Caligula's Horse - In Contact - Duo Review
Dream The Dead (9:09), Will's Song (Let The Colours Run) (4:43), The Hands Are The Hardest (4:26), Love Conquers All (2:21), Songs For No One (7:43), Capulet (3:23), Fill My Heart (6:42), Inertia And The Weapon Of The Wall (2:57), The Cannon's Mouth (5:56), Graves (15:31)
Calum Gibson's ReviewWhen you think of Australia, many people think of how many animals there want to kill you. However, these days the thing that springs to mind for many fans of heavy prog music, is the sheer number of bands coming out of that part of the world. For example you have Karnivool, Ne Obliviscaris and Voyager to name just a few. Another band is Caligula's Horse, named after Incitatus (the prized possession of the roman emperor Caligula). Having released three previous albums, the band has returned in 2017 with its latest offering: In Contact
Now, I was given a copy of Bloom for Christmas a few years ago, so I'm heading into this with a certain opinion of the band already formed. I love that album (especially the song Rust) so I have high hopes. Let's get started.
The album kicks off well, with an almost Porcupine Tree feel to it. Punchy guitars and drums hit you hard and fast, before it mellows out and brings you into the blistering solos.
Will's Song (Let The Colours Run) then comes in with a fast pace, aggressive riffs and a lovely slab of chugging guitars to get the head banging.
Love Conquers All brings in a mellow and electronic vibe, with electronic drums and bass. Unfortunately for this track, I wasn't a fan of the electronic-based parts which make up about 65% of it. The other 35%? I absolutely loved it.
Finally, we come to the epic 15-minute long closer, Graves. This track has a definite Anathema vibe to it. We flow through soaring sections, before slowing down and getting emotional, before everything is brought back up to powerful solos and bridges. Going through a range of emotions perfectly, it is a prog-rock masterpiece. Definitely a highlight of the album and a fantastic choice for a closure.
The album is a good, solid, heavy prog rock album, with catchy songs, memorable vocal lines and a nice mix of heavier tracks with more mellow ones. My main issue is with the shouted backing vocals at occasional points. But it isn't done often, so can be looked past. Stand out tracks for me would probably be Will's Song (Let The Colours Run) and Songs For No One. Both exceptional pieces of music.
I wouldn't say this album grabbed me as instantly as Bloom did, however this album presents a slightly more mature image of the band. That isn't to say there is anything wrong with the album. I just suspect it will be one that I'll return to less frequently than Bloom, but it will age well and grow into a classic of the genre.
If you are a fan of the likes of Porcupine Tree, Anathema, Leprous or Devin Townsend then you'll likely enjoy these guys. It's a brilliant album, from a fantastic band. Enjoy.
Dario Albrecht's ReviewTwo years ago Caligula's Horse, Brisbane's modern melodic prog metal shooting stars, made quite an impact with Bloom; their third album and label debut for big player Inside Out Records. Blending alternative rock/pop sensibilities with technical guitar proficiency to a unique brew, it has led them to land support slots with the who-is-who in progressive metal, both in their native down under land (and neighbouring New Zealand) as well as on European soil. Opening for a diverse array of acts like Opeth, TesseracT, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Ne Obliviscaris, Shining, Pain of Salvation, The Ocean and Protest The Hero is already a testament to their wide appeal.
While Bloom celebrated an overall uplifting mood, and concise songwriting with big melodies, In Contact presents the band exploring more complex, more heavy and somewhat darker territory, culminating in the 15-minute closing track Graves. That is not to say that the big, anthemic melodies are gone for good, they are just not as obvious and in-your-face. That challenges the listener to repeated explorations of this 60-minute album, filled with musical awesomeness.
The key figures and leading minds of Caligula's Horse are still guitar prodigy and founder Sam Vallen, alongside his partner in crime, vocalist extraordinare Jim Grey. In my review of the band's appearance at this year's Be Prog! My Friend Festival in Barcelona (over at theprogspace.com), I wrote: "When those two met for the first time, there must have been a magical rainbow going on, of such enormous perfectness is the creative match here."
In Contact is another demonstration of their sheer songwriting talent, as well as of their musical abilities, bringing these compositions to life with their fellow bandmates. Bassist and backing vocalist Dave Couper being the other mainstay, whilst newcomers Adrian Goleby (guitars) and drummer Josh Griffin make their debut. And, as much as Sam Vallen and Jim Grey might be the band leaders, this album is an effort by a full band, reaching for new creative heights together.
From the start, with the stunning Dream the Dead, until the epic closer Graves, we are treated to some of the best melodic prog metal tunes of 2017 (despite heavy competition from Leprous, Pain of Salvation, Soen and fellow Aussies Voyager, to name but a few). And even though In Contact is an altogether more complex affair than its direct predecessor Bloom, one thing still stands out: Jim Grey's vocals and melodies are of an emotional urgency that is rarely found. He is so proficient in his craft, that they have even decided to include one of his spoken word performances as a full song on this album.
By the time I have reached Songs for No One, the fifth song, I have the feeling that all of Caligulas Horse's previous work was inevitably leading up to In Contact. Each and every one of the following (and preceding) songs has their own unique identity, while remaining true to the Caligula's Horse sound.
This is a compelling and absolutely mandatory listen for all fans of the genre and beyond.
Gentle Giant - Three Piece Suite [CD + Blu-ray]
Giant (6:26), Nothing At All (9:06), Why Not? (5:32), Pantagruel's Nativity (6:57), The House, The Street, The Room (6:08), Schooldays (7:41), Peel the Paint (7:36), Mister Class and Quality? (5:51), Three Friends (2:56), Freedom's Child (3:58), Nothing At All (Steven Wilson 7" edit) (4:54)
I was fortunate enough to see GG in their prime in October 1973 performing at the Leicester Polytechnic Freshers Ball. Back then, it wasn't uncommon for prog bands to play such events, although the convoluted time signatures of GG was hardly the stuff of dance music. For the discerning members of the audience however, they were a revelation. Fronted by the imposing Shulman brothers, with their tight velvet pants and knee high boots (reminiscent of medieval minstrels), they gave a masterclass in multi-instrumental virtuosity.
Gentle Giant formed in early 1970 and disbanded in the summer of 1980; their rise and fall pretty much co-inciding with that of classic prog. What set GG apart from most other bands (and many prog acts) was the integration of non-traditional instruments, with innovative vocal arrangements and complex musical structures that embraced folk, madrigal, classical, blues, jazz and rock.
This latest compilation is so-called because it brings together songs from their first three albums; Gentle Giant (1970), Acquiring The Taste (1971) and Three Friends (1972). The choice of material for the CD remixes was dictated by the limited availability of multi-track master tapes remaining from that period. The two-disc version includes a Blu-ray with the Steven Wilson remixes in 5.1 Surround, instrumental versions and the original mixes of all three albums in their entirety.
Although the albums that immediately followed Three Friends (Octopus, In a Glass House and The Power and the Glory ) are generally regarded to be the high points in the Gentle Giant canon, many of the elements that made the band so vital were already in place on the self-titled debut album. Original producer Tony Visconti deserves a good deal of credit for his part in shaping their distinctive sound.
Compare for example, lead singer Derek Shulman's strident vibrato (shades of Roger Chapman) during Giant, with the exquisite harmonies of Nothing At All. Musically things are just as diverse, ranging from the Frank Zappa-inspired Mellotron, Hammond and trumpet fanfares (courtesy of Kerry Minnear and Phil Shulman respectively) during Giant, to Martin Smith's drum solo that takes up most of the second half of Nothing At All and guitarist Gary Green's blues-inflected solo that dominates Why Not?.
Acquiring The Taste builds on the strengths of the first album, as the elegiac opener Pantagruel's Nativity demonstrates (how many songs can you think of that contain a xylophone solo?). The House, The Street, The Room on the other-hand contrasts lush harmonies with classical avant-garde (shades of Stockhausen) and a typically histrionic solo from Green.
With four out of the original six songs included, Three Friends is the most fully represented album here. Schooldays benefits from the intricate harmonies that were becoming a GG trademark, embellished with Minnear's rhapsodic piano. Peel the Paint displays their hard rock credentials, with Green's spacey guitar effects owing a debt to Jimi Hendrix. Mister Class and Quality? features jazzy guitar and keyboard exchanges, before seguing into the majestic title song Three Friends to conclude.
An additional song from 1970, Freedom's Child, did not appear on the debut album but it was included on the 1997 2-CD rarities compilation, Under Construction. It's a haunting ballad in the vein of Think of Me with Kindness (from Octopus) with Ray Shulman's lyrical violin weaving its way magically through the song. It is a worthy addition to this collection, as is the edited version (minus the drum solo) of Nothing At All, which in my opinion improves on the original.
Listening to these tracks 45 years on, it's hard to fathom why Gentle Giant failed to attain the same commercial success as Yes, ELP and Jethro Tull. True, their music demanded a level of commitment from the listener, but no more so than many of their contemporaries. Paradoxically, their music was also replete with memorable themes and hooks, juxtaposing moments of pastoral elegance with compelling riffs, that any hard rock or metal band would be proud of.
GG's loyal following remains to this day, even though fame and fortune eluded them, especially in their home country. Their star shone brighter in North America, where they gigged extensively, which could explain their influence on bands like Happy The Man, Echolyn and Spock's Beard. They also found favour with Italian audiences and groups like PFM and Banco, and more closer to home, Gryphon.
In the capable hands of Steven Wilson, Gentle Giant's legacy lives on, sounding fresh and dynamic. He's certainly given it a new lease of life, thanks to a clean and crystal clear sound. That is somehow very appropriate for such an innovative and much-intimated band who were at the cutting edge of progressive rock.
Geoff Feakes: 9 out of 10
Mystery - Second Home: Live at ProgDreams V 2016
CD 1: Delusion Rain (10:20), Travel to the Night (8:45), If You See Her (5:57), Another Day (18:20),Wall Street King (6:28), Pride (7:25), The Last Glass of Wine (6:51), Dear Someone (6:16)
CD 2: Shadow of the Lake (12:11), A Song for You (12:57), Through Different Eyes (20:42), The Preacher?s Fall (4:13)
CD 2: Shadow of the Lake (12:11), A Song for You (12:57), Through Different Eyes (20:42), The Preacher?s Fall (4:13)
This new live album contains a bulk of material from Delusion Rain, but also provides a showcase for their new vocalist to cover older material. Pageau proves to be an enthusiastic frontman and helps to drive the energy of the show for the appreciative ProgDreams festival audience. I don't want to imply that his success relies on how well he can sound like his predecessor, because this album displays him taking Mystery to another level as a live band.
For those unfamiliar with Mystery, I would compare them to Saga, but with music that tends to be much more adventurous. That said, even their epic tracks display a tight, musically-accessible structure that is void of unnecessary instrumental noodling. In other words, the create epics, but epics with a purpose.Band leader, Michel St-Pere writes the bulk of their material and their studio albums are always expertly produced and performed. Using Second Home as the model, the same compliment can be applied to their live performances.
This is a substantial album, both in performance and length. The setlist includes several long tracks, and Another Day and Through Different Eyes are two great examples of the band's ability to craft a strong epic. More compact songs such as If You See Her, Dear Someone and the crowd-pleasing rocker, The Preacher's Fall, also transition strongly to a live setting. The success of Second Home really comes down to the career-stretching setlist and the excellent performances contained throughout the recording.
Mystery is often categorised as NeoProg and I would say that is fair. The more appealing bands in that catagory have the talent and ability to excel beyond just imitation of classic prog. Their music needs to stand securely on its own, and Mystery certainly has that covered. If you are a fan of the band, Second Home, will be a great addition to your collection. If you are unfamiliar and are looking for an introduction to their work, this live recording is a great place to start.
Patrick McAfee: 8 out of 10
Andrew Wild - Pink Floyd: Song By Song [book]
So when this new book arrived in my postbox, it seemed to offer the perfect opportunity to go back in time.
This is the third book in Fonthill Media's Song By Song series, following editions on Status Quo and ELO. Across an easily-digestible 150-pages, Andrew Wild offers an examination of every Pink Floyd song from Arnold Layne to Louder Than Words.
It is in-part a detailed discography. When it says "every song", it means just that. In addition to Floyd's studio and live albums, the book lists every known obscure studio, demo and live recording, many of which have only emerged on recent Box Sets, and several that are known about, but have never been released. It also covers the numerous film soundtracks from the band's early years, plus a list of the individual members' solo output.
For those who love their facts and figures, we also have such trivia as when the tracks were first played live (if indeed they ever were), the times they were written and recorded, and who played what in the studio.
However what stops this book from becoming a rather dull listings exercise, only to be read by Floyd geeks and completists, is the lively way in which it is written and presented.
It is clear that Andrew is a big fan of the band, and one can but admire the amount of research and time that must have gone into compiling this book. Simply sitting down and listening to every song, and every version of every song, listed here would take up several months of one's life! Andrew's passion for the music really comes across and is rather infectious.
What you also get are the well-told stories behind the songs, their context within the parent albums and the band's career, and a modern-day appreciation (review) of every album. I especially enjoyed some of the great review extracts from critics, band members and other musicians from around the world.
I rather liked the review of The Endless River which said: "It's just aimless jamming ... ghastly faux-psychedelic dinner party muzak. Which is fine. If you're thinking of throwing a ghastly faux-psychedelic dinner party."
As a result, this book is a part reference, part biography and part an appreciation. For Floyd beginners, like me, it is an easy-to-read-in-an-afternoon introduction to the band. Whilst doing just that, I simply marked up the songs, which from Andrew's description, sounded like I might enjoy. Reaching the final page, I certainly have a much better knowledge of the band and now have an awesomely long list of new music to try out.
Equally, for existing fans, having a complete listing in one place is a great resource, and Andrew's skip through their career will certainly offer an entertaining and informative read.
Soul Enema - Of Clans and Clones and Clowns
Omon Ra (7:02), Cannibalissimo Ltd. (5:59), Spymania (6:44), Breaking the Waves (5:17), The Age of Cosmic Baboon (4:33), In Bed With an Enemy (ft. Y. Ruslanov, S. Kalugin) (5:58), Last Days of Rome (4:22), Dear Bollock (Was a Sensitive Man) (3:10), Aral Sea I - Feeding Hand (8:47), Aral Sea II - Dustbin of History (ft. Yossi Sassi) (5:30), Aral Sea III - Epilogue (ft. Sergey Kalugin) (6:25), Octopus Song (2:54), Eternal Child (ft. Arjen Lucassen) (5:35), Of Clans and Clones and Clowns (0:41)
Initial thoughts are good. The album opener, Omon Ra, has a good pace to it, is very listenable and has some stunning vocal work from Noa Gruman, as well as some interesting rhythms and riffs throughout. With punchy drums and guitars, some solos to space it out and a nice bassy feel, it is a fantastic opener.
Breaking The Waves is another stand-out track, incredibly well written, with a stunning guitar solo that elevates it even further towards being a future classic, with a sing-along chorus, catchy melodies and stunning performances from all members of the band.
And so finally we come to the track I was most excited for: Eternal Child. Ever since hearing Ayreon, I've been a fan of Arjen's playing. This song, as a whole, is astounding. A slow paced, minimalistic ballad, with most of the music being provided by piano, and again Noa's soaring and emotional vocals over the top. Arjen's presence is limited to a short 37-second solo, but it is perfectly written and encapsulates the feeling of the track.
Some of the other tracks have a playful vibe to them, others a more sombre tone, with the album as a whole presenting an eclectic mix of jazz, ethnic, psychedelic, rock and metal sounds. It is all combined to form a well-crafted, enjoyable and fun album. As much as there is such an extensive range of influences, the album never feels cluttered or confused, despite the almost chaotic nature of the songs. I'd recommend this if you like eclectic and eccentric prog. Think ELP meets Frank Zappa and King Crimson, but brought into the modern day.
Calum Gibson: 8 out of 10