Australian Progressive Metal band Caligula’s Horse have been making quite a stir in the Progressive Music community, with many fans comparing them with Prog icons such as Dream Theater. With their third studio release, Bloom, they have done more than ever before to deserve that praise. Between the album’s exceptional production, phenomenal writing, and all-around musical polish, listeners would be hard pressed to find a single fault in its 44 minute runtime.
Bloom is Caligula’s Horse at their most refined. The composition is tight, melodious and beautiful. Even in the heavier tracks on the album, the music is relaxing, lacking many of the harsh elements people expect when they think of Heavy Metal. This album makes an excellent introduction to the Progressive genres, as it never gets self-indulgent or overbearing, as Prog music often does.
It is incredibly difficult to pick out any standout tracks on Bloom, because every single track is so phenomenally crafted and executed. To specify one song as better than any others would be an injustice, and an insult to the band’s fantastic compositions.
The song “Bloom” begins the album as a beautifully haunting ballad, primarily featuring vocalist Jim Grey’s soaring vocals. Near the end of the track it gets a bit heavier, but it is by far the softest song on the album. Featuring mildly distorted guitars, and long, drawn out notes, the instrumentals are soothing and set the stage for a beautiful album.
The first single released, “Marigold,” marks a rather substantial shift in tone, as the instrumentals become much heavier. Grey’s vocals shift in tone from soothing to aggressive, though his singing is, as always, soaring and unique. The instrumentals in the song are primarily driven by the guitar, which is primarily composed of heavy riffing, though there is a very impressive solo later in the song, showing off lead guitarist Sam Vallen’s shredding abilities. The drumming, while not incredibly complex, provides a driving rhythm that fills out the song’s sound.
“Firelight” is the album’s second single, and shifts back to the music style of the title track. It is soft, could even be considered “poppy” by some, and once again showcases Grey’s lovely vocal performances. However, unlike “Bloom,” the instrumentals actually direct the latter half of the song. Vallen’s technical guitar playing is highlighted in another impressive guitar solo, but bassist Dave Couper is the true star in this track. The bass line is incredibly groovy, and his play is both tight and very technical, both supporting the rest of the band, and standing out on its own.
The fourth song on the album, “Dragonfly,” is the longest track on the album, clocking in at almost nine and a half minutes. This is one of the few songs on the album where Grey’s powerful vocals are almost overpowered by the guitar, as much of the song is filled with crunchy guitar riffs that should send chills down the spine of any Metal fans that give it a listen. The drums are both crisp and quite fast, providing an ample backdrop for Vallen to exhibit his mastery of the guitar. Although Grey’s vocals are not the driving force behind the song, he does show off some serious singing chops, and hits some of his highest notes in the entire album.
“Rust” is the heaviest song on the album, and features some of the most impressive guitar work. It is primarily composed of guitar shredding, both in and out of solos, but it is also one of the only songs on the album to feature a technique called djent. Djent is a particular sound that can be made on the guitar, characterized by low notes and palm muting, and was originally popularized by Extreme Metal band Meshuggah. Grey’s vocals are dark and aggressive, conveying intense anger, but never losing their melodious quality. The drums are punchy and driving, providing a lead for the band to follow.
Following “Rust,” “Turntail” is not nearly as heavy, but provides a very melodic groove for listeners to enjoy. Grey jumps right into energetic and flowy vocals, which are paired by some particularly funky guitar playing by Vallen. The drumming is poppy and upbeat, and pairs exceptionally well with Vallen’s grooves. This song has a fantastic energy to it, especially considering it is near the end of the album, and it make the listeners want to get up out of their seat and dance alongside it.
“Daughter of the Mountain” is the second longest track on the album, clocking in at just under eight minutes, and features some particularly grungy guitar playing by Vallen. The riffs are quite groovy, and work to highlight the ethereal nature of Grey’s vocals in this particular track. His voice is almost haunting during portions of this track, and the juxtaposition between this and the grungy guitar riffs makes an interesting and unique sound. The song’s chorus marks a stylistic change, as the riffs and haunting singing give way to melodic and spacy guitar and poppy vocals, presenting an intriguing tonal shift in the track.
The album ends on “Undergrowth,” a short acoustic track, composed entirely of Grey’s vocals and an acoustic guitar in the background. This song is a somber, but beautiful end to a fantastic album, and Grey really shows off his vocal range and control.
Bloom is a masterfully crafted album by an exceptional band. Caligula’s Horse has shown that they are not just a one-hit wonder, and that they plan to keep making beautiful and enjoyable music for years to come. I would wholeheartedly give this album a rating of 5/5.