“I am convinced,” Nietzche wrote, “that art represents the highest task and the truly metaphysical activity of this life.” Though he wrote this in a preface to his first work, The Birth of Tragedy, he was certainly not referring only to the written word — an art that few can claim more ownership of than him. That preface was written by none other than Richard Wagner, and though Nietzche would sour on him later in life, this profound appreciation for art in a broad sense would not end. The love of aesthetic creation, the belief in its power to affect the heart and erode human differences, is the very core of In Contact, a starry-skied series of extended vignettes on love and revolution, passion and loss, fragility and courage, rain-soaked in the joy of creation.

In Contact plots a far-sighted course from the beginning, curving and spiraling through a storybook landscape of alternative rock, metal, and prog, off the beaten path yet ever pressing fearlessly forward. The weight against which all such albums are judged is Fair to Midland‘s swansong, Arrows and Anchors: a short-haired tornado, whipped up in tears poured out to a bout of equal parts whisky and ritalin. Based only on previous work from Caligula’s Horse, there was no immediate suggestion of In Contact equaling such a masterpiece – I expected only another fun, memorable flourish like Bloom. But with each listen I’ve grown to appreciate this incredibly ambitious, startlingly successful love letter to beauty and compassion even more.

The intertwined narratives of the album, of love, art, and resistance, are laid bare in the dramatic spoken word of “Inertia and the Weapon of the Wall,” but all make recurring surges towards the fore. The bleary-eyed croon of “Capulet” breathes a sigh of devotion across warm organs and a gentile guitar, while “The Hands Are the Hardest1” springs into life cast by a Haken-esque muse. There’s a distinct sound and energy to every song of In Contact, and each piece seems vital – both necessary and alive. But of course there are standouts — the most spectacular of which is the album’s centerpiece “Songs for No One.” The song is every bit a continuation of the sound from Bloom – and it has been perfected. The playful rhythms, angular guitar leads and unforgettable chorus all point towards an undisputed ‘song of the year.’

The passion with which these songs were written shines through in the performances, and the band gives the impression that they went in the studio completely enamored with their material. Sam Vallen’s guitar solos and leads have a sense of exuberance and Josh Griffin’s drumming is equal parts power and joy. But of course, stunningly passionate lyrical delivery from Jim Grey could make you forget all about them. The man’s voice seems categorically captivating and his storytelling binds together a disparate set of stories united, as he says we all are, by their reach. By repeating phrases and themes, he ties songs together into the separate bundles that constitute In Contact‘s four chapters.

Even more spectacular than its melodies or exemplary performances is the sheer humanity of In Contact. It seems to catch every stray sunbeam reflected off of the surface of life and savor their light. Surely we are living in the decaying world of What Passes for Survival, but beyond cognizance and resistance, how can we answer those terrors of life? To put it in a more directly Nietzschean context, what are we to do in a broken world with a dead god? In Contact answers, with all the authority it can muster: love! create! share! sing! It is all any of us can do, and if that seems no solution, even the most resolutely negative among us perhaps will perhaps reconsider when prompted by Freddy himself:

“You oughta learn to laugh, my young friends, if you are hell-bent on remaining pessimists.”


Rating: 4.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Inside Out Music
Websites: caligulashorse.com | facebook.com/caligulashorse
Releases Worldwide: September 22nd, 2017

Show 1 footnote

  1. They really are
Share →
  • Me

    Cradle of Filth review or we loot your offices.

    • Take it all. It’s soiled with the blood ov posers.

      • Me

        Lmao!!

        • Nukenado

          Can you make it to the AMG office?!
          I gave up after the sewer section filled with flying zombies.

          • Show some respect for our probationary writers!

          • Nukenado

            Okay, the sewer section where the probationary writers “hang out.”
            That was br00tal though. Right after the nu-metal hallway. I thought it was marked “newbie entrance”?

          • Me

            Nope. I’m old and fat with a bum knee. I think they called my bluff.

    • My review is: it’s really good.

      That being said, I’ve liked every CoF album from Midian onwards except Manticore…

      • Me

        I think I’m the only person on Earth that didn’t like Midian.
        Loved Dusk, Cruelty, Damnation, Hammer and the new one. The rest was hit and miss.

        • Yeah, fair enough. I think Godspeed on the Devil’s Thunder is actually my favourite of theirs…

          • Me

            Cruelty will always be mine.

          • It certainly has the best cover art!

        • Levly

          Glad to see somebody else likes Damnation, I seem to see a lot of hate for it online and I just can’t understand why. It might be my favorite record of theirs.
          But yes, this new one is great, a confirmation that CoF are back on top after the equally good Hammer. This one might even be a bit above.

  • Goldicot

    I need trigger warnings for mentions of Fair To Midland. My heart can’t take it.

  • welyyt

    Alright, but is it brutal enough?

  • The cover art for this album looks like it could have been for a “Yes” album from the late 70s/early 80s! The embedded track is excellent as well!

  • Dr. Wvrm

    Well said, Kronos. I came into this album expecting nothing and came away from it floored. It’s a beautiful mix of Haken, Soen, and Leprous, but manages to remain its own marvelous beast. Year end stuff for sure.

    • Lithophyte

      Speaking of Haken, I have just come home from their first gig ever in our fine city. Brilliant stuff! The Horse are almost local, so they are dropping by in a month or so’s time.

      • Nukenado

        You lucky Aussies :(

  • Lithophyte

    If the guitars are gentile, are the organs Jewish? Are the hands Roman? Are the urns Greek? Caligula was hoarse, so at least that’s settled. So many questions still to answer …

  • Eli Valcik

    Am I the only one who finds it weird that the church in the cover art isn’t burned down?

    • Nukenado

      Ah, but is it a church?

      • That’s the real question.

    • Strapping Old Fart

      Yeah, that’s iffy.

  • Equilux

    I do not know guys…I love CH, but this seems overrated to me. Bloom was catchy and emotional as hell, this one leaves me completely cold, unfortunately, no real hooks…But yep, everyone has his own opinion.

    PS: Inertia and the Weapon of the Wall is the most useless and pseudo-artsy “track” this side of Big|Brave.

    • Nukenado

      I respectfully disagree.
      Hooks are very subjective, so I won’t argue with you on that (I think Igorrr is a massive hook-filled poppy band, so I have shit taste in hooks)
      However, I don’t believe Inertia and the Weapon of the Wall to be “useless and pseudo-artsy”.
      CA obviously knew what they were doing when they put it as a seperate track from the rest of the album. It’s an interlude, and if they really wanted to go artsy, they would have included in some other track.
      Second… Big|Brave dealt in repetition and minimalism. In contrast, Grey’s delivery is emotional, the track has sections, and it’s just shy of 3 minutes.
      Third, I think it’s a nice lead into “The Cannon’s Mouth”, which is a intense song that ramps up the intensity right at the beginning. The end of “…Weapon of the Wall” also ramps up in its delivery, going almost for an angry approach that fits well with the opening guitars of “The Cannon’s Mouth”.

      Now if there’s one thing I didn’t like about Bloom, it was that “Bloom” and “Marigold” were two seperate tracks, even though they were obviously meant to be together :3

      But hey, this is a big departure from Bloom’s style. But isn’t that what prog should be? Different and experimental!

  • I enjoyed this album, but didn’t expect to see it at a 4.5! :-D

  • mindbleach

    I have to say after what felt like an unending wave of shit and mediocrity September seems like it’s starting to go out with a bit of a bang. This is ace, I love me some Fair to Midland.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    I found it good, if a bit soft. I goes hard sometimes but most of the album is rather… “pillow-y”. Also, as much as I liked the poem and its delivery, I’m probably going to start skipping it in future listens. Anathema’s Hope poem this is not.

    Good album nonetheless.

    • Dethjesta

      That’s Roy Harper’s poem.

      And yes, the Hope poem is better.

  • Lithophyte

    And I apologise for repeatedly bombing this review but I have listened to the embedded track – fantastic – and saw the horse do one or two new tracks at a gig earlier this year. They were well received. The world the way it is, needs this kind of art, so thanks Kronos for the review. Beautifully put.

    These are desperate times (for the vulnerable), so it’s important to lift everything from the bottom up. Art, empathy and compassion can do that.

    • Nukenado

      Speaking of good music for shitty times, try Mgla.

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    YES!
    Great album!
    And good buds of Voyager .
    Some great proggy bands coming out of Australia these days.
    The spoken word piece is actually really cool too which makes a change.

    • GardensTale

      I hadn’t listened to CH before this, and Voyager came to mind immediately, although the latter is a bit chunkier and more straightforward.

      • HeavyMetalHamster

        Voyager definitely have an insane knack for earworm melodies. CH’s songs are just as good but I agree they are less obvious on first spin.
        Although Songs For No One is a massive exception. ….that chorus is mammoth.

        • GardensTale

          It’s a fantastic track, frontrunner for SotY. The only problem might be by how much it outstrips the surrounding tracks!

  • Dethjesta

    Great review, best Caligula’s Horse album yet.

  • Nate Sweet

    I’ve been meaning to check these guys out for a while! Tagging haken is a surefire way to get me to listen.
    Question: Is this a good album to start with or should I pick a different one as my introduction?

    • Dethjesta

      I think this is the best they’ve made so far but Bloom is also a very good album and wouldn’t be a bad introduction. Either or both back to back.

    • Luke Walden

      Listen to The Tide, The Thief, and River’s End. The album is a masterpiece, and In Contact only expands upon it.

  • David D.

    Album of the year material hands down, if only for Songs For No One. Everything else is spectacular, but Songs is the most compelling track I’ve heard in a really long time.

  • Planex

    So many prog metal bands I haven’t heard of releasing good stuff lately. This and Cormorant are awesome.

  • Apple Tree

    in class right now, but im in a super prog rock-y mood today. super excited for listening to this when i get the chance

    • Kronos

      Pay attention!

  • GardensTale

    Excellent album, although the soft tracks tend to leave me a little cold. “Songs for No One” alone more than makes up for it though. What a fantastic track.

  • Xenonn

    After reading the reviews and then looking at the scores of this and Archspire, I feel like the numbers got switched.

    “The Lucid Collective may have made Archspire‘s career, but Relentless Mutation is the album that will make their legacy… But beyond their competency, it’s the innovation of the band’s sound that’s sure to keep Relentless Mutation spinning for years to come.” = 4.0.

    I don’t want to be too harsh of a critic of Kronos, as he is my favorite reviewer on this site, but I do feel a bit robbed on this review. A 4.5 review with only one paragraph that really describes the music in any specific manner. Maybe I missed the point, but this reads to me as “This is great, go try it for yourself.”

    On a side note, anyone new to AMG this month must think the average review around here is a 4.0.

    • Kronos

      I appreciate the love and constructive criticism – some of the most silent tips I’ve ever gotten have been comments from readers. I think you are right that I was a bit heavy on the exposition for this one. As for the scores, the mantra of “when in doubt, round down” took hold on both of these records. I nearly have this one a 5 (I shudder to think what would befall me if I gave out two perfect scores in a span of a few months) but there are some little bits of the album that have me pause. That being said, I think the reason that I wrote this review this way was because it was such an emotionally effective record for me; it’s easy to write a lot of descriptive text about specific passages in a record when they impress on a technical level (as does Archspire’s output) but it’s sometimes more difficult to put into words how a song affects the emotions. As such, I tried to write this one such that my output reflected my emotional response, especially when I got the idea to bookend with the quotes. But I think it did get too literary.
      On Archspire, I think it’s a definite 4.0+, but again, I didn’t write think a 4.5 was the way to go. Though considering the quality, I might find in the future that I underrated it. With all of the “Contrite Metal Guy” posts going up, I have been reassessing how I think about scoring and I found about a half dozen albums that I think I have a half point too much in retrospect. I have convinced myself to be a bit more conservative.

      Thank you for your kind words and support; these kinds of things keep me writing.

      • Nukenado

        ♥Looking forward to your Contrite Metal Guy post.
        But hey, if Mark Z hasn’t been executed for Astronoid and King Apathy both getting 5.0s, you’ll probably be fine.

        • John

          Haha but dude that Astronoid album was awesome. Different strokes.

          • Nukenado

            Yeah. Just sayin’.

        • Philip Pledger

          Astronoid technically didn’t get a numeric score though as it was a TYMHM. That’s probably what’s kept his head on his shoulders.

          • Nukenado

            I mean, if it wasn’t a 5.0, then Mark would probably be in bigger trouble due to instant contrition.

      • 4 is a solid score for Relentless Mutation. Brilliant record, but the vocals hold that band back, for me. Just as well the instruments are doing backflips to make up for it. ;-)

  • Anarchist

    Vocalist kinda reminds me of a local band from back home called ‘The Body Politic’. This guy has much higher highs though.

    • Kronos

      That’s a good band name.

  • Nukenado

    If losing his brutality wasn’t enough, Kronos has been possesed by Diabolus and engaged in a metaphysical review.
    But it’s Caligula’s Horse so I’ll just enjoy instead.
    (Dream the Dead is one hell of an opener.)

    • Kronos

      You just wait until TYMHM season, buddy. There will be plenty of brutality to go around.

      • Nukenado

        Hell yeah! Btw, as someone who loves poetry, Inertia and The Weapon of the Wall is the best spoken word section I’ve heard in music.
        But I will be checking out Anathema’s Hope posthaste.

        • Kronos

          I am of the same opinion, I think Inertia is a highlight of the album.

          • Nukenado

            A well done example of an intro track.

  • Nukenado

    The theme of this album feels like Mgla w/ Prozac.

  • John

    Yes! Finally the Caligula’s Horse review, I was waiting for it :) I absolutely love this band and this is another fantastic album. I needed this after Leprous disappointed me.

  • Scarymother

    It’s a good album and the band is masterful at the sound they’ve created, but that spoken word track is horrible. It breaks the flow of the album’s music… it’s basically pretentious wankery.

    I listened to that track once (and initially couldn’t tell what was going on) and I doubt I’ll ever listen to it again.

    • Luke Walden

      Yeah I have a hard time listening to it as well. The only reason I think it pays off in any way is because The Cannon’s Mouth proceeds to just kick so much ass.

      • Scarymother

        TCM works just as well without the entree of self-love.

        • Luke Walden

          Indeed it does.

  • Luca Popescu

    Director: So what do you guys want in this music video?

    Band: Basically Super Mario Bros at the beach, but Mario and Peach save Luigi.

    Director: Say no more…
    But in all seriousness this is very good, will definitely listen to the rest of the album.

  • Verses of “The Cannon’s Mouth” sound very, very familiar. Please somebody tell me what it is, it’s killing me.

    • lrn2swim

      Duuuuuude, me too. Been going through song after song for the last hour trying to figure it out. Driving me crazy!

  • I’m definitely going to hear all of this album on Spotify at some point. It’s getting a lot of praise and it does seem like it could be my cup of tea to some extent.

    What originally attracted me to this album was actually that I love the cover artwork.

    Having heard the embedded track, there’s two things I’m not entirely sold on yet: 1) The vocals are allright, but I feel like his voice is sort of thin and the singing a bit flat at times. 2) The lead guitarist could use some more personality in his soloing. It seems pretty typical for the style, although it sounds fine.

    Having trouble seeing how this song could in any way be the song of the year, but I’ll give it a few more spins.

  • Man, progressive rock art having a door in the middle of nowhere is the equivalent of having a skull on your heavy metal album cover…

  • Dagoth_RAC

    This is gorgeous. Not a word I normally associate with metal, but this is truly beautiful music. And I like the spoken word track! Especially the way the last line, “And the writing on the wall you love was hand-penned by the censor, so spit in the cannon’s mouth and tell him ink sent you!” is immediately followed by a great song called … “The Cannon’s Mouth”.

    • It’s funny how the spoken word track has people so divided. And damn you for using the word gorgeous!

      • Nag Dammit

        It’s well done to mine ear, and I detest spoken word songs. The guy can act that’s for sure. Album is also growing on me. Seems more consistent than Bloom and has much better leads. Only irksome bits are the djenty chugs but I can forgive them the odd chug. Reminds me of Serdce, without the crazy wide use of instruments.

    • Kronos

      You’ll find many more examples of this in the album of you party attention. One of its greatest successes is how well all of the songs tie to those around them.

    • PeskAD

      Man I love the attitude in that final line. “.. AND TELL ‘EM INK SENTCHA!” *cue dope intro of Cannon’s Mouth*

  • I was going to use the word gorgeous but someone else beat me to it. There’s something about this that I can’t quite place. I like my metal and rock with to have beauty to it, the best have that. They didn’t need to add strings or anything, they just wrote beautiful music with a good voice on top of it. I need to hear the rest of this album. I did not expect a band named Caligula’s Horse to sound like this.

    • Kronos

      Take that, Leprous and your pretentious string arrangements!

      • Don’t get me wrong, when done well strings are great. There just seems to be a lot of groups using it endlessly and not very well.

        More importantly than that, though, is this has that quality that you definitely pointed out. There was a time when I used to get that emotional connection to Dream Theater (Images and Words) before they became strictly Wankfest Incorporated. Use any band that you connected to in place of them but the point is they had great skill both technically and also in their ability to write songs that were better than just the sheer number of notes or odd time signatures. They wrote beautiful metal that was focused on heart.

        • Sean Coriston

          I couldn’t agree more about dream theater. I was heavily involved with the portnoy site and distributing bootlegs in the days before mp3 haha, but everything after m2 was just kinda soulless…

      • I haven’t been on the site consistently lately and I just looked up the Leprous review. I haven’t listened to Leprous yet but now I get the reference. I am going to leave the hall now in shame out of lack of being dedicated enough to read every review religiously as I did previously.

  • Levly

    A review that opens with references to Nietzche and Wagner can only be brilliant, and indeed it is. Your best review yet IMHO along with the recent Archspire one, congratulations :D!
    As for the music, this record grows on me with each listen and I’ll probably end up loving it as much or more as the last two of theirs, which were both already great. Truly an elite band, up there with Voyager, Haken, Soen, Leprous, Anubis Gate and Anciients as the crème de la crème of modern Prog Metal.

    Also, that Fair to Midland album is indeed quite nice, so thanks for the recommendation.

    • Kronos

      Thanks for the kind words, enjoy Arrows and Anchors, it is a rare gem.

      • AgonMcDuck

        In a just world, Fair to Midland would still be making music together and not worrying about financial constraints. ;__;

  • Absolomb

    Great review Kronos. They’ve managed to blend the eye for melody from Bloom with the complexity and progressiveness found on The Thief to create their most satisfying release to date. Top shelf material.

  • Innit Bartender

    And yet, despite all the goodness, still up there in the Worst Name Ever for a Band list… at least to me, I’m Italian so Caligula doesn’t sound very exotic to my imagination….

    • sir_c

      Try Gazpacho for a band name.
      Oh wait…

      • Innit Bartender

        HA! Good call! Indeed, another great band with a terrible monicker…

    • Dymanic

      Caligula Sauce? Sounds tasty to me.

    • Nukenado

      Incitatus would be better.

  • Serjien

    Songs for No One is my song of the year, no questions asked! What an amazing song. And the review is an awesome piece of writing. Great job Kronos!

    • Kronos

      Thanks!

  • lrn2swim

    Lead guitar on this album remind me of the band Enchant. That’s awesome.

  • AgonMcDuck

    This might very well be my favorite prog release since Shrine of New Generation Slaves. So fucking good. How am I supposed to make my year-end list now? :(

    • Kronos

      Put this out front

  • FelixtheMetalcat

    Having only been a very casual fan of this band over the past few years, I have pretty much enjoyed what I have heard from them. The embedded track here is quite nice, displaying beauty, power, some nice tempo changes and some outstanding guitar work. If this is a sampling of what the rest of the album is I’m on board based on the backing review. It appears this is the year I need to get off my ass & buy some Caligula’s Horse !

    • PeskAD

      I’m new to Caligula’s Horse but The Contortionist was immediately on the tip of my tongue, soundscape-wise. Glad I wasn’t out to lunch on that one. I couldn’t get into Clairvoyant to save my life. I can’t say if that’s because it’s insubstantial or because it’s not nearly as immediate as Language was. It’s seriously airy, ephemeral stuff.

  • Jack Outjers

    Songs for No One has the best intro I heard in a long time.

  • A Feed From Cloud Mountain

    I feel like I should like these guys and feel pretty dismayed that I’m immediately turned off by the vocalist and have no desire to check out their discography, and yet I can’t imagine that music having any other vocalist. It’s a weird position to be in. Also kind of disappointing to not see a Clairvoyant review, as I was looking forward to the discussion to gauge whether it’s worth it (I’m guessing they didn’t send a promo).

    • PeskAD

      I’m new to Caligula’s Horse but The Contortionist was immediately on the tip of my tongue, soundscape-wise. Glad I wasn’t out to lunch on that one. I couldn’t get into Clairvoyant to save my life. I can’t say if that’s because it’s insubstantial or because it’s not nearly as immediate as Language was. It’s seriously airy, ephemeral stuff.

      • A Feed From Cloud Mountain

        Damn, that’s what I was worried about too, being a huge fan of Language. I’m all for mixing up your sound but abandoning entire themes completely and suddenly tends to turn me off. See also: Opeth. Also the reason why I’ll be very careful about BTBAM’s new release whenever that releases, probably not till Q1 ’18.

        • PeskAD

          Language was my shit as well! That and Level 3 have been mainstays on the ‘ol iPod for years! It’s not a significant change in style from Language by any means, but it’s sort of analogous to that last notch of brightness adjusting on a new video game where the logo/image disappears outright from the monitor. They went just one brightness notch too far for my tastes and lost me!

  • I’ve always really like Caligula’s Horse since their debut. But this one, man oh man. It’s just perfect!

  • PeskAD

    If it’s not in a posh accent is it even spoken word? It smacks of Slice the Cake’s phenomenal spoken word peppered throughout Odyssey to the West. Sick review, Kronos! *DJ Khaled voice* another one!

  • Ironwood_Druid

    This music has an ineffable quality. As you point out, every song has character and serves a purpose in the overall tapestry. Specifically, though, it strikes me that everything has a deliberate quality to it that necessitates repeated listens just to appreciate the nuance of songwriting that I think I probably haven’t really felt since Sleep at the Edge of the Earth.

  • Martin L

    Way too poppy and sappy. Barely worth a 2.5. This cheese isn’t going to age well.

  • Ntpc

    This is not metal. Like the artwork but the music sucks

  • Lemonitos

    Seems like one of those bands that inexplicably I can’t get around to like…

  • Patrick Bitencourt

    Dead God? Man,Nietzsche said that Christianism was the worst thing about our western society because protect the weak,the poor,the ill. So,if you are weak,poor or ill,or your mama or other relatives are,they shall perish to Nietzsche,you are messing with the superman you know? This is your genious man,a person who will claim to your death on those circunstances. Ah, he was the favorite of Hitler.

  • Paul McGuire

    I kept going through this for the guitar work. There is some interesting stuff there. But the problem I have is the vocals. I can’t stand the guy’s voice and I also can’t understand half of what he is saying. If this is supposed to have such a positive message I can’t tell what it is. A shame because they seem to have some great writing for the guitars here.