Caligula's Horse -
The Tide, The Thief and River's End

(CD 2013, 50:23, Welkin Records WELKIN003)

The tracks:
  1- A Gift To Afterthought
  2- Water's Edge
  3- Atlas
  4- Into The White
  5- Old Cracks In New Earth
  6- Dark Hair Down
  7- Thief
  8- All Is Quiet By The Wall

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In 2011 Caligula's Horse was founded in Brisbane, Australia by Sam Vallen and vocalist Jim Grey. Soon after they released their debut album called Moments From Ephemeral City as a duo with Sam Vallen being responsible for all the instruments. By the time they released

a two track mini album, Colossus, the duo had grown into a real life performing band with Zac Greensil on guitar, Dave Couper on bass and background vocals, and drummer Geoff Irish. Stave Vallen maintains his role as lead guitarist and takes care of all other sounds needed. In this line-up, Welkin Records released their first real band album by the name of The Tide, The Thief and River's End late 2013.

Caligula's Horse's music came to my ears several months ago, after scavenging You Tube for music that I might like. The video Dark Hair Down caught my attention and after contacting the band, a CD of the latest release started its journey to my desk, where it was welcomed with a huge smile on my face. Musically, Caligula's Horse can't be boxed as progressive rock/metal only. Alternative rock is strongly imbedded in their music as well and surely other musical styles must have been of influence too. Muse comes to my mind for instance. The strong opener, A Gift To Afterthought, starts with a smooth opening, growing into an alternative/progressive monster with a steady guitar riff that sounds nice and crunchy were needed, and percussive lower string acrobatics are all over this song. But perhaps the most impressive is the vocal part of Jim Grey who, at some point during this composition, has some minor similarities with Haken's Ross Jennings. A very strong song to open the album. The following Water's Edge is a slower and softer composition, filled with acoustic guitars, keyboards and lots of space for Dave Couper's bass playing. This song slowly builds up and suddenly bursts out during the last two minutes where double bass drums, heavy riffs and a stunning guitar parts take you the end. During Atlas, I can't help it, I get reminded of Ross Jennings a little more, but Muse's Matthew Bellamy also comes pretty close in my opinion. The melodic guitar solo perfectly fits to the alternative metal based staccato riffs on the lower strings. Into The White has a touch of Haken in it; the emotional voice bending sounds pretty familiarly, but the composition itself goes in a different direction than that of the UK band. A nice touch is the instrumental part, where the keys flow into a nice Steve Vai referring solo. Old Cracks In New Earth is a composition that has dark and heavy guitars on one side, clear and smooth guitar sounds on the other and everything is nicely blended to a song with soft and inspired guitar solos that gain in power towards the end of the song. Dark Hair Down is the one that triggered me; musically, this is the composition that has the most alternative influences of the album. The acrobatic guitar playing just grabs me, and in combination with the vocals, this just sounds perfect to me. What follows is a short, almost acoustic interlude called Thief , with Jim Gray and Sam Vallen as highlights. Without a second of rest, the final composition All Is Quiet By The Wall begins. Strong soloing over a melodic keyboard brings us to the heavy guitar riffs, and the intense vocals are being supported by a choir of friends. Like in previous songs there, is a softer vocal drive mid-section, before the band puts the pedal to the medal again and finishes the album on a high, with a perfect solo and a soulful end.

I'm glad I was searching the internet for some nice music a while ago, otherwise I could have missed an album I came to appreciate very much. Caligula's Horse perfectly blends progressive and alternative music with incredible musical skills, and has a vocalist that punches you right in the face. It would be great if these guys from down under could work their way up to the northern hemisphere and give a number of concerts. They certainly deserve to be heard.

****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Esther Ladiges)

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