ‘In Contact’ and the more it burrows into my affections, the more certain I am that the Australian quintet have matched their past efforts, maybe even superseded them. ‘In Contact’ is very nearly a flawless record and demands Caligula’s Horse be placed at the prog top table with immediate effect.

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.75

 

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Nocturnal Rites – Phoenix
Arch Enemy – Will To Power
Threshold – Legends Of The Shires
H.E.A.T – Into The Great Unknown
Dyscarnate – With All Their Might
Subterranean Masquerade – Vagabond
Adagio – Life
Paradise Lost – Medusa
The Haunted – Strength In Numbers
Serious Black – Magic
Leprous – Malina
The Lurking Fear – Out of the Voiceless Grave
Prospekt – The Illuminated Sky
Wintersun – The Forest Seasons
Witherfall – Nocturnes And Requiems
Tuesday The Sky – Drift
Anthriel – Transcendence
Decapitated – Anticult
Cosmograf – The Hay-Man Dreams
Orden Ogan – Gunmen
Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Anathema – The Optimist
Solstafir – Berdreyminn
Dream Evil – Six
Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos
Ayreon – The Source
Until Rain – Inure
MindMaze – Resolve
God Dethroned – The World Ablaze
Bjorn Riis – Forever Comes To An End
Voyager – Ghost Mile
Big Big Train – Grimspound
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Firespawn – The Reprobate
Ancient Ascendant
Pyramaze – Contingent
Shores Of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow
Asira – Efference
Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

BlogOfMuchMetal – Metal News – 31 July 2017

Buckle up because this round-up feature some big and exciting news if you share music taste that is in any way similar to me. With that in mind, I’m not going to waste time. Instead, allow me to dive right in.

(Previous update posts can be accessed via links at the bottom of this page.)

Ne Obliviscaris – new album and new song….

20294172_10155509955749898_2381867514676896945_nNe Obliviscaris – Urn
Date of release: 27 October 2017
Label: Season Of Mist

Many column inches have been filled with commentary about Ne Obliviscaris in recent months after the Australians announced a ‘patreon crowd funding campaign’ to essentially fund them to be full-time musicians. The initiative was designed to raise enough money to pay the technical progressive death metal band a wage to allow them the time to write a new record and continue touring. The idea polarised opinion but despite the naysayers, the sextet have seemed to succeed with the venture because a new album has finally been announced.

If you like bombast and over-the-top cinematic sounds blended with intelligent extreme metal, then news of a new Ne Obliviscaris will be very welcome indeed. It certainly is as far as I’m concerned. It has been three years since the immense ‘Citadel’ was released, so I’m chomping at the bit to hear new material. Well, here you go – here’s ‘Intra Venus’ from the forthcoming album and yes, it is a monster.

Caligula’s Horse bring us the track-listing for their new album…

19146029_10154398261857105_6108765129743949462_nCaligula’s Horse – In Contact
Date of release: 15 September 2017
Label: InsideOut Music

Any new information from the Caligula’s Horse camp is worthy of sharing in my opinion, however small. And so, I bring you news that the track listing for the highly anticipated ‘In Contact’ has been released. Check it out below, in all its glory. However, to summarise, we are soon to be treated to ten new compositions, the titles of which can be seen below. ‘Bloom’ remains on frequent rotation at the Mansion Of Much Metal** so all I can say is that if these new compositions come even close to the quality heard on the majestic predecessor, they will be very exciting to hear indeed.

**I don’t really live in a mansion, I might have made that up just because it makes me sound more windswept and interesting.

20248229_10154513775542105_4392782350163514912_o

Redemption are working on a new album…

dsc_5905Redemption – TBC
Date of release: TBC
Label: Metal Blade Records

It seems too good to be true doesn’t it? For fans of quality progressive metal, the name Redemption is a very important one. Fronted by Fates Warning vocalist Ray Alder, masterminded by the extraordinarily talented guitarist/songwriter Nick Van Dyk, and boasting talent in every position, Redemption is without doubt one of the best prog metal bands out there at the moment.

And so, when you consider that the band released the excellent ‘The Art of Loss’ just last year (review here), I can hardly believe I’m reporting that there is plenty of activity afoot in the Redemption camp. Chris Quirarte has posted updates of drum recording ‘for our upcoming new record’, whilst within the last few days, bassist Sean Andrews has confirmed that the tracking of his instrument is complete.

No release date or further information has been released, but the fact that a new album is so far advanced is more than I could have hoped for. In the meantime, in case you need the nudge, allow me to remind you just how good ‘The Art of Loss’ is:

Some more hints are given about one of the most exciting new bands around…

17218771_387176474982109_6918641734903355632_oCyHra – TBC
Date Of Release: October 2017?
Label: Spinefarm Records

The name CyHra has been doing the rounds for a fair while now, and it’s a name that has got me very excited. And I’m sure I’m not the only one because how can certain sections of the heavy metal community not get excited about a band that features none other than Jake E (ex-Amaranthe), the ex-In Flames pairing of bassist Peter Iwers and guitarist Jesper Strömblad, as well as drummer Alexander Landenburg from Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody? Come on, this is one very capable quartet, the stuff of dreams.

We are yet to hear any clips of completed songs, so we can only dream about what CyHra sound like. And, whilst I don’t hate the new direction that In Flames are going in, I am secretly hoping that a little of the early In flames melodeath magic creeps into the compositions. What I can tell you is that the guys have been in front of the cameras with Patric Ullaeus, working on their first video. Rumours abound that the debut album will see the light in or around October 2017, so I’m expecting the video to be released relatively soon. And then we’ll know. For now, all I can bring you is this slightly awkward video where the band introduces itself to an expectant metal community.

My Soliloquy finally edge closer to releasing their new record…

16558419_710300499129700_1372606098_nMy Soliloquy – Engines Of Gravity
Date of release: 14 September 2017
Label: Rare Artist Records

It feels like an age ago that I reviewed ‘Engines Of Gravity’, the new album from Pete Morten who, until recently and amongst many other things, was the rhythm guitarist for Threshold. In every way, ‘Engines Of Gravity’ is a step up for Pete from his debut ‘The Interpreter’. And when you consider how much of the writing, playing and producing is dealt with by Pete alone, this is an impressive feat. Want to read the review again? Click here.

Unusually, the review was written before any confirmed release date had been set. But now, finally, Pete has confirmed that pre-orders will begin from 14th August and the release date is 14th September. So it won’t be too long before one of the stand-out prog metal albums of 2017 will be let loose and then the superlatives can begin to flow from progressive music fans the world over. And with no music released from the new album yet, here’s something from the debut to tide you over for now.

Previous updates:

24 July 2017
22 July 2017
28 March 2017
23 March 2017
11 March 2017
5th March 2017
26th February 2017
13th February 2017
3rd February 2017
30th January 2017
21st January 2017

Essential rock & metal releases still to come in 2017 – Part 1

It’s true what they say – the older you get, the faster time disappears. I mean, it doesn’t seem possible that we are already half-way through 2017 for a start. And yet here I am. With my round-up of the best releases so far in 2017 under my belt, it is time to turn my attention to the future and consider what else is due to cross our paths this year.

If the first half is anything to go by, we’re in for a treat, I can tell you. I don’t remember a year where I’ve given out so many high scores. Unlike last year though, I have yet to bestow a perfect 10 on anyone, although the new Voyager album, ‘Ghost Mile’, Persefone’s ‘Aathma’ and Big Big Train’s ‘Grimspound’ all came deservedly close.

But enough about the past, here’s to the future…

19106010_10154760456619077_388154856530751419_nCradle of Filth
Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay
Release date: 22 September 2017

I was going off the boil regarding Suffolk’s most famous extreme metal export. I was a member of the fan club many years ago in my late teens having worshiped the likes of ‘Dusk…And Her Embrace’ and ‘Cruelty And The Beast’. But after a string of less-than-stellar releases throughout the noughties, I began to re-evaluate. That was until a couple of years ago and the release of ‘Hammer Of The Witches’. Their best since their heyday, it brought me kicking and screaming back into the fold. I now cannot wait for the next chapter in the saga of Dani Filth and co.

This next chapter is entitled ‘Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay’ and is due for release on 22nd September via Nuclear Blast. Watch out for the first single release very soon too.

19146029_10154398261857105_6108765129743949462_nCaligula’s Horse
In Contact
Release date: 15 September 2017

There are a huge number of excellent bands coming from Australia these days but alongside Vanishing Point and Voyager, Caligula’s Horse are one of the very best. Their previous album, ‘Bloom’ was superb, one of the best releases of 2015. In fact, the more I listen to this record, the better it gets – I should have placed it even higher in my end of year list, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. It is undeniably prog but it is intelligent, modern and full of the kind of swagger and assuredness that only the very best bands display.

The new album is quoted as being “an immense conceptual work”. Enigmatically-entitled ‘In Contact’, it is due for release on 15th September via InsideOut Music, one of the best and most consistent labels out there today. Just listen to the teaser trailer below and tell me this doesn’t sound exciting…

18556032_10155643571650101_6880641999645372966_nLeprous
Malina
Release date: 25 August 2017

It is an undeniable fact that Norwegian band Leprous are now regarded as one of the very best bands in the prog metal genre. They have yet to release anything less than extraordinary in their 16 year-career to date. And they are still young and still learning. But crucially, they appear to remain extremely hungry and out to prove that they deserve to build upon the accolades that they have rightly received so far in their career.

They have released a new track, ‘From The Flame’, from their upcoming new album, entitled ‘Malina’ which is released on August 25th. It remains very recognisable as Leprous but also a little different at the same time. In interview, the band describes the record as a ‘natural-sounding organic album’, but still modern with great songs. If that’s the case, and based upon the first single, count me in.

19420708_1698781136823429_4102190633439104941_nArch Enemy
Will To Power
Release date: 8 September 2017

I’m no longer the biggest Arch Enemy fan, it has to be said. I loved ‘Stigmata’ and the follow-up ‘Burning Bridges’. But that was several years ago and since then, the Swedish extreme metal band with a penchant for over-the-top guitar histrionics have ditched original singer Johan Liiva, replacing him with first Angela Gossow and now Alissa White-Gluz. In fact, there will be a dwindling number of fans even aware that Liiva was ever involved now that the band have re-recorded those aforementioned albums. A bad move in my opinion, but what do I know?

Nevertheless, when a highly-respected fellow journo of long standing makes positive noises about the new material due to see the light of day in the near future, who am I to not take notice? Particularly when the positive noises refer to some brilliantly flamboyant guitar work, for which I am a sucker at the best of times. The door for Arch Enemy has not been slammed shut yet, but this is probably their last chance as far as I’m concerned.

‘Will To Power’ is due to be released on 8th September 2017 on Century Media Records.

Threshold
Legends Of The Shires
Release date: TBC

The Threshold camp has gone a little quiet since the rather shock news surfaced that the UK progressive metal band had parted ways for a second time with Damian Wilson. Aside from news that the band are looking for fans to take part in the shooting of a new video, we’ve not heard anything new about the new material. Until that point, we were fully expecting the new album, ‘Legends of the Shires’ to surface in the latter stages of 2017. I still think we will have the double record, it’s just a matter of exactly when.

It is also a matter of who will be the vocalist on the record, as I understand that the album had been recorded with Wilson behind the mic. I suspect it’ll be Morgan, but nothing as far as I’m aware has been confirmed. You wait, as soon as I publish this post, an announcement will be made. An announcement is also still to be made regarding the guitar position made vacant by the recently departed Pete Morten. Interesting times ahead for one of my favourite prog bands.

Anticipated music in 2017 – an update – 3 Feb

Welcome to my latest post in what is becoming a new regular feature on the blog of Much Metal. I have always brought you a series of posts where I look ahead at the albums I’m most looking forward to throughout the coming year (Most anticipated releases of 2017). However, as is often the way, as the weeks pass, more news comes to light, updates are provided by bands and I inevitably get excited by things that I hadn’t been aware of previously.

Well, this regular update is my way of keeping you abreast of these new developments, whether they relate to albums I’ve already mentioned or to completely new discoveries.

I never like to just re-hash news that can be viewed on other sites, so this is my way of bringing you something unique and original in the process. And I’ll keep going unless you tell me to stop. You’ve been warned!

Obituary – Obituary
Release date: 17 March 2017 (Relapse)

15965455_10154022138905957_2782137546902839523_nI can’t help it. Ever since I heard ‘World Demise’ on cassette tape, I have had a soft spot for Obituary. I love the extremity and also, without being disingenuous to the band, the brutal simplicity of the music. This is no frills death metal where the groove and the riffs take centre stage to bludgeon the listener from start to finish. I also really like John Tardy’s vocals which sound twisted and tortured, as if he is wretching as he sings.

New track, ‘Turned To Stone’ is another behemoth of a death metal track that delivers everything I like and hope for from an Obituary song. It chugs and grooves relentlessly at a bludgeoning mid-tempo, but gathers pace a little towards the end as a solo or two enters the fray. Marvellous. I’m really interested to hear the band’s 10th album now.

Seventh Wonder – TBC
Release date: TBC

A new Seventh Wonder album has to be one of my most hotly anticipated releases of 2017. They never fall short of being mesmerizingly brilliant. From the complex and dextrous instrumentalism to the more melodic delivery of the astonishing vocalist Tommy Karevik, this is a band that has it all.

There is still no official information about the album in terms of release date or title, but here is a bit of bass from the recording sessions that was released recently to get your juices flowing. I hope you like it as much as I do.

Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Release Date: 3 March 2017

15894580_700712443428988_7115424794040486274_nWolfheart are a band that I have discovered during one of my regular evenings spent trawling the internet for new music that I both enjoy and write about on the Blog of Much Metal. It is a service I perform with gusto and has allowed me to bring you another find that I’m excited about.

I know I’m late to the party but check out ‘The Flood’, a track taken from the upcoming album ‘Tyhjyys’ and tell me this isn’t completely superb. Mind you given that Wolfheart are spearheaded by guitarist/vocalist Tuomas Saukkonen, he of the now defunct Before The Dawn, Black Sun Aeon and Dawn of Solace, it is hardly surprising that it sends shivers down my spine. The blend of melody and bleak heaviness is intoxicating.

Caligula’s Horse & Opus Of A Machine

Recent news from the Caligula’s Horse camp that guitarist Zac Greensill had parted ways with the band came initially to me as a disappointing update. I love Caligula’s Horse and still count ‘Bloom’ as one of my favourite modern prog albums of recent years.

However, reading on, I discovered that Zac was leaving to focus 100% on his own band, Opus of a Machine, stating that new material would therefore be on the way soon. Naturally, I headed off to check out Opus of a Machine and what I have heard has meant this I am now very excited because not only will Caligula’s Horse continue, I now have another band to get my teeth stuck into and get my support behind.

Head over to the Opus of a Machine bandcamp page to check out their debut album from 2014 and see what I am babbling on about. A new album in 2017 would be brilliant, I have no doubt.

https://opusofamachine.bandcamp.com/

Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Release date: 24 February 2017

CD BookletHere is a band about which I knew nothing as recently as a week ago. I didn’t know that they existed and I had even less of an idea that they had released a debut album in 2016. Recently signed to those good people at AFM, a re-release of the debut self-titled album is just around the corner, and now I know about this US band, it is my duty to spread the word to those who are interested.

The following video gives you a great insight into what this self proclaimed science-based power metal band are all about. Sharp riffing, powerhouse rhythms, infectious choruses and a lead vocalist in Kayla Dixon that is one of the most glorious front women I’ve heard – I love her tone and delivery which means she sounds very melodious but also full of attitude.

Expect a review on the blog of much metal in the near future.

Previous updates:

30th January 2017
21st January 2017

My most anticipated releases of 2017 – Part 6

Welcome to what I confidently predict will be the final part in this ever-expanding series where I look at those albums which will, should or might be released during 2017. I’ve already offered 25 releases that I’d be delighted to hear but the music keeps on coming to prove that heavy music is very much alive and well.

If you’ve missed the previous instalments of this series, here are the links:

My most anticipated releases of 2017 – Part 1
My most anticipated releases of 2017 – Part 2
My most anticipated releases of 2017 – Part 3
My most anticipated releases of 2017 – Part 4
My most anticipated releases of 2017 – Part 5

And now onto the main event…

Caligula’s Horse – TBC
Release date: TBC

This is a band that completely blew me away with their incredible album ‘Bloom’ a couple of years ago. It was a sensational slab of modern progressive metal with one foot firmly embedded in the classic era of prog. It was just amazing.

Needless to say that I can’t wait for a new album from the talented Australians. The bad news is that a 2017 follow-up has yet to be confirmed. The good news is that they have already road-tested new material and have received a huge response. The fact that the material in question is a 16 minute epic only helps to heighten my excitement further. I genuinely cannot wait for this album to come to fruition.

Distorted Harmony – TBC
Release date: TBC

Whilst we are on the subject of being blown away by music, you can add Distorted Harmony to the list. Their ‘Chain Reaction’ album that was released in 2014 was light years ahead of their previous offerings. Gone were the clear Dream Theater comparisons and in came a much more exciting, urgent, magical style of progressive metal. Genuinely heavy and genuinely progressive, it was also extremely subtle and immensely beautiful. Strong melodies, groove, light and shade; this album was a true journey and one that I found myself wanting to take on a frighteningly frequent basis. I still do if truth be told. It goes without saying therefore that I literally can’t wait for a follow-up. Will it arrive in 2017? Well, it isn’t official yet but new material has been written. Fingers crossed…

My Dying Bride – TBC
Release date: TBC

A reason to be gloomy for those, like me, who enjoy such things would definitely be a new My Dying Bride album in 2017. In the latter stages of 2016, the band confirmed that they would concentrate on writing for a new album, although a ballpark release date wasn’t mentioned. So it might be 2017 or, equally likely, 2018. Being a firm favourite with me though, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass by without mentioning one of the finest purveyors or solemn and miserable doom metal on the planet. Watch this space…

Immortal – TBC
Release date: TBC

I can confirm that a new album from Immortal will definitely be released in 2017, at least that’s the case according to the band on their official website. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Immortal but there’s no denying that over the years they have produced some suitably grim and powerful music to counteract their preposterously over-the-top image.

It will be even more interesting this time around because it will be the first album since the departure of Abbath, he of the million memes. Now that Immortal is just Demonaz and Horgh, I am sure that I won’t be the only one who is intrigued to find out how Immortal 2017 sounds. Recording is due to take place very soon in the Abyss Studio with Peter Tagtgren, so we won’t have too much longer to wait to find out.

Shadow Gallery – TBC
Release date: TBC

What I wouldn’t give for a new Shadow Gallery record. This progressive metal band is one of my all-time favourite bands and everything they have released has the word ‘masterful’ rightly attached to it. Never the most prolific of bands in the first place, the death of lead vocalist Mike Baker and the recent personal tribulations of Gary Wehrkamp mean that they have slowed their output ever further. This is the most unlikely release in the entire series, but I live in eternal hope.

Pagan’s Mind – TBC
Release date: TBC

According to a post from the band themselves on New Years Eve, new music from Norwegian melodic prog metal band Pagan’s Mind is a possibility for 2017. I quote: ‘We know we have said this a million times already but we genuinely hope to have new music for you in 2017, but please know we can’t give any guarantees’. It is non-committal but it is a step in the right direction and means that we could hear some new music from one of the best exponents of melodic progressive-tinged heavy metal. I’ve loved everything from ‘Celestial Entrance’ and whilst they have toned down their progressive edge over the years, their music remains of the very highest quality.

Pallbearer – Heartless
Release date: 24 March 2017

I wasn’t going to mention this band in this list to begin with. I really did enjoy their previous album ‘Foundations of Burden’, which was a big surprise to me given that I’m not the greatest doom fan. However, whilst undertaking my research for this series, I came upon a quote about the upcoming album, suggesting it ‘weaves together the spacious exploratory elements of classic prog, the raw anthemics of 90’s alt-rock, and stretches of black-lit proto-metal’. Well blimey, I wasn’t necessarily expecting a description like this and I consider my interest to be thoroughly piqued.

It may be a huge let-down or it might, more likely, be a huge success that sees the Pallbearer name become ever more successful. Either way, I’m up for hearing a slice of this.

Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 6

Welcome to Day 25 of my ‘Album Of The Year 2015’ Top 30 countdown.

No long intro today, just a thanks for sticking with me through this mammoth undertaking and for any new readers, a reminder to check out my picks from 30 down to 7 via the links at the bottom of this post.

And with that, I give you my next choice…

Number 6

caligulas horse coverCaligula’s Horse
‘Bloom’
InsideOut Music

it might seem like a strange approach but I’m going to begin my overview of my sixth favourite album of 2015 with a minor gripe; I wish it was longer! ‘Bloom’ is comprised of eight tracks with a running time of around 45 minutes. For a progressive record, this seems just a little on the short side. Some might argue that it makes a refreshing change not to have to put aside a whole afternoon to listen to a prog record but to begin with, I felt just a little disappointed. Even now, I still wish it was a little longer.

Rather than view this as a negative though, I instead choose to look upon this gripe as a positive; if the music wasn’t so damn superb, the length of the album wouldn’t even be a consideration. As it is, so mesmerised am I by the compositions, that I just want them to go on for as long as humanly possible. Additionally, the relatively short running time just encourages more frequent repeat listens, something I can attest to wholeheartedly.

Credit: Unknown
Credit: Unknown

My full in-depth review of ‘Bloom’ can be read here, should you be interested. However, to quote a small passage from it: ‘‘Bloom’ opens with the title track where sounds of an acoustic guitar and nothing else seep into the senses for a few seconds before Jim Grey joins in with his beautiful voice. The melody is simple and effective and the whole thing sounds crystal clear and very rich and vibrant. On the very first listen, I looked across at my other half and, with headphones on, I mouthed ‘oh, this is good’, grinning broadly as I did so. A lovely emotive lead guitar joins the party before the track explodes at the half-way mark. Pummelled by something initially approaching a wall of sound, the melodic intent takes over and in a flash this three-minute opener concludes.’

What follows within the subsequent seven tracks is equally as impressive and fully engaging. A more detailed breakdown of each track can be read within my aforementioned album review so I won’t bore you with something quite so detailed here. Instead, what I want to focus on is the way in which ‘Bloom’ makes me feel when I listen to it.

Each composition packs a punch in terms of the sheer variety and the number of different musical ideas that are explored. This is properly progressive music but it is executed in a very sophisticated way so that the songs come across as just that: songs. Despite all the complexity and the intensity that Caligula’s Horse pack into this album, I come away from each spin with a different favourite track and cannot help but get fully immersed into the music. The combination of very clever and catchy melodies alongside an impressive lyrical depth and a perfect execution is a powerful combination that floors me every time. I genuinely get immersed into ‘Bloom’ every time I hear it and I find it impossible to just dip in and out. I have to listen to the entire record.

Furthermore, I find myself fully committing to the music. Whether it’s a chugging riff built around an intriguing time signature, a moment of quiet introspective contemplation, an emotional lead vocal line or any number of other things, ‘Bloom’ grabs me, beguiles me, challenges me and wraps me within a warm musical embrace from which it is hard to escape, not that I ever really want to if I’m honest.

To conclude, I return to my review: ‘How on Earth do I sum up an album that’s a good as ‘Bloom’ from Caligula’s Horse is? The answer is to not be fancy with the words and be honest. I absolutely adore this record and I consider ‘Bloom’ to be a modern progressive rock/metal behemoth that will leave a hugely positive impression on anyone who likes quality music that is as beautiful as it is subtle and ambitious.’

Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 7
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 8
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 9
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 10
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 11
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 12
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 13
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 14
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 15
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 16
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 17
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 18
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 19
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 20
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 21
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 22
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 23
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 24
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 25
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 26
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 27
Album of the Year 2015 – Number 28
Album of the Year 2015 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2015 – Number 30

And from previous years:

Album of the Year 2014
Album of the Year 2013
Album of the Year 2012

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