Caligula’s Horse is a band at the forefront of progressive metal, towards its more melodic end – standing comfortably shoulder to shoulder with established genre peers such as Tesseract, Leprous and Haken. With fifth release Rise Radiant – out May 22 on Inside Out Records – they aim for an extremely challenging task; improving upon 2017’s superb In Contact. The supportive world tour following its release has sadly been postponed due to our current situation, however, the album’s release brings some listening pleasure to all those still locked down at home.
The swirling guitars and snare-heavy drums of “The Tempest” open Rise Radiant and, in its first 90 seconds, gives the listener an overview of what Caligula’s Horse is all about. Both in this passage and throughout the album, the band’s hallmarks can be found – Jim Grey’s unique and excellent vocals combining with guitar passages laden with groove, yet with only subtle distortion to their tone, blending into delicately picked verses reminiscent of early Tesseract. Across the entire recording, and indeed throughout the group’s career as well, the other standouts are choruses and bridges which worm their way into your head and make Rise Radiant anchor itself inside your brain after several listens.
One of the key mentions above is “several listens”; Rise Radiant offers plenty on its first spin but it’s really after three, four or more that the record starts to show its true depth and quality. The band are stretching their progressive chops throughout the album’s whole; with only eight tracks you may initially feel it’s lightweight on the surface, but clocking in at over 45 minutes in length (and longer on special editions) there’s a healthy amount of material to sink into. Fans of more traditional prog will appreciate the complex passages in “Salt” with instruments synchronized with each syllable of the lyrics, whilst those who enjoy the genre’s musicianship won’t be found wanting after Sam Vallen’s consummate performance on lead guitar.
The album’s standout moment is the final passages of ballad “Autumn,” with its richly layered guitar tones – acoustic, an other-worldly rhythm tone and creamy leads – all building a beautiful tapestry of sound for Grey’s vocals to soar over. It demonstrates what makes the band special, becoming a fully immersive experience that the listener can’t help but get completely drawn into and, upon reaching its last utterance of “I will wait ahead, to stand and mark the way,” it’s a track that makes you sit back and go, “wow!” Closer “The Ascent” distils the emotional auditory journey Rise Radiant has taken the listener through into a 10-minute plus opus that one can also easily picture bringing a euphoric conclusion to a live show.
With Rise Radiant, Caligula’s Horse has succeeded in what they set out to do; improving further still from their excellent previous releases. It’s not only an album that propels them towards the peak of their genre, but also one which stands amongst the finest yet in 2020. It’s a must-listen for fans across an incredibly broad spectrum of rock, metal and prog and will find admirers far and wide. Here’s hoping this release gives their profile its richly-deserved rise.
Rise Radiant Track Listing:
1. The Tempest
2. Slow Violence
8. The Ascent
Run Time: 47:42
Release Date: May 22, 2020
Record Label: Inside Out Music