Caligula's Horse - BloomCaligula’s Horse is one of those bands I managed to get out in front of because of my Angry Metal Father-in-Law. Turns out that a guy who owns every cool record since 1975 is still on the hunt for great music—and the more obscure the better—so he has his ear to the ground in the progressive metal scene in a way that constitutes a second job. He’s fond of things that are djenty—being a drummer and a lifelong prog fan—and a couple years ago he introduced me to Caligula’s Horse. I promptly picked up The Tide, the Thief, and River’s End, and was impressed by its depth, complexity and feel. I had not heard that they had been signed by InsideOut Music until I received Bloom in my email. So why no review until now? Unfortunately, life happened and the review slipped, and slipped, and slipped… But I’m here to finish what I started and to let you on to a great record we missed in October.

Bloom reminds me of this new wave of progressive metal and rock in a post-90s world. No longer do bands try to ape Dream Theatre; rather, they’re loaded for bear with fat bass, groove-laden drums, and beefy chug that we never would have heard from the noodly prog of the 1980s. Caligula’s Horse lands in the HakenSoen, and Leprous box and are a meaningful addition to this pantheon of new prog heroes. The song-writing is smart and works perfectly with Jim Grey’s cherubic cleans. While Grey doesn’t have an extremely distinctive voice—in fact, he at times really reminds me of a more refined version of Haken‘s Ross Jennings—his tone and delivery is as smooth as a baby’s bum. Grey also differentiates Caligula’s Horse from its more djenty contemporaries by not sounding like a little boy; instead showing off range and power more akin to metal vocalists than pop punk singers.

Of their comparative peers, Caligula’s Horse is probably the least ostentatiously progressive, but what they have in spades is cohesive songwriting. They write slick tracks, binding heaviness and borderline tech (“Marigold”) with expansive melancholy (“Dragonfly”). They can knock out tracks that I wouldn’t be surprised to hear on the radio (“Rust” – my least favorite on the album) or extremely epic and catchy choruses (“Turntail”), but songs like “Daughter of the Mountain” and “Firelight” show off their progressive credentials. Even closing anthem “Undergrowth” pretty much convinced me that I’d purchase an acoustic record written by these gentlemen. The variety of styles and the ease with which the band moves between them demonstrates a love for, and mastery of, varied influences and styles. Such twists and turns call to mind bands like The Dear HunterKatatonia, or even Swedish gladprog Kaipa.

Caligula's Horse 2015

If there’s one downside here, I think it’s that Bloom is less varied in its writing than its predecessor. Certain quotes or melodies, phrasing and tone can make Bloom seem repetitive. And while Grey is a dynamic singer, one can get the sense he thinks a song isn’t a good song unless he’s used every last octave in his range. But since this record is littered with excellent moments, stellar performances from all the musicians—once again putting on display the immense talent that seems to be cropping up in the Australian scene—and only a single misstep in “Burn,” this nagging sense of repetition is merely background noise.

If you’re still looking for great prog you missed in 2015, look no further than Caligula’s Horse. For older fans and djentlemen Bloom is quite a bit less chunky and lilting than its predecessor. But for me there was no dissonance at all with my expectations, with Bloom sounding like a Caligula’s Horse record. Bloom retains the tone, even if it is less techy and less obvious to categorize via its production.1 Having been signed to InsideOut, I look forward to watching these guys break into the consciousness of the prog and metal world, and Bloom is a great first step.

Caligula’s Horse – Bloom, tracks to check: 

“Dragonfly,” “Daughter of the Mountain,” and “Marigold” (which is like SotY material—check out this amazing live version before it gets taken down)

Show 1 footnote

  1. It has a DR6 like its predecessor, and I’m fairly certain the new one is produced by guitarist Vallen (but I can’t find that information anywhere, so correct me if I’m wrong). This record doesn’t sound as ‘scene’, though. It has a more natural sound, even if it is quite loud and sounds like most major label when it lands on the chuggy side.

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  • André Snyde Lopes

    What about Gazpacho?

    • El_Cuervo

      ehhhhhhh. It’s alright but nothing on Demon.

      • André Snyde Lopes

        Damn…

        Jokes aside, Demon was superb.

        • El_Cuervo

          I like Demon now more than I did last year (it already made 6 on my 2014 list!).

          A friend ripped me the vinyl version – dat vinyl mix and master doe – and the higher quality that affords makes all the difference in the world. It’s such a good album.

          I dunno, I listened to Molok a few times but it didn’t grab me. Less atmospheric for sure.

          • CD version of Demon is still fucking DR11 and it sounds amazing to me, you whiner.

            Also, Molok is coming, but it’s not Demon.

    • On its way.

  • You wot m8?

    The vocals remind me of A Perfect Circle a lot, in that they are soft, yet effective and retain power despite their lack of brutality.

    Watched that live performance. Besides the drunk idiots yelling through half the first song, it was pretty damn excellent.

    • Makes me wanna see them live. Really, really good from the looks of it.

      • You wot m8?

        I was pleasantly surprised by the audio quality in that live performance. 90% of the live stuff you find on YouTube is so washed-out by people’s shitty phone mics that you can barely hear the music. The quality wasn’t amazing by any means, but it wasn’t terrible either.

        • The screaming lady sounds like she’s not well. But the sound was really good, which is why I wanted to link it. I think seeing the band perform that live made me like it even more. Great feel, and the live sound breathes more than the studio sound. Sounds great.

      • They opened for OPETH in Brisbane in 2015.

        It was a good gig.

    • sssgadget

      Vocals reminded me of Haken.

      • You wot m8?

        Wouldn’t have ever thought to drawn that comparison. Never. Never-ever. Ever.

        Unless, you know, I had read the review…
        Or ever listened to Haken.
        Breh.

    • robpal

      Well, if you like Maynard’s vocals (who doesn’t?), Puscifer released an album in October.

      • You wot m8?

        Thanks, I’ll have to take a look at it.

  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    Best record of 2015 by a band named after a senator by far. Although I think he preferred Incitatus…

  • Lasse Momme

    Agreed, Marigold is fucking incredible song, one of the best of the year for sure but the Album just didn’t grab me in the same way a lot of other records did this year.

    I look back at just the past 3 months and it is literally fucking peppered with amazing songs and records and while Marigold is a standout, the rest of Bloom just doesn’t hang, neither in the context of itself as a contained piece of art or as a collection of songs.

    btw, I tried to sign up for you guys’ forum but I never got the email verification? is there any way you guys can help on that end?

  • Kyle Elliott

    Excellent record. Thank you for exposing me to it. Definitely get that haken/leprous vibe with just the right amount of djent and prog

  • Guillotine of Papal Crowns

    I get that Angry Metal Father-In-Law reads AMG and thinks “Tsk, these kids nowadays… I WAS LISTENING TO [insert awesome band here] YEARS AGO… Angry Metal Son-In-Law GET TO THE KEYBOARD”

    My father only thinks “What´s that fucking noise coming from upstairs?” and that´s and improvement from years ago xD

  • Grawmps

    Bloom’s lack of variety pretty much made it impossible for it to stack up to all the other great metal/rock releases I’ve heard this year, especially since I’ve already heard Jim Grey on Arcane’s Known/Learned back in January. That sucker may have been a double album, but it had better songs all throughout too.

    • Feytalist

      Known/Learned is pretty far up my albums of the year list. Yeah, it’s long, but it’s so, so good.

      His voice is just so good. It’s a large part of the reason I’m intending on getting Bloom as well.

  • Diego Molero

    Glad you DO have hear this. I was very surprise that you haven´t review this one yet, such a great album. Agree whit everything you said except with Rust, my favorite song on the album, don´t know why you dont like it

    • Meh, blues rock meets something that’s far too close to radio rock = ugh.

      • Diego Molero

        I think all the songs in the album all in some way radio friendly, a lot of people who don´t like metal or even rock can like this (doesn´t mean it isn´t seriously great)

  • MelbCro

    A prog metal review that mentions Dream Theater, never seen that before. You my good sir are Lazy Metal Guy.

    • He also mentioned Soen, Leprous, and Haken too Lazy Metal Commenter! :-p

      • MelbCro

        I’m not gonna deny it man, I do enjoy being lazy

      • And Kaipa. Jesus, I even invented a genre type for that band: “gladprog.”

    • No, a prog review that takes SHOTS at Dream Theater. Even lazier than accused.

      I also fucking mention KAIPA, so eat it.

  • robpal

    Great record, I’ve listened to it many, many times this year and will surely be in my year-ending list. Also, both Grey and Greensill have side-bands (Arcane and Opus Of A Machine) which are worth checking out.

  • This review is completely invalid. I quote from the official AMG handbook, “Any review of a record whose band name and/or album title has the word “horse” in it is ***REQUIRED*** to have an accompanying promo picture of Robocop riding a magical unicorn on a rainbow.”

    I’m not even a staffer and I know this. Golly.

    • Ah, but you forget: as Angry Metal Guy, I am not actually subject to my own rules. Because I’m Angry fucking Metal Guy!

      • Tis true, tis true.

        • It’s like the weird rule that isn’t a rule and therefore I have to follow it, but since I’m Angry Metal Guy I don’t have to follow it and then the robot’s head explodes, see?

  • Reese Burns

    I think I’m in romantic love with this album.