Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant
Released: 22nd May 2020
Caligula’s Horse lineup
Jim Grey | lead vocals
Sam Vallen | lead guitar
Adrian Goleby | guitar
Dale Prinsse | bass
Josh Griffin | drums
Roman Emperor Caligula, brutal, sexual deviant, almost certainly insane, yet he loved animals. Actually he loved feeding people to animals, but he had an affinity with one horse in particular, Incitatus. It is said the mad emperor showered the horse with gifts including a marble stall and even a house. None of this has anything to do with Brisbane quintet Caligula’s Horse. Although I can’t comment on their sexual proclivities, having met and interviewed the band on a couple of occasions I can confirm none are insane. But they are quite possibly Australia’s best prog rock/metal outfit.
In a world bordering on bizarre and increasingly uncertain, one thing you can be certain of is Caligula’s Horse delivering a thought-provoking musical journey. Since their formation in 2011 the Queenslanders have carved their own path, not adhering to musical norms. They have a sound quintessentially their own, yet progress with each release. Beginning with their debut Moments from Ephemeral City the band have shown an uncanny knack to draw the listener in and take you on a sometimes wild ride. Their fifth offering Raise Radiant is no different in that respect. As with all Caligula’s Horse releases, this is, if you will excuse the phrase a grower not a shower. It takes a few listens to really grasp the direction the band intended for the album, and there’s not just one direction. The album twists and turns with shades of light and dark, at times getting very dark indeed.
The opening track ‘The Tempest’ lays down the metal component of the band’s chosen genre, it’s hard and heavy but with the unmistakable Caligula’s Horse groove. Everything this band does is deliberate, every beat, every note, every phrase. The addition of keyboards gives the song an almost anthemic feel – it’s a hell of a way to kick off the album. Of the eight tracks making up Rise Radiant three have already been released as singles, the opening track along with the uncharacteristically stripped back, dark and menacing ‘Slow Violence’. This track stands out against the others, it has a rougher more raw edge, going against the smooth multi-layer production guitarist and producer Sam Vallen usually favours. This is in contrast to the third single ‘Valkyrie’, if it was possible to sum up Caligula’s Horse in one song the closest you would get is this the sixth track. Stuttering syncopated beats from rhythm section of bassist Dale Prinsse and drummer Josh Griffin accompanying guitarists Vallen and Adrian Goleby with Jim Grey’s sublime vocals, it is one hundred percent undiluted Caligula’s Horse.
With only eight tracks on the album it’s hard to pick an actual highlight, each one stands out in its own way. And right there in the middle is the short and sweet ‘Resonate’. I challenge anyone not to get hooked and have that song resonating in your head like a beautiful ear-worm. It’s an exercise in restraint, lashings of synth evoking images of a lone musician playing to a smoky bar and a good scotch on the rocks. This is in yet another contrast to ‘The Ascent’. All stops are pulled as the boys go full prog with the nearly eleven-minute track. As ‘The Tempest’ was to the opening, ‘The Ascent’ is to the close. The pacing is such you get swept up in the music and barely notice the length – sometimes more really is more.
Rise Radiant is poetry in music, full of passion, angst, desperation and triumph. Five albums in and Caligula’s Horse have delivered their best yet. When the world returns to what will pass for normal I’d love to see a tour with the album played live in it’s entirety, and for that reason I’m handing out a perfect score!
Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant track listing:
1. The Tempest
2. Slow Violence
8. The Ascent