dream the dead will rise!
Caligula’s Horse @ Oxford Art Factory, Sydney NSW Australia 03/08/2018 written by Brendan Lewis.
There once was a time, a land, a dark realm. A place where the mythical legend of Progressive-metal shall bloom, where the creatures who bare the magical weapon that is Prog-metal write their songs for no one, and dream the dead and the fallen in Prog, will rise once again from their graves, buried from the tyranny of Pop-music. Tonight, beneath the firelight that fills this realm, the rust of these warriors musical blades will be shed, as they come in contact with their next battle, here at the mystical Oxford Art Factory in Sydney, as they fight for the glory of the new prog-metal chalice, that is the album ‘In Contact’, before the mighty warriors of Caligula’s Horse set sail to a land unknown….. Actually, it’s a little known, it’s Europe.
Let us enter the cannon's mouth…
An eerie sounding suspense building intro starts before quick vicious drumming of sharp precision slices through the charging sound, while the whole band start their wild energetic on-stage assault in the first three songs. This show is a rare treat to hear the band’s latest album ‘In Contact’ in its entirety from start to finish, so the first three songs of the set follow in turn, ‘Dream The Dead’, ‘Will’s Song (Let The Colours Run)’ and ‘The Hands Are The Hardest’. After lead singer Jim’s delicate vocals glide through ‘Dream The Dead’ like a ghost floating amidst the ferocious sounds below, the atmosphere seems to thicken and almost sway in Will’s Song (Let The Colours Run)’. Jim’s sweet yet sorrowful vocals conjoined with the ever-changing melodies and intricate percussion is rather hypnotic and haunting in a beautiful symphony at the same time. In ‘The Hands Are The Hardest’ the focus aurally is very much on drums and bass I find, where as Jim’s unique vocals and Sam’s mind bending guitar skills fall behind like wounded soldiers, and need to be a bit louder I feel. What may not be helping the case for Jim’s vocals, is his attention drawing dance moves, that kinda resembles a possessed gremlin on steroids. This is while the audience sing along like obedient servants and sharp strikes of the high-hat drum crack down on us like bolts of lightning.
That crazy little gremlin takes a minute to recharge, and has a fun chat to his loyal followers in the audience, before showing off his elegant ballet skills and unleashes the gremlin once more kicking, jumping and waving his arms to initiate the next three songs, ‘Love Conquers All’, ‘Songs For No One’ and ‘Capulet’. What’s even more amazing, is this little gremlins ballet moves seem to be in-sync with the beat in ‘Love Conquers All’, which is thick with progressive vines and keeps our ears locked prisoner to the unpredictability that it is. This also features Jim’s vocals reaching out to a call-out-like way in the songs’ bridge, as if he’s calling out to raise the dead like The Night’s King in Game Of Thrones. As for ‘Songs For No One’, a mystifying alluring slow harmonic-minor tone with an entrancing electronic beat, builds up to a dark aura sending waves of dark excitement through me. Before charging into ‘Capulet’, Jim teaches us how to sing the hook vocal line in the song, like a wizard teaching us the recipe to a potion to be brewed. This potion is rich with warm baritone vocals in a hollowed out mix, which lacks guitar sadly, until near the end of this sinister brew, when after Jim (the wizard) holds his arms out in a conductor-like manner, summoning the spell of vocal hooks from within the crowd, then at last, an echoing electric guitar emerges from the musical cauldron, bringing forth godly yell-out vocals like a dragon’s roar.
For the rest of this dark adventure, we encounter more calming essences that settle the beast from the previous riots which let Jim’s vocals cut through the mix more comfortably in ‘Fills My Heart’, followed by vast walls of wicked guitar and thunderous drum strikes in ‘Inertia And The Weapon Of The Wall’ to the wild crackling of the drums like wildfire in ‘The Cannon’s Mouth’, which the whole band rock out and stagger around the stage like wounded soldiers, perhaps burnt by the wildfire of the drums. And finally, this tail has reached its final chapter with ‘Graves’ and its more major-tone vibe, despite the dark name. A soft delicate guitar starts, before the drum empire strikes back in full force, while an ear catching guitar effect like string harmonies rides the beat like Daenery’s riding Drogon. This song takes us on a remarkable aural adventure in particular, in its varying sections, Jim’s vocals are within a stripped back calm section, which is merely the calm before the storm that follows, with a gradual build up on sound to an explosion of soaring vocals with choir harmonies that sends shockwaves throughout the venue.
And here you are thinking the dream/nightmare is over? The beast has been silenced? HA! Brace yourself, because there’s a two song encore coming…
The band had intended to play some fan requests after they finished ‘In Contact’ but seeing as they only have time for two more, how about ‘Water’s Edge’ and ‘Turntail’? ‘Water’s Edge’ sends an ominous wind carrying choir harmonies to wash away the darkness of the set before it, then exposing a musical brightness shining from the heart of ‘Turntail’. But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s all rainbows and sunshine from here on out, as the drums still keep the progressive fire well lit, and the brighter sound with the progressive drum flames toys with our senses.
Legend is, a group of mighty creatures of progressive-metal by the name of Caligula’s Horse, waged war on the people of Sydney at The Oxford Art Factory one cold August night. Word is, these creatures fought valiantly in both on-stage energy and mind bending musical skill that made one journalist and what seemed like the entire crowd become their loyal followers of darkness. I feel this is only the beginning of this story however, and would urge anyone who dares read this, to take the journey as I did, you will find yourself in a realm like none other...