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Words by Tye Blinkhorn

Caligula’s Horse have been making a mark in Australia and the world to see since 2011. With 5 albums under their belt now, from their debut album ‘Moments Of Ephemeral City’ to their 2020 release, ‘Rise Radiant’, they are ready to cement their place into our prog metal hearts once again. The pandemic brought despair and confusion, amongst other intense consequences and feelings, but for Caligula’s Horse, it gave them time to reflect on where they should take their next step. With all their strong messages from previous albums, they decided to take their raw emotions and heavy-hitting technical riffs to the next level to send a message that they are still here and they’re never giving up, even when faced with adversity. Whether you have been following Caligula’s Horse from the very beginning, or are only just starting to jump on the bandwagon, you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say these guys know how to get into the hearts and souls of humankind. They make you stop and listen to what they have to say, whether it be from the amazing, orchestrated music or the powerful, thought-provoking lyrics.

The new album ‘Charcoal Grace’ delves into darker themes. It also tells the story of how we all came together in the face of hardship, never giving up when feeling down and that there is always hope, even when the feeling of hopelessness surrounds us. I truly believe the first two tracks, The World Breathes With Me, an epic 10-minute opener, and Golem, really send that message loud and clear. Even though we feel like we are weighed down and there is so much pain in the world, we still have the strength to face it all and aren’t alone.

The World Breathes is captivating right from the word go. It draws you in with its beautifully clean guitars and delay, so wonderfully timed.  The listener is taken on a journey before the track has even really begun. It has an excellent sense of Yin and Yang, and then, before you know it, you’re rocking it out with the grunt and energy of soaring guitars and drums. It’s a lengthy intro, but at no time do you feel you want to stop listening.  Golem has a different feel; the raw power of the guitar elevates you straight away with commanding power from all instruments and aspects. Jim Grey‘s skilfully crafted vocals are a highlight yet still give space for the instruments to shine. There are glorious moments where his voice soars above everything else.

Title track, Charcoal Grace is a 4 part epic, delivering 24 minutes of powerful technical riffs and all the face-melting that you would expect – enrapturing, raw emotion, whilst weaving a tale of a child alienated from a parent. It comprises of Prey, A World Without, Vigil and Give Me Hell.  

Part II: A World Without, gives us this poignant, stand-out phrase; “I’ll break the monster you have become, A world without me is not enough, You brought us hell, I have no son.” These lyrics are striking and really hit home. I personally think it can be perceived in so many different ways – is this the dad giving them hell and how the son was affected? It’s incredible how lyrics can be so powerful but also beautiful at the same time.

Part III: Vigil tones it down for a moment with some gorgeous acoustic work. There is darkness to this track. It gives you a shiver down the spine, and the lyrics are once again full of tender and profound sentiment. It allows you to reflect on the pain and the scars, the cards life deals. How will you choose to live with your pain?

“I refuse to heal, I refuse to let go, there’ll be no peace for the prey you ravaged, finally choosing to embrace the damage”.

Sails, the ballad of this record, opens with with exquisite, flawless guitar by Sam Vallen, giving us a chance to take a breath and collect ourselves. To me it sounds like a peaceful lullaby with a message to the world and to oneself about how failure should not be the end. Keep sailing on. With cohesive musicianship from all four members and an absolutely epic guitar solo, they set the mood. Journeying through a range of emotional depths and layers.  Grey‘s voice showing a new intensity of light, a warmth.  It’s a journey that I am sure many people have taken in their own minds. And in the end, we are all in this together.

The Stormchaser and Mute close out this auditory soundscape.  The Stormchaser I feel is like a cry for help from someone that is facing the battle of a lifetime with their demons. Josh Griffin’s epic drum fills and Dale Prinsse’s intricate bass prowess is showcased throughout.

In the first moments of Mute, Grey’s vocal isn’t like you have previously heard him. He commands the listener, expertly showing yet another element of where he can go. I imagine that he is standing on the edge of a cliff and calling out to the earth, hearing the echoes of his voice. It’s a breathtaking beginning that builds the atmosphere to an empowering instrumental before Jim tones it down to a peaceful, quiet, calm and makes you listen – carefully and intently. This track is the second longest of the whole album, bringing different shades of musicality from the band. It is masterfully developed, like climbing up a mountain with strings and orchestral elements weaving into the mix with every step taken.

It is truly amazing what music can do to your emotions, and to me when I listen to these songs, I feel like I am experiencing what’s being sung and intensely played through every note and beat.  For any Caligulas Horse fans out there, you are in for one hell of a journey. If you have enjoyed what they have delivered in the past, then you are going be blown away with what they gift to us with this album – new elements which are just so exciting to listen to. Complex guitar riffs, heart wrenching lyrics and soul piercing guitar solos, interweaved with bass and drums so perfectly transporting you through auditory deliciousness. A voyage that must be shared. Listen multiple times to truly appreciate the complexity that Caligula’s Horse effectuates in ‘Charcoal Grace’.

‘Charcoal Grace’ is available as Ltd. CD Digipak, CD Jewelcase (US only), Gatefold 2LP in various colours & Digital Album – PURCHASE HERE

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Caligula’s Horse recently announced their ‘Charcoal Grace’ World Tour 2024

Tickets available HERE

Photo credit : Jack Venables

Thanks to Sony Music Australia

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