Caligula’s Horse: ‘Rise Radiant’ Review
‘Rise Radiant’ is Caligula’s Horse’s 5th studio album, as well as being their first album with new bass player Dale Prinsse. They’ve made waves through the genre with their previous two releases ‘Bloom’, and ‘In Contact’. Particularly so with the track ‘Graves’ which is a 15 minute epic that sprawls into djent, saxophone solos, as well as soft serenading vocals. I’ve been excited to hear this album in full since the first single launched a couple of months ago.
The album starts with said single, ‘The Tempest’, full of catchy riffs and creative melodies. There’s also a fantastic solo on this track too, although with two guitarists on the record I’ve got no idea who’s playing it. The first time I heard the song I kept noodling through the main riff on my guitar for weeks afterwards. Having such a strong track be the lead single, on top of being at the start of the album really bodes well for the rest of the album. The phrase ‘start as you mean to go on’ comes to mind.
‘Slow Violence’ continues the theme of groovy riffs. The slower tempo gives us more aeration around the heavier parts of the music without leaning into a softer ballad style track. Jim’s vocals on this track are warm yet explosive. Having been with the band since it’s formation, it’s been a pleasure to watch him grow and grow as vocalist.
‘Salt’ is the first track on the album that wasn’t previously released as a single. Being a track on the longer side, there’s a lot more room for melodic development. Starting with a soft piano solo line, we are launched into death metal style drums accompanied by djenty guitar lines. Then we get launched back into a softer section once more that pulls the listener back in close. There are plenty of vocal lines in this track that feel heavily influenced by ‘The Mountain’ era of Haken, particularly ‘Crystallised’ and ‘Falling Back to Earth’, but obviously in Caligula’s Horse’s own sound.
‘Resonate’ felt a bit out of place for me on the album. The electronic drum sounds made it feel like a C list pop ballad sounding heavily inspired by bands such as ‘The 1975’. The melody lines are a bit on the bland side for me and aren’t especially expressive outside of the funky chorus chord progression. However, I will applaud them for trying something different with their sound on what is effectively a break from the heavier parts of the album. I just feel like more could have been done with it as the short track isn’t particularly memorable.
The only possible critique I can think of for ‘Oceanrise’ is that I wanted the final riff to continue for longer as it felt like it was cut off too soon. The rest of the track is fantastic, as is the next track ‘Valkyrie’. Full of some ridiculously thick bass guitar tones along with relentless time signature changes, we as listeners are certainly kept on our toes.
‘Autumn’ is a softer track that really brings the raw side of Jim Grey’s vocals to the forefront. It may be my favourite track of the album thanks to how well it’s been crafted together. When the chorus moves to 6/8 at the latter end of the track the true beauty of Caligula’s Horse explodes into your ears. The melodies are further developed, the instrumentals get more intense, and you get completely sucked into the music. A fantastic performance from all the musicians on this track.
‘The Ascent’ is the final banger of the album as well as being the longest track on the album coming in at almost 11 minutes. It immediately starts with groovy licks and riffs from the rhythm section as a direct contrast to the previous track. Josh Griffin has excellent control of the percussion department throughout this track creating funky rhythms that are never out of place. The mid section in this track is tense and mysterious, however the payoff wasn’t as great for me compared to ‘Graves’ from their 2017 album ‘In Contact’. The ‘Hand. Shape. Stone.’ lyric line, complimented by the saxophone solo made the track incredibly memorable and catchy, but ‘The Ascent’ doesn’t deliver on that for me.
However I should say here that I’m comparing two incredibly high quality albums together in quite possibly an unfair manner. The combination of ‘Autumn’ and ‘The Ascent’ together creates an absolutely fantastic track in it’s own right and is a huge highlight of progressive music for me from this years releases so far.
Caligula’s Horse has really carved their own niche out inside of the progressive rock genre, incorporating compositional techniques from across the entire spectrum of music. They don’t sound like any other band, and I’m very thankful for the incredible work they’ve put into making yet another fantastic album.