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(Inside Out)
Release date: 16th October 2015

Ian Sutherland
ian sutherland

caligulas horse

Australia, land of hard men, hard women and raw, gritty rock and roll. Famous for a live music scene where you have to be good to survive the night at times and as a result has produced the homespun tales of the blue collar working man of Cold Chisel and Jimmy Barnes, the larger than life antics of Michael Hutchence and INXS and the world conquering meat and potatoes rock and roll of AC/DC (for the sake of narrative we'll gloss over the output of anyone named Minogue).

It is no surprise with this background that when musicians from the land down under try their hand in a progressive rock direction it comes out sounding gritty and hard edged.

Caligula's Horse have produced two albums of progressive rock with a Metal edge since their inception in 2011 but now spreading their wings with a new deal with Inside Out and looking further afield, third album 'Bloom' sees them stretching their musical muscles and trying to add a little more light and colour to their sound.

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The title track opens quietly but soon builds up through some nice Floyd-like guitar vibes from Zac Greensill before ending up in a full prog Metal blast from the whole band. Geoff Irish's big double bass drum beats synch nicely with powerful riffing and some full on melodic vocals to tremendous effect and then seamlessly segues into 'Marigold'.

Reminiscent of recent Leprous with the combination of power and grace but with an original stamp all over it this is a superb full throttle yet tasteful slice of modern progressive Metal. Jim Grey's strident, emotional tones stand out as does the superior guitar work from Mr Greensill but the song is the most impressive thing of all.

Elsewhere they diversify their sound to bring us eloquent and beautiful melodies in the jangling guitars and catchy grooves of 'Firelight' and some twisting, turning rhythms in the elegantly constructed ups and downs of 'Turntail'. Of course that Aussie grit and power is there too and they are happy to turn everything up to ten where the song demands it, such as in parts of 'Rust'.

The most striking thing about the album for me though is just how well put together the songs are, flowing easily through different styles and sounds yet retaining a cohesive and compelling whole.

'Dragonfly' starts in gentle acoustic territory before picking up a dreamy melodic vibe which continues with a more urgent feeling and rhythm then dials down a notch with more acoustic grooves. Later it delves into subtle understated vocal effects, some a capella harmonies and a jaunty carousel type mid section before adding in a superb fiery guitar solo and building eventually to a blistering climax atop some falsetto vocals on the way. And that's just one song!

'Daughter of The Mountain' clocks in at nearly eight minutes and would have made a fine, epic album closer with its' atmospheric vibes and huge slabs of melody and fantastic use of dynamics.

Unfortunately for me there is one more tune afterwards in the shape of 'Undergrowth ' which is a song featuring nothing but acoustic guitar and a vocal showing off Grey's strong falsetto skills. I am not that big a fan of falsetto and the low key finish was a bit of an anticlimax for yours truly. An experiment too far in my opinion.

I think prog rock is going through a bit of a golden age at the moment. The likes of Steven Wilson and Transatlantic are playing to packed houses and bands like Leprous, Spock's Beard and Riverside are releasing albums of real quality.

You can add Caligula's Horse to that list as this is another very, very good album accessible to anyone with an interest in things prog or prog Metal or just an open mind to superb musicianship combined with imagination and terrific song writing. I look forward to catching them on the European tour in November.

caligulas horse

Jim Grey - Lead Vocals
Zac Greensill – Guitar
Dave Couper - Bass/Vocals
Geoff Irish – Drums
Sam Vallen - Guitar/Everything Else




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