Welcome to a new feature where we give a quick snapshot of one main band, in this case Caligula’s Horse, and some other projects which share past and present members, or with whom there is some easy point of reference to be drawn. So without further ado, let’s get stuck in!
(Sam Vallen (lead guitar), Jim Grey (lead vocals), Zac Greensill (guitar), Geoff Irish (drums) & Dave Couper (bass & backing vocals))
Each of the bands we’re looking at today hail from Brisbane, Australia. Initially a bedroom project of lead guitarist Sam Vallen, Sam recruited vocalist Jim Grey to help write and record their debut record Moments From Ephemeral City. The record did surprisingly well, in particular their lead single and the album’s stand-out track “The City Has No Empathy”, which led to them becoming a fully fledged band. A progressive metal outfit with a penchant for ear worm melodies, colourful lead playing and djenty grooves and rhythms, Caligula’s Horse have gone on to release two brilliant records since their debut. The dark, brooding and contemplative concept album The Tide, The Thief, & River’s End was one of 2013’s highlight. Last year’s effort, Bloom, is The Tide’s antithesis in spirit, a vibrant and vivacious record full of colour and hope. Regardless of which end of the emotional spectrum they’re dealing with, Grey’s angelic, passionate and transcendent vocals perfectly complement the driving rhythm section and distinctive guitar playing which make Caligula’s Horse one of the most exciting bands in progressive metal.
Track to check out: “Dark Hair Down”
(Michael Gagen (lead guitar), Jim Grey (lead vocals), Matt Martin (keyboards), Adrian Goleby (bass) & Blake Coulson (drums))
The recently defunct Arcane featured C Horse frontman Jim Grey on vocals, whilst Sam Vallen also served as producer on Known/Learned, Arcane’s parting masterpiece and this author’s album of the year for 2015. Like both of their previous records it was a progressive rock concept album, only this time a double album which was split into two very distinct halves. Drawing influence from acts such as Dream Theater and Karnivool, Known was the heavier and more progressive side of the record. Conversely Learned freshened things up with its mellow and soothing approach, the perfect companion piece for what had come before. An act which actually pre-dated Caligula’s Horse by some time, Arcane’s preceding records, Ashes and Chronicles of the Waking Dream, are both strong efforts in their own right, but indicative of a band that hadn’t yet realised their full potential. It’s for this reason that a newcomer should first hear Known/Learned, a heart-breaking story with a vocal delivery that can make you weep, thought-provoking lyricism and imagery, guitar work of the highest quality and a rhythm section which, whilst unfortunately somewhat understated, delivers everything it needs to and more. If you take one thing out of this article, it should be to listen to that record!
Track to check out: “Unturning”
Opus of a Machine
(Zac Greensill (guitars & backing vocals), Dale Prinsse (bass), Mitchell Legg (lead vocals & guitar) & Trevor Gee (drums))
Opus of a Machine have just one record under their belt, 2014’s release Simulacura. With C Horse guitarist Zac Greensill amongst their ranks, OoaM draw heavily from Karnivool and post-2000 Deftones, combining the melodic elements of these bands with an infusion of djent. Whilst the result falls short of the lofty standards of Karnivool or the like, this is by no means a criticism and it’s still a good album deserving of a listen. We look forward to what they will do next and how they will expand their sound.
Track to check out: “Hourly Painted Obscurity”
(Michael Gagen (guitars), Matt Martin (keyboards) & Geoff Irish (drums))
The incestuous nature of this feature is Game of Thrones-esque, and that theme continues with post-rock outfit Echotide. Featuring Caligula’s Horse drummer Geoff Irish alongside Arcane’s lead guitarist and keyboardist, Michael Gagen and Matt Martin respectively, Echotide are a great band to turn to when in need of some space. Despite its instrumental nature, the record is intensely emotional, its build-ups, peaks and troughs evoking bitterness, loss, despair, hope and triumph. At times almost meditative in nature, we hungrily await a follow-up to their debut album As Our Floodlights Gave Way To Dawn, which is available for Name Your Price on Bandcamp. Thankfully a follow-up is currently in the works, and we can only hope that we don’t have to wait too long to hear it.
Track to check out: “Of Addictions”