Monday, October 26, 2015

Album Review: Caligula's Horse - Bloom

Caligula's Horse made quite the name for themselves with their last album, "The Tide, The Thief And River's End". That record was able to, through its use of progressive metal and folk passages, breathe actual life into the flaccid world of djent music. That's not saying that Caligula's Horse is a djent band, because they share far more in common with progressive music, as illustrated by their move to InsideOut Records, but there were elements of that style in that album, and they were one of the few times when I could actually stomach that sound. So now that they have returned for the follow-up to their breakthrough, and are on a new label, the expectations for "Bloom" are lofty indeed.

We get off to a far more grounded start with the title track, which spends its three minutes introducing us to the record with tender acoustic guitars, crooner melodies, and a guitar solo that could have been on Opeth's "Burden". The pace picks up towards the end, and does a fine enough job of showing us what's to come, but it feels like it needed more time to fully flesh out the idea and make the two parts of the song feel more like a cohesive whole.

You may have already heard "Marigold", the first single from the album. Those Opeth comparisons register again, as the main riff has the angular composition of something from the "Blackwater Park" era. The song tries to build from its soft verses into a clattering crash of melody in the chorus, but it just doesn't come together the way the band is wanting it to. The melody is so bland that it hands in the air, like the grains of pollen hoping to find a (pardon the pun) bloom before gravity crashes it into the ground.

The band gets back to sounding like themselves after that, but even those songs seek like they're missing something. There's nothing wrong with "Firelight" or the nine minute "Dragonfly", which mix the rhythmic riffing with moments of acoustic beauty, but the melodies float over the top too much. There's nothing about them that is particularly engaging, and the frequent forays into falsetto range seem more to showcase the range than integral parts of the melodies.

Moving along, there's solid tracks in the form of "Rust" and "Turntail", but solid isn't enough. With as much great music as there is out there, I need to hear something more than that to get excited, so while I'm not going to say that Caligula's Horse is doing anything wrong, they aren't doing anything that stands out to me either. Their blend of influences might be different than what other progressive bands are pulling from, but the end result needs a bit more, for lack of a better term, 'oomph' in the songwriting.

"Bloom" is one of those albums that I can tell is painstakingly crafted, and is clearly the work of talented musicians, but it just doesn't speak to me. The melodic composition lacks the hooks that I look for, even in progressive music. It's good, and it's pleasant to listen to, but it doesn't leave much of an imprint. And when there are so many other choices out there, that's a mortal sin.

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