Caligula’s Horse - Bloom - (9/10)
Published on October 17, 2015
Pressure can bust pipes, but it can also make diamonds. Bloom is a diamond. It’s also the third and latest full-length release from Aussie prog rock/metal quintet Caligula’s Horse. Led by the shimmering vocal work of Jim Grey, the band have successfully avoided the sinkholes that materialize following an album as strong as 2013’s The Tide, the Thief, and River’s End. The template is familiar, but it’s no facsimile or carbon copy. Bloom sounds heavier, but more importantly, it feels heavier, making for an experience that’s consistently interesting, even if it’s never quite the same.
With Caligula’s Horse and Bloom, it’s hard to not immediately contrast it with Grey’s other band, Arcane, and their stellar 2015 release Known/Learned. Both groups climb the ropes and dive away with feats of high-powered, decidedly modern progressive metal, a style measured with moments of stirring melody and plenty of odd angles and dicey turns. And while Arcane probably get the nod for this year’s more ambitious album, Caligula’s Horse’s pacing makes Bloom a much more palatable listen.
Appropriately, the album-titled “Bloom” does a fine job of drawing the listener inward; like a fly trap it ensnares you with cool acoustics and a rousing segue into “Marigold,” one of the album’s more memorable tracks. The band’s flowing patterns of softness and intensity work well throughout the album, with guitarists Sam Vallen and Zac Greensill hypnotizing in tandem, and the rhythm section of bassist Dave Couper and drummer Geoff Irish maintaining a beautifully erratic heartbeat. The fluid syncopation of its players lend Bloom an even greater sense of vibrancy, allowing the record’s verdant lyrics to really take hold and add a sense of worth to Grey’s vision.
The band perform songs of lasting quality, allowing them to breathe but likewise knowing when enough is enough. None of the tracks are avant-garde or experimental or overly odd for the sheer sake of being an outcast, but each manages to retain distinctiveness driven by delicate moments, infectious melody, and surging crescendos. The songs routinely bear fangs—“Marigold” and “Rust” are two prime examples—but the album’s tenderness, similar to that of its predecessor, is what ultimately defines Bloom.
While The Tide, the Thief, and River’s End may retain its rightful spot atop the Caligula’s Horse catalog, only time will tell how wide Bloom will open. Highlighted by another star performance from Grey, this record is further proof that new heights are frequently met down under.