Caligula’s Horse – Charcoal Grace Review

Caligula’s Horse Delivers a Prog-Rock Masterpiece: A Track-by-Track Journey Through Their Latest Album ...

Record Label: InsideOut Music

Genre:Prog

Date of Release: 26th January 2024

 

Line Up:

Jim Grey – Lead Vocals
Sam Vallen – Lead Guitar
Josh Griffin – Drums
Dale Prinsse – Bass

 

Tracklist:

01. The World Breathes With Me (10:00)
02. Golem (5:20)
03. Charcoal Grace I Prey (7:48)
04. Charcoal Grace II A World Without (6:48)
05. Charcoal Grace III Vigil (3:22)
06. Charcoal Grace IV Give Me Hell (6:13)
07. Sails (4:31)
08. The Stormchaser (5:57)
09. Mute (12:00)

 

This album has a fully rounded approach from classic Caligula’s Horse to new inventive catchy rhythms.

I listened to this album multiple times before I reviewed it. Before I felt comfortable to sit down with everything and really think it all through. I liked the album before reviewing it, but after reviewing it, I can say with confidence that the score was boosted.

The World Breathes With Me At 10 minutes, this is quite the way to start off an album. The album starts off a little quiet with some foreshadowing, and then it hits you with the drums and guitars giving a taste of what’s to come. It goes back to this quieter part, for lack of a better term. Around 1:39, it hits you in the face, full-on. I hope you were ready. And then it gets into the prog with the guitar soloing. At 2:38, we hit the vocals, and they soar nicely. I like the percussion changes throughout the verses.

The chorus – I like the harmonies; they work really well. Post-chorus, we get a really prog approach to the next section. It almost has a bridge kind of feel. It goes into a chorus again, before we calm down for a measure; here comes a bridge-like build-up, and… cue the key change. This is where we begin to experience the harshness of the song a bit more, even with the voice in falsetto. We go into a soaring solo that balances out, and with a few motions, we’re in yet another key change. It has a Dream Theater feel to me, honestly. There’s a lack of noticeable reverb on the solo until the end when it fades out. I especially like that the guitar doesn’t get hidden or disguised with reverb to save the day. We go back to a softer part; I like the bass tone in this part. We get into another harder and somewhat harsh part; the mix in this part is done really well. I’m a fan of how they used reverb selectively in this song. It doesn’t feel like a 10-minute song.

Golem This song leaves nothing to the imagination; it hits hard from the start. I really like the guitar riff and the timing in the song. It’s a good straightforward rock song, and we get a bit of vocal harshness mixed with lighter singing. In true prog fashion, however, halfway through the song, everything changes. But they somehow manage to bring back what feels like a variation of the intro riff. I like the solo, and then how the song goes into full chords, and the song keeps its 4/4 going with the song finishes out.

Charcoal Grace I. Prey II. A World Without III. Vigil IV. Give Me Hell

This 4-song story is epic and measures in around 24 minutes; get on the train and enjoy the ride. The words in these four parts are extremely thoughtful and full of all kinds of emotions.

It starts off soft, almost happy sounding, despite the lyrical content. The “Prey” movement is a moving song in all honesty; there’s a lot of motion within the song and within words. His vocal tone is spot on.

We move onto “A World Without”. Starting off with soft acoustic with hints of electric guitar reaching out from the ether as if the person in the song is waiting for answers, which ironically, is the first line of this movement, “I just wish that you would answer”. The emotional turmoil in this song is felt, a fight ensues and the music contributes to that aspect. The solo is the sonic path they both chose to walk as they argue and fight. I love the outro guitar riff, subtle, but succinct and pointed.

The outro of “A World Without” is the intro to “Vigil”, and it’s hauntingly beautiful; the slides of the fingers on the guitar are a sound I will always appreciate when it’s captured. The raw factor of that recording quality is something that doesn’t always come through in this day and age. Continuing with that theme, I love the raw and naked element of the voice in this movement. It’s not something you get to hear anywhere else on the album all around. The build-up in this song keeps you on your toes. Probably my favorite song on the album, even if it is part of a full movement.

Finally, we have come to “Give Me Hell”; this song is definitely the heaviest of them all. And if the lyrical content is anything to speak of this is not a song you take lightly. It’s a final epilogue of answers ending the song with, “I am the hate you gave me, I am only what you made me, Hell is you”.

Sidenote… It hits me that at this point on the album that what is deceiving me about this band comes down to the voice. It is so light in weight that singer Jim Grey easily slips between falsetto and head voice. It’s a dichotomy given the heaviness of the thematic elements of the album in general and the heaviness of the instrumental tone. This isn’t something you just put on at a party and expect to have a good time – unless your party involves the discussions of the merits of time signatures and thematic elements of music. Not everyone’s cup of tea, only for the most die-hard fans of music. It doesn’t sound angry, but you can sense the frustration and anger that’s present in the themes. This is what I enjoy about prog rock music; you have these lighter voices but themes that are universes deep, and yet so relatable.

OK, moving onto “Sails”. Really digging the guitar riffs; they’re light, like the voice, and it complements. This song overall has a lightness to it, a nice change in pace compared to the previous 24 minutes. It has almost a pop song feel, but it’s not pop. I like this song a lot.

The Stormchaser brings us back to the prog elements this band does so well. I enjoy how the voice gets some gruffness all around during the “Test is a test, it’s not a war” parts. I like the rhythm changes throughout this song; they keep you moving along without thinking too much. The key change, oh magnificent, the interplay with the drum fill. Then it goes back to the original key so effortlessly. The interplay of everything on this track works well with the title being as it is, and then boom it just ends. Take a breath because we’re getting into the longest single song of the album.

Mute, this track starts off with a very strong voice, unlike anything else you’ve heard on this album. In fact, so much so I had to double-check it wasn’t someone else singing a guest spot. I like the addition of a whistle in this song; it brings a unique folky quality to it. This song is HEAVY as FUCK, and oddly I find myself just jamming along rather than trying to understand things at a visceral level. It’s got a very Haken feel in the voice and guitar melody, something like from “The Mountain” and “Virus” albums, but not exactly. I can’t pinpoint it, but that’s okay. I love how the song builds and how singer Jim lets go at a few points, rather than going into falsetto, it adds a little oomph right where it needs to be. This song may be 12 minutes, but I’m 6:45 in, and I’ve already had all the feels. Now we’re given a ménage à trois of parts to embrace for almost 3 full minutes, and then the last few minutes come back with vocals, soft parts, faster parts, and a comedown that allows you to reset yourself, restart the album, and relive it all over.

 

Written by: Chris Rugowski

Ratings: 9/10

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