Soaring melodies for days!
For those who enjoy incredibly melodic and groovy music, look no further than Australia's Caligula’s Horse. These Brisbane-natives are known amongst the prog rock world due to their undeniable knack for writing incredibly infectious melodies while still providing that good ol’ prog-twist. The kind that makes sure to pull listeners perhaps not all that keen on progressive music in, with songs tugging any and all curious into their discography. 'Rise Radiant' is C-Horse’s most refined effort to date, one that is incredibly dynamic and consistently grandiose throughout its entirety. 'Rise Radiant' doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table for the band or genre - which is a very fair criticism - but everything that this record does do, it does very effectively.
Many fans will go into this expecting an ambitious, crazy prog-fest, a goal that was so obvious on the previous record, 'In Contact,' and that lofty expectation is ultimately the cause of the dislike that this new LP appears to be receiving. 'Rise Radiant' is still a progressive metal/rock record as a whole, though it's much more straightforward and even catchier than its predecessor. Depending on whether or not you’re looking for a better whole-album listening experience or an album with special, singular musical moments, you will be getting the former here on 'Rise Radiant.'
Somewhat sadly, there aren’t any tracks here on the level of 'Graves,' yet this record is still special in its own way. Setting aside the 'In Contact' comparisons right now, 'Rise Radiant' is consistently great, with a huge variety of melodies, filthy yet uplifting riffs, and face-melting instrumentation. It has everything you could want from a chill but well-produced, tasteful prog metal record and it doesn’t suffer at all from that musical ambition. Searching for some metal and rock music to play that's socially acceptable for friends and family? Pick 'Rise Radiant' at it'll turn heads and prick ears as memorable intricacy.
Caligula’s Horse get right to the point with the incredibly groovy opener, 'The Tempest.' Swaggering with one of the sassiest riffs I’ve heard all year - the riff that begins about thirty seconds into the track and returns at the end of the track - I often find myself having that riff stuck deep in my brain. It's an endless cycle: riff in my head, so I listen to the album again, but then it gets even more embedded, like a proggy snake eating itself in circles. There are more tracks that are a little more conventional by Caligula's standards too, like 'Slow Violence,' 'Oceanrise,' or 'Valkyrie,' but they’re still strong numbers nonetheless. Then there are tracks like 'Salt,' 'Autumn,' and 'The Tempest,' which I still have a hard time choosing a favourite of the bunch given how unique they are in their own ways.
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Alongside 'The Tempest,' 'Salt' is one of the groovier tracks on record with super intricate and catchy syncopation. The chorus on 'Salt' is actually hookier instrumentally than it is vocally (and it's already a very catchy refrain to begin with), as the subtle piano accompaniment makes it even more mesmerising. 'Autumn' reminds me quite a bit of the opening/title track from 'Bloom,' with the incredibly luscious acoustic section that allows the rest of the band to dial it back while vocalist, Jim Grey, delivers a sombre but powerful performance that slowly builds as the song progresses. The rest of the Aussie band slowly creep in, leading you to a wicked bass solo followed by a short and sweet guitar solo that doesn’t feel out of place on this slow-jam.
As great as 'Autumn' is, it does end quite abruptly, allowing for a sudden transition to the chunky riff that pushes you headfirst into closer, 'The Ascent.' Similar to its preceding song, and as good as 'The Ascent' is, it is also quite underwhelming for a climactic album, given the length feels overdrawn with a lack of interesting passages. It is one of those slow burner tracks that's unfortunately a little too long for its own good, but still fine nonetheless. Who knows, maybe I just have high expectations for closing tracks, hence the slight disappointment on my end,
'Rise Radiant' has Caligula’s Horse bringing us the best of both worlds: expertly crafted, poppy vocal melodies along with the incredibly technical prog-rock instrumentation and song composition fused into one relaxing listening experience. It may not have the incredibly high moments as found on 'In Contact,' but that doesn't mean it's not great all the way through do it's consistency. There is a solid balance in the faster-paced, blistering technicality and the record's more reserved, serene passages. Caligula’s Horse have certainly been honing this craft of ear-worming melodies superimposed over complex but still digestible riffs and drumming for some time and it all works here. Everything that Caligula’s Horse set themselves to achieve with 'Rise Radiant,' they do so in a bold manner.
'Rise Radiant' is out now: