Caligula’s Horse – In Contact (2017) – Review

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The path to greatness (or the lack thereof) by any one band out there often1) feels like a journey. Sometimes it is a stairway to heaven, but – more often – a friggin’ rollercoaster to doom. The latter one is usually driven by often bizarre tenets that must be followed. Because the powers that be demand it, whoever that might be, by the way. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, as the proverb goes.

Now, with this band, we don’t quite know where things are heading to. Caligula’s Horse released their fourth record this year, which – sadly – lacked a lot of the depth that In Contact so freely dispensed. And it’s not that this is a bad piece. Besides, all them fanboys were positively swooning and fainting over it. But of course, once you are on that kind of territory, reality often leaves the building. We see that all the time in politics these days.

Yet again, Bloom, Caligula’s Horse 2015 offering, already landed on our good side. An enjoyable chunk of soundbites, nothing more and – surely – nothing less. But the 2017 record In Contact really knocked this crew’s socks right off their smoking feet.

Yet another friggin’ killer record from a year that kept on giving stellar stuff. And we actually ended up with a Prog Metal outfit on the top spot of our annual top 10. Only that In Contact landed on the wrong side of our review pipe. Which – with 20/20 hindsight firmly in place – sucks big time.

In Contact really is a record made by a band in its prime. A prog metal piece painted in vibrant colors. Gorging with alternative parts, jazzy sections, ambients, metal and rock, metalcore, and true ballads that only prog masters can produce. There’s also a somewhat carefree joy to the whole record. Even if the lyrics often err on the thorny side. As the excellent monologue on Inertia And The Weapon Of The Wall surely attests.

Now, let me point out Jim Grey‘s outstanding performance. Spoken, screamed, crooned or delivered in soaring clears, you’ll get top-notch vocals that never disappoint. And – more importantly – never gripe. This adds that dreamy Haken-like quality to their tune. Something Leprous should have paid better attention to with their album of that same year- and surely beyond.

Already the first track Dream the Dead pummels you with that highly complex but also highly technical delivery. It is as if you stepped right into prog heaven, a place where all the others should dwell but don’t. But the magic starts once that little melody sings out by about mid-point.

It’s one of the trademarks of In Contact that no song is over until it is. Because this band stuffs their arrangements to the gills with elements, little melodies that seemingly appear by happenstance. Complex, ever-changing tunes that you just need to consume with some time on your hands. Car music only ain’t really in it.

Interestingly, the record peaks in the middle. The perfect curb for a successful record. Songs for No One goes first. And this is some stellar piece of prog right there. Even if it is probably that one commercial track that always must exist. But that chorus was just damn irresistible, followed by that juicy solo about 2/3 down the road.

Now, In Contact sports that pretty perfect ballad called Capulet2). Ambient, juicy acoustics, a song structure with a slightly alternative flavor, embedded on softly scaled folk rock. Indeed, Grey‘s expert crooning really cements this little patch of quiet reflection into something memorable.

However, Fill My Heart truly is the main course. Sturdy riffing, a perfect interpretation, and a chorus to dream for. This is the one track that the mighty office suite in RMR Tower could not get enough of.

Well, that I am not fond of monologues, stuff delivered by the voice of wrath talking to me out of nowhere, is probably no secret. But here again, Jim Grey and his expressive piece of prose called Inertia And The Weapon Of The Wall just fascinated me. It spits directly into the brutal Cannon’s Mouth, which – in turn – leads into the epic Graves.

This last track, whilst pretty good in itself, is also a good example of one of the main ailings of In Contact. Some of the tracks on this record noodle a tad too much about the soundscape with a length they don’t really deserve. This gives the record that impression of undue length. And indeed, some sharp cuts would have led to a crisper and – I daresay – more pointed delivery.

But let’s put a wrapper around all this, shall we?

In Contact really rumbles down its very own highway to fame. True, the record contains more traditional prog than is good for most other recordings out there. Yet, Caligula’s Horse delivered their album in a somewhat pigheaded style, a brand all of their own. A highly complex, yet never overwhelming piece that pushes the boundaries of what Progressive Metal usually is capable of. In a way, we found ourselves a true counterweight to other heavies in the genre. One that showcases that cool prog is still on the market. And going strong.

In other words, the crew here finally enjoyed the Progfest every one of them was yearning for. So, if you look for expressive, highly technical, and simply outstanding Progressive Metal, then In Contact should live in your music collection. Go ahead and shell out a few of them greenbacks for it. You won’t regret it.

Record Rating: 8/10 | LabelInside Out Music | Web: Official Band Site
Release date: 15 September 2017


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