CALIGULA’S HORSE is an Australian progressive metal band, whose third album Bloom marks what is I believe the first entrance from the bustling Australian progressive scene on the label which owns pretty much the rest of the best bands of that type active today. CALIGULA’S HORSE plays a blend of progressive metal incorporating some alternative rock intonation, as well as occasional djent influence on the massive guitar riffs their songs are built around. If you know the reputation of InsideOut Music, or anything about their lineup, you should know that this is worth checking out. I would even go as far as to say that this is one of the strongest additions to their roster in quite some time
For those familiar with the much acclaimed album Known/Learned, by ARCANE that came out earlier this year, you’ll instantly recognize the vocals of Jim Grey, who serves both bands. He was originally brought in as a session musician for the first CALIGULA’S HORSE album, Moments From the Ephemeral City, which was intended as a solo studio project of guitarist Sam Vallen. The chemistry was strong enough that they decided to turn it into a full band, and recorded a follow-up record, The Tide, The Thief, and River’s End. TTRE was where I became aware of the band, and I fell in love with their tasteful integration of djent riffs into a thoroughly melodic, progressive metal sound.
That second album was a dark, heavy affair, and in an attempt to stay fresh, CALIGULA’S HORSE took Bloom in a lighter direction. There is less of the heavier material this time around, but some of their best ideas came through in the lighter or happier sounding songs like “Firelight” or “Turntail.” “Turntail” in particular has an absolutely addictive, heavily syncopated main riff, and extremely uplifting choruses. You might mistake it for a pop song if you weren’t paying attention to just how much work the band was doing on the rhythms.
Still, CALIGULA’S HORSE is at their best when Sam Vallen is front and center. Not only does he write amazing riffs, but the man can just flat out shred. Guitar playing is really the conduit for everything that makes these songs amazing, and Vallen is among the best. “Rust” and “Marigold” come to mind as the two heaviest songs on the album. The former is the most fully djent-influenced track while the latter is probably the best microcosm of the band’s overall style.
I enjoyed the fact that Bloom seemed to be structured in two acts. The first and last tracks are a bit shorter than the others, and both weren’t structured as traditional songs. Between those were two sets of a heavier song, a lighter song, and a longer composition. My one beef was that the second longer composition, “Daughter of The Mountain” seemed to drag on quite a bit. There’s good material in there, but not enough to keep me invested for eight minutes. Otherwise I enjoyed Bloom more than almost anything that’s been released this year, and I highly recommend you check it out
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Marigold”, Dragonfly”, “Rust”, “Turntail”