Review Summary: On the trot.
With just how “The Tempest” anchors the latest effort from Brisbane progressive musicians, Caligula’s Horse it’s little to no wonder just how the band has managed to cultivate such an intensely loyal fan base. Hyperbole? Maybe just a little—but when you consider the reception to the group’s debut piece, Moments from Ephemeral City
, which was filled to the brim with dynamic vocal changes and infectious melodies (see: “The City Has No Empathy (Your Sentimental Lie)” and ”Alone In The World") Caligula’s Horse identified quickly as a rising act within the local scene. More recently, the band’s 2017 piece was a massively adventurous conceptual undertaking, showcasing a side of the band’s songwriting at a delivering their standard for quality songwriting and dialling it up another level. For those following this little Australian band, In Contact
became the summit, the ultimate expression of what the progressive music could be in the modern era. Ultimately, it left some doubt in what Caligula’s Horse could offer moving forward and whether or not the group could achieve the hype left by its predecessor.
The more bombastic beginnings found in “The Tempest” define the very essence of the music that follows. A backbone of catchy riff gymnastics sit adjacent to Jim Grey’s meticulous, soaring vocals. It’s this compositional contrast that quickly identifies the sum of all Caligula’s Horse’s parts. Verses of light falsetto and near spoken word stand above a well mixed instrumental portrait. Grey’s vocal dexterity lends itself to an extended dynamic range while the twangy rumble of Dale Prinsse’s bass lines bounce between the rhythmic pull of Adrian Goleby’s headbanging guitar passages and the ever present snare that centres Josh Griffin’s flamboyant cymbal splashes. Yet, the flourishes that strobe through Rise Radiant
’s length are born from Sam Vallen’s fingertips which range from the sparkly little notes within “The Tempest” and the lush, soaring guitar solos that burst out of the Caligula’s Horse canvas like lightning from a cloud. Rise Radiant
hurtles through moments of lunging rhythms and soaring major melodies, sticking close to the maturing, yet slowly evolving foundation found in the debut.
Some lighter moments of misstep occur in the band’s “less is more” approach to their music and “Slow Violence” happens to be one example of this instance. Grey’s vocals syncopate against the grain of djent-y, bouncy rhythms which hampers (if only slightly) the inflection and impact of the music itself. It’s thankful, perhaps, that the track’s latter half surges strongly—reaffirming the band’s grip on modern progressive music by wrapping uplifting melodies around lush harmonies and subtle vocal hooks. “Salt” takes a rather cinematic approach, offering minimalistic phrases broken by larger than life riff sections, but this is Grey’s vocal centre point. Because of this, it’s possible that “Salt” could very well become a slow-burning grower, accentuated by an expressive guitar solo. In most places, Rise Radiant
seems massive, but remains highly digestible within its own sonic palette. The album’s run-time just
falls short of fifty minutes and while “The Ascent” finalises the record in an almost eleven minute display of virtuosity, the journey itself never outstays or drags. “Resonate” is similarly sweet, offering a twinkly reprise from the dynamic musical display in “Salt” or the atmospheric climb in “Oceanrise”. Even as the listener reaches the album’s finale, Caligula’s Horse’s penchant for writing ten minute (plus) roller coasters comes into the fray. “The Ascent” further proves the staying power of a band taking a formula and adapting it to whatever current musical direction they follow.
doesn’t have the same reach on concept when compared to its predecessor, but it does have the momentum. Largely, Caligula’s Horse continues to release brilliant pieces of crafted melody, without the worry of a mid-career slump. Despite the album’s direct comparisons with In Contact
(which should be expected considering the reach of that particular record), Rise Radiant
will not see the same peaks—but when the listener climbs up “The Ascent”, they’ll be pretty close.