ALBUM REVIEW: In Contact – Caligula’s Horse

If you’re a Distorted Sound disciple, you may have noted that we recently published an interview with CALIGULA’S HORSE drummer Josh Griffin. Besides a great snippet of insight into the process of recording and releasing new album In Contact, this article showcased one clear principle; we’re majorly stoked about new music from this band. Frankly undeniable is the fact that this outfit represent sonic progression and innovation in their purest forms, and the unveiling of a successor to the fantastic Bloom has been eagerly awaited. Luckily, time hasn’t quite stood still; its here, we’ve listened to it intently, and all that remains is to regurgitate our humble views.

Whilst boasting everything we know and love from CALIGULA’S HORSE in abundance, In Contact emerges from the traps in a rather different manner to what we heard from Bloom. Kicking things off with the majestic ballad that is Dream The Dead, the band are able to offer every element one would expect from an epic, ‘proggy’ album finale, with the song spanning over eight minutes (the second longest on the record), and setting the tone for the absolute journey that lies ahead. An interesting and ambitious way to open a record. With this opening track then bleeding seamlessly into lead single Will’s Song, we are truly given a poignant display of how this band have progressed, and the statement of ambition that this record represents; if you’ve listened to this song in preparation for the album release, you’ll no doubt have noted that it flaunts some of the heaviest material that CALIGULA’S HORSE have written to date, whilst again remaining in keeping with their signature sound. Combining an eclectic mix of noodling guitar solos, dissonant lead riffs, crisp breakdowns, and signature vocal hooks soaring over the top, CALIGULA’S HORSE are able to make a true impact with the introductory section to this album.

In attempting to review this album, it has proven exceedingly difficult to avoid describing each track individually; each one is truly a gem in its own right, and there is such a range of techniques, styles, and approaches on display, that it would almost make sense to do so. However, in an endeavour to raise the topic of a wider and more significant theme, the subject of balance is one that really stands out. This is something that, over the years, seems to have become a hallmark of the CALIGULA’S HORSE sound and structure, however In Contact really takes this to a new level. Not only has the balance between soft and heavy ever been more clear, with song’s like Will’s Song dramatically contrasting from vocal ballads such as Love Conquers All and Capulet, but the structural balance in itself speaks volumes of the diversity at play here. For the duration of this sixty-two minute effort, the band are able to seamlessly flit between songs that barely surpass the two or three minute mark, and much longer attempts often exceeding six, seven, eight, and even one clocking in at over fifteen minutes long.

Even though In Contact certainly contains a generous pinch of everything we’ve grown to love about this band, one overarching theme that stands out is the feeling that things have still progressed a great deal. That in itself may be the best thing about this record; they seem to have perfectly achieved that elusive balance between entertaining every aspect of the original sound, whilst also moving things forward as much as possible. Something that every band dreams of being able to do with a new release. For example, across the board, much of the instrumentation and production is quite simply an improvement on its former counterpart; the riffs and solos have made a clear jump in writing and technicality, the range of singing has widened considerably, and the overall mix feels much more crisp and polished, allowing the songs to shine in exactly the way they should. Aside from this, the songwriting, thematic content, and general ideas also seem to have matured greatly. A shimmering example of this comes in the form of the eighth track Inertia And The Weapon Of The Wallwhich is an epic, three minute spoken word piece, possibly performed by one of the band members, which then bleeds perfectly into the following track The Cannon’s Mouth.

It goes without saying that some people won’t appreciate this, however it certainly showcases a significant degree of ambition and creativity, and that’s good enough for me. Also worth noting on this topic is the aforementioned fifteen-minute epic, which is entitled Graves, and is the concluding track for the album. Not only is the impressive song length something that represents progression for CALIGULA’S HORSE, but of course the content of the song itself. Throughout this track we are treated to several chorus-like vocal sections, three face-melting guitar solos, another generous serving of the soft and heavy combination, in addition to an album-closing section that feels more perfect than one could ever imagine. At the beginning of the song we are introduced to a simple, yet catchy and epic riff, and for the duration this is subtly introduced as a thematic melody; this in itself is a pleasing feature, but as we enter the last few minutes of the song, this melodic riff is brought back in to act as a stand-out theme for the conclusion, but this time with saxophone layered over it, making for a truly beautiful and epic close to the record. This is something that not only stands out as really well written and catchy, but more importantly, something that marks a great deal of progression and increased maturity for CALIGULA’S HORSE.

To offer some kind of conclusion, this album represents not only a magnificent display of songwriting, technical prowess, and production, but also a sizeable amount of progression and change for CALIGULA’S HORSE. More importantly, they are able to achieve this without even vaguely abandoning any signature aspects of their style, and as mentioned before, this is a flawless formula for any band to apply to new music. To offer sentiments in a nutshell, this album is exactly as progressive, inventive and technical as we want it to be, whilst also managing to be entirely catchy and memorable. In addition, due to the balance of styles and genres at play on this record, it’s hard to doubt that most people will find an element they enjoy. In summary, this album is near-perfect.

Rating: 9/10

In Contact - Caligula's Horse

In Contact is set for release on September 15th via InsideOutMusic.

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