When a band release their fifth studio album you expect to hear a well known sound and a honed repertoire that fans desire, so when Caligula’s Horse explained that they wanted a different approach to what was undeniably their best concept album to date ‘In Contact’, I felt this a daring approach. Rise Radiant is an indulgent collection of individual songs and themes wrapped in a contemporary progressive style of metal that has become the sound that Caligula’s Horse have become renowned for.
At under fifty minutes long it seems on the short side for prog metal, but when listened to in its entirety it works for Rise Radiant. The album starts with a theatrical riff that is unquestionably progressive metal to the core, Jim Grey’s vocals cut through bringing the tempo of The Tempest to a controlled level. Holding the attention of the listener, the ferocity of this track showcases hooks within the chorus that fans are accustomed to, the driving guitars from Sam Vallen and Adrian Goleby are a reminder as to why this band have remained a favourite for many years. A sneaky yet simple guitar solo the cuts through the song before a dramatic crescendo to finish.
The piano intro of Salt exhibits the diversity of the band, its poetic melody entices allurement within the vocals of Jim Grey which has to be one of his greatest showcases to date. The ballad is an intriguing composition with an acquainted guitar solo that is steeped in hard rock and a climatic surge that you would see within Symphonic Metal. The technical drums from Josh Griffin are superb throughout, his usage of heavy and fast double kick during the song’s breakdown shouldn’t work nor make sense but it does, this is yet another example of the bands persistence within heightening their composition.
At this point I will be honest, on first listening I didn’t quite see how ‘Resonate’ worked as a placement within the album, I was at a loss to why they had finished a strong run of The Tempest, Slow Violence and Salt and placed it between those and the symphonic prog metal epic of Oceanrise. It was on the fourth listen I stepped away from the meditative music of the song and listened to the lyrics and my exact words were ‘oh you’re clever, that is bloody clever’. Whilst the album isn’t a concept, there are common themes running through the songs, of persistence, overcoming obstacles and basic human experiences. Resonance allows a listener to take a step back from the continuous music, breathe, assess and then move into the second part of the album.
Valkyrie is another hard-hitting prog metal track, the vocals on here seem more powerful throughout which makes me want to hear more of this style. The work of new bassist Dale Prinsse is prevalent throughout, stamping his style within the album and this track.
The Ascent is a ten minute grand closing statement within its verbosity the sweeping licks and runs from the guitar gives a nostalgic nod to the prog rock eras of bygone days.
For me I feel Rise Radiant will strike a chord with current and new listeners, I would like to have seen more of the harder tracks of the past albums, Caligula’s Horse have never seemed safe or a want to be radio friendly yet I find this album more approachable to the everyday listener than past albums. I’m not sure whether this is due to being dwarfed by the magnitude of In Contact or because this is a different way of writing than the band have approached before.
A major drawcard within the album that stands out has to be the production and mixing, the levels of all instruments have been superbly mixed allowing an ease within listening experience. Sam Vallen (production) and Jens Bogren (mixed)(Opeth, Devin Townsend Project, Leprous) have brought the vibrancy and opulence to the forefront which would impress audiophiles and fans alike.
Whether you are a new listener to Caligula’s Horse or an avid follower of their past nine years and five albums, there is something within Rise Radiant for everyone. Its eclectic, thought provoking and leaves me to wonder what is ahead for them. I feel they have merely scratched the surface of their unique style of music.
Review conducted for The Rockpit, Australia 24 May 2020