Direction; intent; message. These are the underlying meta-musical elements that make the difference between random sounds and an album. Whenever you catch yourself intensely enjoying music without a clear of knowledge, it’s probably one of these factors; bands who have the ability to reflect and project these in their creations are those that strike most deeply into your hearts. Ever since 2013, Caligula’s Horse has been shining bright in the starry halls of bands who have this effervescent quality; The Tide, The Thief and The River’s End is a masterpiece, put simply. Can Bloom, its current year follow up, live up the high standard already set in place?
In one word: yes. In more than one: yes, and then some.
The most impressive thing is how radically different Caligula’s Horse made this album while still managing to create a continuity between them. They are obviously from the same band and bear plenty of musical links: from the specific guitar tone on some of the heavier segments, the blend between acoustic/major parts and darker passages to the approach to Jim Grey’s vocals, the album is instantly recognizable as Caligula’s Horse. This is important since it serves to ground us within the overall scope of their album, if not their career. With three albums to their name now, this becomes an increasingly important and difficult challenge and the band have mastered it for now.
However, this does not serve to douse the fires of ingenuity and progress. Where The Tide was a somber, brow-furrowing concept album, Bloom belies its overall timbre with its name: it’s vibrant, young, sunny and tenacious in its fertility and verve. This is most present in the role of the guitars and specifically in some of the leads. One only needs to listen to “Turntail” to appreciate that: it opens with an Intervals-like lead that continues throughout the entire track and dares us not to smile. This role continues throughout the albums, on “Firelight” for example or on the slightly heavier passages of opening track “Bloom”, to lend the entire thing power and vivacity. These leads are the gold frills of this oil painting, setting everything alight.
Together with the change in tone comes a change in purpose: gone are the intricate conceptual timelines of the previous album. In their stead, the tracks stand as complete pieces, exploring stories, concepts and characters by themselves. They can be characterized as generally dealing with various issues of coming to terms with oneself, society or the course of our lives. To handle these sort of weighty concepts, Grey is once utilized to perfection. The vocals approach on this album plays a lot more to his obvious strengths, namely his amazing control of high notes and emotional delivery. These blend well with the overall “cleaner” feel of the album to perhaps complete this shift from the darker metal approach towards prog metal.
That is not to say that the album is void of its heavier parts. “Rust” for example contains one of the heaviest and most infectious breakdowns in the band’s career, sure to set heads bobbing and hearts careening. But this brings us back to our original point: Caligula’s Horse strength has always been the melding of heavy and light, intelligent and straight forward, powerful passages. They do this by knowing exactly what they’re about: setting a trend, shooting for a feeling and then making us follow each step, feeling each curve along the way. By taking this ability to the next level on Bloom, they have created something wonderful; an album that’s subtle and obvious at the same time.
Caligula’s Horse’s Bloom gets…