Review Summary: Powerful songwriting and strong musicanship have revitalized the career of this long running German metalcore outfit. Often times melodic and atmospheric, and at other times savage and relentless, Caliban explore new territory while staying true to their
Metalcore is a strange bird. Like an owl perhaps with it’s piercing eyes, constantly angry facial expressions, and seamless ability to turn their heads around to an 270 degree extent. Most people are amused by owls with their plump body structure and oddly cute HOOT! HOOT! HOOTING! patterns that echo through the night. What most people don’t know however, is that owls are savage mother***ers that dispose of their prey in the most vile of manners. Sure they look cute but once you turn your back on a Great Horned Owl, watch out because it’s going to rip you apart with it’s talons. Anyways back to the music. Modern metalcore on one hand is loved by many with it’s fashionable image, catchy choruses, and sick breakdowns while hated by others for the same exact reasons. Caliban fall in between the genre’s constraints although they’ve been around a lot longer than most of these other metal influenced hardcore bands that integrate cleanly sung choruses into brutal hardcore. Caliban, forming in 1997 have released 7 full length albums, all basically relying on staccato riffing, driving verses, and epic choruses to hook the listener. I dub them the German Killswitch Engage for better and worse. This one dimensional approach has been commercially successful for the band but in a double edged sword type situation Caliban has lost much of it’s luster since 2004’s The Opposite From Within. In 2009 something else is happening. Not just that blonde lady’s Chihuahua being snatched up by a ***ing Owl.
Say Hello To Tragedy, the band’s 7th release improves on a stagnant musical style by tightening up on the core songwriting abilities while experimenting with new ideas and dynamics. Caliban’ music has generally been heavy metal core in the vein of Hatebreed, Earth Crisis, and Pantera, but they’ve grown increasingly melodic over the years. This time around Caliban have opted for an atmospheric and textured sound with a striking amount of aggression and melody. You wouldn’t know by the first single “24 Years“. Generally Caliban have been pretty consistent in delivering infectious pit stirring anthems but 24 Years” kind of disappoints. Opening up with blistering drums and shrieking vocals, the song starts off promising enough. But unfortunately the song runs out of steam in the uninspired verse and haphazard chorus. One bright note is the new found emphasis on ambient keyboard runs which would go on to play a bigger role through the album’s 12 track 50 minute duration. Other new influences include the black metal styling’s of “End This Sickness and “Love Song”, the melancholic piano driven “All I Gave”, and orchestral keyboards of “No One Is Safe”. It’s safe to say that Caliban have stepped up their game big time but longtime haters of the band will still find something to complain about.
Guitar wise Caliban will never win any awards for creativity or technical prowess but Marc Goertz and Denis Schmidt have added some new weapons to their previously limited arsenal. Where they were previously constrained to just writing breakdowns and down-tuned chug-a-thons, Caliban now incorporate uplifting melodic passages courtesy of both keyboards and guitars with blistering solos to contrast with the breakneck savagery. There are also a few Meshugga-isms and Industrial metal moments to break up whatever monotony comes there way. Breakdowns are still present but they surprisingly play a diminished role in favor of the aforementioned elements. Also worth mentioning is the second track “Love Song” which bravely attempts to fuse black metal with hardcore punk. Blackcore you say? Well, Abigail Williams and The Funeral Pyre do it so why not. The cluster***ing drunk driving amalgamation that is blast beats and agonizing shrieks stupendously drive head on with Pantera styled groove and punk rock intensity resulting in a hybrid that will be sure to influence a whole new scene. Deathcore? Check. Owlcore? Not quite but blackcore is making a BOLD statement.
There was a time when lead vocalist Andreas Dorner sang and scream. But at some period in time, the singing duties were handed over to guitarist Denis. It doesn’t matter though because both vocalists bring it A game style. Andreas’s distinct German-ized roar, growl, scream, whatever you want to call it sounds crisp and feral. I previously mentioned that he attempts to go black on a few tracks and he does so without overexertion. As for the singing, Denis’s voice is less obnoxious and processed than on The Undying Darkness. Actually this album contains his finest performances. Most notably the ballad “Walk Like The Dead” which features mellow guitar work before erupting into raging hardcore. His contributions feel natural and perfectly complement the spacious musical environment. The harsh/clean transitions run smoother than ever thanks to strong musicianship, stellar songwriting, and cutting edge production. Lyrically, Caliban introduces an idea based on how tragedies could be avoided. If the whole world cared kind of deal, not like Nickleback though. This is Caliban and this is metal.
The rhythm section consisting of Marco on bass and Patric on drums form a competent duo. The drums are loud and crisp thanks to a magnificent production job courtesy of Killswitch Engages Adam D. The bass is also executed with relative ease. Militaristic drum fills, snapping blast beats, and energetic double bass patterns merge with grooving bass lines to solidify a solid musical performance from the band. Caliban have always put on a tight knit performance since I began jamming to them in 2004 and this is no different.
I’ll go out on limb and say this is the best album they’ve released in years. The songwriting has improved tenfold resulting in stronger overall songs. The musicianship has also improved greatly, adding dimension and depth to a rehashed formula, easily separating themselves from the As I Lay Dying’s and Killswitch Engage’s of the world. Melodic yet still heavy, atmospheric without being pretentious, and accessible without any baggage, Say Hello To Tragedy is a career high for Caliban. And like I said before though, anyone who hates Caliban’s earlier material or Caliban just for the hell of it is probably not going to enjoy this. But for open minded people who don’t suck the dicks of douchbaggery and elitism will probably have a different opinion. Overall, Say Hello To Tragedy is a fun and enjoyable album that you and your bros can agree on whether it’s cruising to a strip club, head butting minorities, or going owl hunting. 3.7/5.