Sunday, September 17, 2017

Album Review: Caligula's Horse - In Contact

A few years back, there was a band that came up through the prog metal ranks that caught a lot of people's attention with their blend of modern and folk sounds. That was Caligula's Horse with the album "The Tide, The Thief, And River's End", which was something that felt new and fresh in prog metal, and set the band up as having the buzz to become something special. Their next album was a large disappointment, to me, because they took away all that made them unique and sounded like a clone of Leprous' stale, boring style. The next record was going to define their arc, and that's where we now find ourselves.

This new record finds Caligula's Horse growing into the change in style they made, feeling more comfortable mixing djent chords and riffs with their melodies. "In Contact" is the album they were trying to make last time, but they weren't yet fully sure how to get there. This is a stunning sounding, well-executed album of profoundly modern prog metal that still manages to have the melodic sensibility of their breakthrough album.

If I can backtrack to that comparison I made earlier, melody is the difference between Caligula's Horse and Leprous. Both are bands with worlds of talent when it comes to executing their ideas, but only one of the bands writes songs that are as concerned with being surface-level engaging as they are with being interesting to the hardcore prog audience. That band is not Leprous.

It sounds perhaps unnecessary for a prog band, but it's vital that Caligula's Horse is able to make their songs work on more than one level, for more than one audience. That's how you grow, and how you eventually become a bigger and bigger name. "In Contact" is the sort of album that can do that for Caligula's Horse. There is plenty in the guitar playing, with the off-kilter riffs and stuttering time signatures, to please the prog crowd, but the songs can also be taken as intricate melodic metal, which opens up a whole new world.

Here's the part where I have to be honest. Is "In Contact" the kind of album that I can easily love and say will be a favorite of mine? No, I can't. I'm not that wedded to progressive metal. What I can say is that I can certainly hear and appreciate what Caligula's Horse has done here. For its aim, "In Contact" is exquisitely performed. It isn't the target I would first shoot for, but that doesn't take away from its success. Caligula's Horse has stepped up their game here, and perhaps found the sound to build their future upon. I know this much; if the choice comes down to Leprous or Caligula's Horse, I'm taking Caligula's Horse every time.

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