On the day of the full release of their tenth album, Caliban can survey their immediate surroundings and feel great pride in what they’ve accomplished. The genre which they were born into, kicking and screaming, is not a very forgiving one. Just ask any of the bands that started at the same time. They’ll tell you. Nearly two decades in and this band refuse to roll over and show their vulnerable spots, catching few off guard but entertaining many on Gravity. When something works, it makes sense to keep it well greased and effective; “…don’t fix it” etc. It makes for a short, calm journey down the safe road. It may not be totally captivating, but it’s reliable and pleasurably comfortable.
As alluded to earlier, Caliban are the standard bearers for professionally executed European metalcore. Sure, their sound has lost some of the maniacal edge of Vent (they’ll forever be trying to snap as sharply as on The Opposite From Within as well) but their fanbase remains just as crazy about them. These fans know what to expect when pressing play on Gravity. It’s Caliban. The same hardcore sounding metal structures and sounds are plastered over each of the twelve tracks. On the menu: Carefully crafted choruses with big, crowd pleasing sing a longs. Lovingly set out breakdowns with just a hint of menacing sub bass. Finishing with an astute finisher of layered synths and vocals from all ends of the clean/harsh mix. A fantastic treat for the ears of someone needing an instant, gratifying portion of pleasantly predictable metal.
The choruses come in when expected. The breakdowns are exactly where they should be. So what? There’s comfort in a degree of familiarity. The kind that warms the cockles during a familiar metal twist on hardcore two step (“Crystal Skies”) but can still throw a quick curveball with breakdowns that drop a tone or two into murkier territory (see nearly every track). Hell, there’s even a guitar solo that sorta rips (“Walk Alone”). It’s the familiarity that will have listeners playing through this record from start to finish. Probably just a few times though. As many as it takes to find the four or five tracks that really jam (“Mein schwarzes Herz”, hands down).
Now, Andreas Dörner is guilty of being one of my favorite vocalists for his extended range in a fairly confined range of performances. Each release sees marked improvement in his phrasing, style and leaves him with one of the more unique larynges in metalcore. His delivery on each scream or rasp is always really tight and it’s clear what he has to say. Hang on though. Sometimes what he has to say isn’t up to much. This has always been a gripe with Caliban. These words are no doubt pulled from somewhere personal, they just don’t merit much thought for a casual listener. It makes middling tracks turn into fast skips on a play queue. Always kudos given for the incessant use of gang vocals though(especially on “Mein schwarzez Herz”), even when they’ve been processed to the nth degree.
Caliban really are flying the flag for popular metal in their home country. Gravity will chart. It will remind people that these men are 100% sticking around because people still love their music. It’s a bit dumb sometimes and it still doesn’t have the band shifting up to fifth gear, but it’s fun and definitely the heaviest thing the band have released yet. Sticking true to themselves but listening to more Architects than before has done this band a service. With ten records already digested, there better be more because there are definitely some of us that want more.