Caligula's Horse - Bloom

Year of Release: 2015
Label: InsideOut Music
Catalog Number: 0507358
Format: CD
Total Time: 44:59:00

Australia's Caligula's Horse is not categorized as a progressive rock band, at least not by their label InsideOut, but rather as alternative rock. But what's in a name, right? Or rather, a genre? I get the alternative rock "tag," although I'm of an age where "alternative rock" was music made by the likes of REM... It means something different now, it seems. Given how mainstream this so called "alternative rock" is, I'm thinking this is a bit of a misnomer. I mean, even progressive rock is the antidote-- I mean alternative to slick pop, hip-hop, and whatever else is dominating the "airwaves" these days. God, I sound old... And that just makes me believe Caligula's Horse is progressive rock for the new age, redefining progressive rock perhaps; at the very least, shaking off the reliance on the usual progressive rock palette - not that prog's progenitors are entirely forgotten, but you won't hear from me references to Genesis, Pink Floyd, King Crim-- well, ok, you will, but not in the "sounds like" context. I suppose there is more in common with the "third wave," those who took the progressive rock aesthetic and the heavy metal bombast and birthed progressive metal (I'll name-check Dream Theater, but I didn't really think of them listening to this, nor would I assert they were the first).

What Bloom does have in common with those venerable progressive rock veterans is the use of dynamics and shading. Yes, you have tracks that have the sonic attacks of crunchy progressive metal full of staccato rhythms - exhibited in the back to back tracks of "Rust" and "Turntail," for example. But then you have moments of warm vocal harmonies, searing guitar solos... and tracks like "Firelight," cheerful, bright and lyrical with almost a 70s pop-rock flavor, though I must add that "Turntail" has a very catchy chorus and, as elsewhere on the album, sections that downshift to calmer waters (to mix metaphors). It has the big sound of arena-rock and, as said, a prog metal crunch. "Daughter Of The Mountain" blends the two elements (rock and metal) together -- chunky rhythms for the verses; lyrical, expansive, airy, and sweet choruses. This and "Dragonfly" duke it out, as it were, for the most diverse progressive rock/metal tracks on the album. "Dragonfly" is the moodiest, darkest track here, at times a wall of sound but not chaotic; here the shifting dynamics and meters, light and dark, a sense of the epic are most evident -- we're building towards something, there's tension (around the 3:30 mark), but soon we get a waltz (5-minute mark) with some noodily, somewhat playful guitar soloing, and after that, a softer piano interlude.... Oh, and it's the longest track at 9:24... aren't long songs also a hallmark of progressive rock? And, just for good measure, you will find washes of what sound like keyboards during "Marigold" (though none are credited), a track that bursts out of the speakers with fuzzed guitars that fall away to delicate and wispy accents for the verses... vocally, plaintive cries.

On the other hand, yes, this is "alternative rock." As noted, we have lots of heavy rock rhythms, which would likely put them on the bill alongside groups like Red -- of whom I think with "Marigold" (and in the vocals both in tone and cadence, Yes, believe it or not, albeit over a more punishing storm*) -- or Breaking Benjamin, or Nothing More (as in "Firelight"), to name a scant few that came to my mind. And had I not immersed myself in SiriusXM's endless rotation of "pure hard rock" none of those comparisons (except Yes, of course) would have come to mind at all. And unless your tastes run along similar lines, none of that will help you "hear" what I hear (again, except for Yes... and I lied, I will mention one of the "giants"). But these artists also have mix of the light and dark, dynamics and, to my ears, a bit of a progressive rock element to their sound. (I think Breaking Benjamin sound like RPWL, at least on Dusk Before Dawn**)

Bloom is bookended by two acoustic tracks (well three). The first is the opening, title track... which isn't entirely acoustic, but... for the most of its length, it has that feel. There is a lovely guitar solo that will have you asking "progressive metal"? But from the relatively speaking sleepy opening, the track blooms with the exhortation to "wake up!" - and you do - hypnotised by the pretty flowers, you then ensnared amongst the petals. Ok, that was turgid, I admit. At the other end of the album, there is the entirely acoustic "Undergrowth," acoustic guitar and vocals only, the latter expressing a certain resolute fragility - sad but hopeful. There is an epilogue, of a fashion, in that the final track (of the digital release) is also acoustic, a take on "City Has No Empathy" from 2011's Moments From Ephemeral City.

I did not expect to like this as much as I do. Having heard some track a while ago -- can't remember when or what -- I was not impressed. I thought, "Ok, but a little too harsh for me." And I didn't in any way think progressive rock. I suppose that would be more informative if I remembered what I was listening to, but... I didn't think that about anything on offer here. But whatever genre you want to put them in, it's engaging. I like the whole album and have not yet determined my favorite track... or even ones that I don't like, so that's something.

Also a little surprising -- I never could cotton to System Of A Down; just don't care for the vocals. But at times the vocals here remind me of Serje's, only a little less... annoying.

As of this writing, InsideOut reissued the band's first two albums, Moments From Ephemeral City and The Tide, the Thief & River's End on June 16, 2017, and come September 15, 2017, the band will release a new album, In Contact.

* Think circa 90125/Big Generator/Talk; of course, I find Yes took on a heavier sound with during Trevor Rabin's tenure, though I would never classify Yes as a heavy metal band.

**I've made that comment before, I know, besides in my editorial of May 2015. Tracks I was thinking of in writing this, in case you are curious: Red's "Darkest Part Of Me," and Nothing More's "This Is The Time (Ballast)" (it more general with Breaking Benjamin). *** not so elastic that we can start adding boy bands to the fold, Iím not that inviting.

Bloom (3:15) / Marigold (6:20) / Firelight (4:39) / Dragonfly (9:24) / Rust (5:32) / Turntail (5:03) / Daughter Of The Mountain (7:56) / Undergrowth (2:50) / (Digital only bonus: City Has No Empathy acoustic (6:12))

Dave Couper - bass, vocals
Adrian Goleby - guitar
Zac Greensill - guitar
Jim Grey - lead vocals
Geoff Irish - drums

Holly Terrens - piano (4), flute

Moments From The Ephemeral City (2011/2017)
Colossus (EP) (2011)
The Tide, The Thief & River's End Bloom (2015)
In Contact (2017)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin AU

Added: June 23rd 2017
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 4453
Language: english


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