Review Summary: So there are local bands that can produce some absolutely classic music, too bad they won't be 'local' for much longer.
Moments from Ephemeral City
It is very rare that I will find a local act with an album that I love so much I can listen to more than a few times. A year later, as I'm rapidly scrolling through my iPod, I find that every time I will still stop in the C category as I spot Caligula's Horse. The only thing that I'm disappointed about when I press on that magical name, is that my iPod gives me the choice between only two albums, instead of a catalogue so large, Woolworths would go for the 15% off. Moments from Ephemeral City is a two man project spearheaded by Sam Vallen the songwriter, lyricist, instrumentalist and producer, featuring the lyricist and vocalist Jim Grey.
Moments opens with the single “The City Has No Empathy (Your Sentimental Lie)”, a vastly melodic song with some very long, very harmonic chord progressions, depicting a colourful and majestic city. City is a song rife with hooky vocal and instrumental melodies. The breakdown at the end builds the song to a huge, epic crescendo as vocal harmonies create chaos and gives the song a very anthemic-like quality. Structurally speaking, City has the most pop-like structure, and as Jim Grey says “it was the last song written for the album, and as it is one of the only full collaborations between us [Sam Vallen] on the album, I feel it connects the most with the audience.”
After City comes “Silence”, a slow ballad which unravels into a powerful, dynamic vocal performance from Jim and even Sam on backing vocals. The song seems to ebb and flow in the beginning as the very thinly textured verses seem to cruise along, broken up by heavy choruses. Then as the song takes off into the robotic sounding solo, the song lifts in the double time part with the stagnated rhythm guitar giving movement to the section. The next song “Singularity” is an instrumental song, with a few recurring lead guitar themes from Vallen; a musical trait I find quite rare in guitarists these days. Singularity is a great song because of the intelligent uses of dynamic changes, structuring ideas and theme and variation sections. This song represents Vallen's guitar style perfectly in terms of lead guitar, his performance is a mixture of both tasteful melodic ideas mixed with some Vai-like shredding.
The standout track on Moments for me is “Alone in the World”, an 11 minute epic that starts in one place, then when it's GPS freaks out, it ends up in another country. Alone bursts straight into a heavy djent section and quickly ducks down in the verses where Grey's vocals set the mood of the song and with Vallen's effective vocal production creates a convincingly lonely sound from Grey. The guitar solo in this song can only be explained by listening to it, with a combination of some classic 80s metal solos into a sweeping, torrent of notes. As the song dies down, Jim's vocals again portray a sense of loneliness and as the final ending of the ensues, the mood is lifted again with an emotional and climactic solo from Vallen.
“Ephemera” is a really nice break in the album. It's a short acoustic composition with a tasteful, emotionally invested lead guitar piece. The vocals are all performed by Vallen creating a very ambient sound. Ephemera is an effective bridging track in to the piano introduction for “Equally Flawed”. Again, Vallen's intuitive use of dynamics to bring the song down to nothing gives some great separation between sections. Grey's phenomenal vocalisation in Equally Flawed gives the song a boost in power, you can feel Grey's emotional investment as he achieves some amazing timbres in his voice. The last song “Calliope's Son (Don't Ever Look Back)”, is an epic instrumental track and differs greatly from Singularity in that the song focuses a lot more on the rhythmic and harmonic aspects rather than Singularity. Calliope's Son is hugely heavy, with some very djenty riffs and sub drops that would make you never eat Subway again. Sam's songwriting style which often includes not staying in the same mood for an entire song results in it eventuating into another Caligula style jam for the last few minutes.
Moments from Ephemeral City is an album truly unique with a timelessness to it. Vallen's guitar/songwriting style, spotless production along with Grey's fitting vocal sound has produced an almost perfect progressive metal album. It marks the start of Caligula's Horse and gives way for the band to develop musically, as I know they will.