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Caligula's Horse started life as a solo project for Quandary guitarist Sam Vallen to express the heavier side of his musical personality. The project started in early 2010 while Quandary was on a writing hiatus whilst recording their debut album Ready To Fail. Sam began writing music without the context of Quandary's musical framework to guide him; delving into music that was heavier and more guitar centric, with an emphasis on studio production and layering. The music took an intentionally modern form, incorporating influences as diverse as Frost*, Steely Dan, Meshuggah, Devin Townsend and Porcupine Tree.

Enter vocalist Jim Grey from progressive metal band Arcane. Once combined, the bipolarity of Sam's music, and the dynamics and expression of Jim's vocal created a musical invention much greater than it's constituent components; highly melodic music of powerful mood and depth with strong, memorable hooks and intense, technical instrumental performance.

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CALIGULA'S HORSE albums / top albums

.. Album Cover 3.43 | 9 ratings
Moments from Ephemeral City
Progressive Metal 2011
.. Album Cover 3.06 | 3 ratings
Progressive Metal 2013
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Progressive Metal 2015


.. Album Cover 3.38 | 5 ratings
Progressive Metal 2011

CALIGULA'S HORSE live albums

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.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
Dark Hair Down
Progressive Metal 2013

CALIGULA'S HORSE movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)



Album · 2013 · Progressive Metal
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Well here it is, one of the most eagerly awaited albums for these ears in quite some time. I have been quite vocal in my support of this band since their debut release ‘Moments from Ephemeral City‘ and I guess the big question has been would their follow album compete or better their previous slab of progressive meat. I put it to you that it does indeed compete and then some with this album and is sure to make my top albums of 2013 with Steven Wilson‘s ‘The Raven that Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)’, Tesseract‘s ‘Altered State‘, and Haken‘s ‘The Mountain‘. But to those who haven’t heard the band before, what can you expect to hear? Caligula’s Horse possess the juggernaut riffing of Periphery, the delicate emotional sensibility of Pain of Salvation, the perfectly tasteful and never over or understated rhythm section of Porcupine Tree, all cast to the harmonic ingenuity of Steely Dan. Some of you may be reading this and getting a little excited, it is exciting – it’s downright awesome and executed flawlessly by a cohort of young yet seasoned masters.

“Here and now, it ends”, the album opens with a lulling slapback delay motif which pumps into forceful guitar riffage that will feel familiar and comforting to those returning to the C-Horse, Jim Grey’s vocals are commanding and have an intimidating presence which is glorified by the massive gang vocal sections that sound like an army backing up its fearless leader, somehow I feel as though conceptually this may link in with the album too from behind the scenes videos I have seen that detail the recording process of the record. I must admit, I have not fully delved into the conceptual side of the album yet and have been enjoying it on a musical, production and lyrical level at this point in my journey with the album. I find this to often be the beauty with concept albums in that there is a greater philosophical or even cosmic level to gain from such works of art that gives a record staying power and long term appeal. Certainly this will be the case for “Tide”.

Whilst I feel as though the band has cut some of its fat (the Shrapnel Records übershred), which was something I have always praised the band for in terms of the impressiveness, I think it has actually improved the overall vibe and sincerity of the boys’ output. Don’t get me wrong, you will still hear more 16th note quintuplets than the average bear but I feel it’s done in a way to serve the song and album as a whole.

‘Water’s End’ is harkens back to the eastern flavours and delicate guitar work one will remember from ‘Alone in the World’ and ‘Equally Flawed’ from Moments. It is a beautiful journey through modal harmony and hushed falsettos highlighting his dynamic tenor voice. With a return of the roaring gang vocals and some clever metric modulation, the piece alludes back to some of my favourite guitar work on Moments‘ opening track ‘The City Has No Empathy’ which if I am being honest is still my favourite Caligula’s song. This chanting melody towards the end of the track is particularly encapsulating with all instrumental members (Sam Vallen, Zac Greensill, Geoff Irish and Dave Couper) locked in fiercely creating a busy groove of utmost precision and ferocity.

‘Atlas’ is a beautiful mixture of terraced harmonies and breathtaking music akin to another of my favourite songs that the band released as the eponymous track on the ‘Colossus‘ EP. There is a moment when a really dissonant chord enters and a separate layer comes in to accentuate it. It tickles my musician bone something chronic. I adore this attention to subtlety and detail more than words can ever say and that in itself says something special in that music like this transcends intellectualisation and really captures a feeling which is enough to give that wondrous shiver or goosebump moment that music at its peak is capable of delivering.

‘Into the White’ is one of my favourite tracks and my pick for one of the greatest songs on this album. Beautiful acoustic guitars, graceful melodic bass that Pete Trewavas would be proud of, the beautiful drum ambience, live woodwinds and playful, melodic soloing riding over syncopated djenty rhythms makes this track a true standout.

This album is completely self produced and mixed apart from external mastering and is a complete testament to Sam Vallen and Caligula’s Horse’s abilities. It sounds brilliant with a slightly softened presence giving a vintage edge to a modern sound. The tracks retain a lot of dynamic range with most tracks at DR7 and one at DR8 and DR11 each. For those wanting to read more about this you can check out these two links as I believe it’s important to include in my reviews nowadays as I believe the loudness war has gone on too long, thankfully Caligula’s have not been the worst of victims.

‘Old Cracks in New Earth’ is a largely instrumental track bar the end initial ooh chant and incessant chants of madness/determination that conclude the piece. The track is what you’d expect on this album, the full gamut of dynamics, guitar insanity full of shred and tingling vibratos and feel. It also plays the functional role of melodically reprising key themes of the album unifying the concept and tonality of the album as a whole.

‘Dark Hair Down’ is the track that most would be familiar as it was the lead single of this release with a music video that has already had some serious mileage. It is the most straightforward in terms of structure and dynamics with a hard hitting prowess that pushes the whole track along with momentum. This does not stop it from being one of the most enjoyable. Its verse riffs with extremely tight syncopations and beautiful guitar layers make it a powerhouse of tune. It’s the closest thing to a pop song on the record and I mean that in a complimentary way. The darkened fast Leslie organs augment the murky, visceral tones of the track with graceful splendour.

‘Thief’ is a light ballad and serves as a blissful interlude and pause from the relentless riffing of ‘Dark Hair Down’ which once again shows off the beautiful guitar playing and rich vocal timbre of Mr Grey. It is a gentle track that reminds me of the penultimate track ‘Reflections’ from Above Symmetry’s ‘Ripples’ album and it serves a similar purpose of setting up the final monster.

A medical breakthrough; an organic cure for impotence for sure – this opening groove to ‘All is Quiet by the Wall’ is jizzworthy. This absolute monster intro groove will surely get your chubby pumping or some similar biological reaction for female listeners. Once you’ve adjusted to your self-produced dampness, this track will decimate you. The grooves, the delicateness, the sheer power and command of the band and gang vocals; this is the band unified at its peak and it’s breathtaking. I hope you too will smile when you hear how in your face the guitar solos are mixed – these puppies soar! Perhaps one of my few criticisms of the album is that the beginning of this song sounds better when played in isolation from the album as an entire entity as the level of the previous track feels a little high compared with the start of the track. This is a similar criticism I have of one of my favourite songs by my favourite band Pain of Salvation on the title track of their 2000 album ‘The Perfect Element, Part 1′ so it is likely an idiosyncratic perception of this reviewer rather than what can be seen as a flaw.

All in all this record is one to surely shatter the permutations of inferiority complexes of the Australian music loving population in the fact that we can present work that competes with and often exceeds that of the International market. ‘The Tide, the Thief & River’s End’ is quite simply put – near perfect.

CALIGULA'S HORSE Moments from Ephemeral City

Album · 2011 · Progressive Metal
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Conor Fynes
'Moments From Ephemeral City' - Caligula's Horse (8/10)

Progressive metal has seen something of a resurgence in recent years. Of course, the style never truly halted, but it's only been in the past few years where the fusion of prog and metal has been given a new, modern face to it. Caligula's Horse is a band that aptly defines where I think the sound is at nowadays; a draw of melodies, chunky Meshuggah-like rhythms and general response to modern trends in rock. Suffice to say, this Australian act is able to avoid many of the tired conventions that once had me turn my nose at the 'new' progressive metal coming out. Made even more impressive by the fact that this is more-or-less a one man operation, Caligula's Horse and its debut album will not feel out of place in any progressive metalhead's diet.

Perhaps best known as the guitarist of Quandary, Sam Vallen forged Caligula's Horse as an attempt to get the heavier side of his musical expression out. Although vocals are offered here by the talented Jim Grey, Vallen does everything on 'Moments From Ephemeral City', from the songwriting to recording. Though Caligula's Horse now has a full band to play this music in a live setting, the debut is mostly the product of one man, and had I not known that, I would never have guessed it. Though Caligula's Horse is the debut of what could be called an 'indie' act, it is expertly executed, and the composition is only enhanced by Vallen's modern recording and emotive musicianship. In regards to the style and sound of Caligula's Horse, the fellow prog metal squires in Haken came to mind. There is a healthy acknowledgement of modern prog rock in Caligula's Horse, and the metal element of the band's sound comes out less than I would have expected. Regardless, moments such as the chugging climax to 'The City Has No Empathy' make Vallen's allegiances clear, drawing from the Meshuggah-conceived style now commonly known as 'djent'.

The composition is quite varied, ranging from Dream Theater-like instrumental fury to jazzy breaks and epic prog swells. 'Moments Of Ephemeral City' is graced by the fact that each song manages to stay significant and distinct from one another, although it was somewhat disappointing that there was never the same emotional intensity and flow of songwriting after the excellent opener. Jim Grey's vocal work is a very welcome addition to the sound of this band, giving another dimension to the sound through his smooth, even jazz-like vocal delivery. Through the heavier sections and soft observations, his voice fits the mood perfectly. Caligula's Horse leaves me wanting more of their music, although it would be even better to hear them explore their metal side more, which I felt was a little underdeveloped on the record. Regardless, 'Moments From Ephemeral City' is a great modern prog record, brimming with memorable musical themes and consistent execution. I have high hopes for this band in the future.


EP · 2011 · Progressive Metal
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Short in stature, colossal in depth

Caligula’s Horse is a young Australian Progressive Metal band founded in early 2011. The band was originally intended to be Quandary guitarist Sam Valen’s solo project, until he found vocalist Jim Grey whose powerful voice fitted Valen’s fresh prog metal music quite wonderfully. The duo’s debut album Moments from the Ephemeral City contained about 40 minutes of truly delicious and quite fresh-sounding prog metal takes, so when the duo recruited a full band and recorded two new tracks with the new lineup pointed towards release as an EP and as bonus tracks on the physical release of the band’s debut, I was excited. I was not disappointed. The two-track EP Colossus only runs a short 10 or so minutes, but the two tracks host a wealth of creative spirit, exciting styles, and inventive sounds.

The short EP contains the title track and the song “Vanishing Rites (Tread Softly Little One).” The EP is much the same style as the preceding full length, with adventurous, dynamic, and diverse sounds all melding into a continuous stream of powerful and very progressive metal. Grey’s strong voice perfectly accentuates Valen and Zac Greensil’s well-placed guitar playing, and Dave Couper and Geoff Irish, bassist and drummer respectively, hold down a wonderful rhythm for the entire band to play around. Now a full band, the EP is also less guitar-centric, with the bass and drums both being much more prevalent in the mix, which makes the music sound much more full and embellished. The diversity of the music is also very much present, with the frequent shifting from mellow melodic rock to happy-go-lucky near-shuffle-esque “metal” to djent-inspired prog metal riff sessions - all of which are quite wonderful for the ears.

The Colossus EP, the second release from this young and promising Australian progressive metal band has blown me away in much the same way the band’s debut album did - the guys in the band have made it quite obvious that they are chock full of creative talent, compositional know-how, and the ability to produce a kick-ass album. The two tracks are dripping with some of the better modern progressive metal to emerge from the scene in the last few years. I can see this band becoming one of the “big ones” in the near future. Highly recommended. 4 stars.

CALIGULA'S HORSE Moments from Ephemeral City

Album · 2011 · Progressive Metal
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Alone in the world…

Caligula’s Horse is an obscure, young, indie Australian eclectic progressive metal band. Started as a solo project for Quandary’s guitarist Sam Vallen, when vocalist Jim Grey joined the project, the band grew into a fully functioning project. Their debut album, Moments from Ephemeral City, fuses the melodic progressive rock/metal of the guitarist’s main band Quandary with the heavier metal of his aspirations for a truly eclectic brand of progressive metal. Each track fuses a great melodic diction with heavy bursts of fury with strong diversity running through the entire album. An overall powerhouse of modern progressive metal, and a fantastic and professional album as well, showing this band’s apparent maturity and (hopefully) lasting mark on the genre.

The City Has No Life opens the album, first light and jovial, with some nice guitar work. It soon transitions into a nice guitar solo, with some nice harmonizations between the guitars. Quickly it transcends into the throes of trepidation, throwing in heavier riffs and rhythms to back the accelerating solos. The song takes no prisoners, however, having no trouble in transitioning into a mellow and melodic section. Even from this, the song flies into the heavier spectrum yet again, only to transition again and again, keeping the listener tuned to the stereo as the band throws countless dynamic changes in this apparently highly diverse music. Even from the first track, one can see the alarming skill the band possesses, with effortless transitions and compositional goodies peppering the track the whole way through. Despite being harsh at times in a lyrical sense, it has use with accents on the harsh swears at the most opportune times, accentuating the music at the essential parts. Overall, the song perfectly displays this band’s vision, and outlines the way this band functions very well.

Silence opens with a mellow ambient acoustic part, with another great guitar solo to back it. Throwing in more ambient tricks, the song has a more spacey feel, with a much heavier emphasis on melody than metal in this track. It has a very chill atmosphere, fusing a cool proggy feel with some contrasting melodies. Although not as strong as the first track in a metal sense, it still has a strong creative output and a nice atmosphere.

Singularity has a stronger metallic groove going for it, opening with a great sweeping solo. It is a superb instrumental, showcasing the instrumental prowess of Vallen and co. (I’m not sure if there is a “co.”). Although the themes get a bit repetitive, the great soloing and layering going on during the track really give it a nice spice.

Alone in the World, the massive 11 minuter on the album, is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Opening for once with a crushing djenty riff and some nice groove backing it, the track is the most obviously metal on the album. It sweeps in and out of a killer riff session and a great melodic vocal theme. With another killer guitar solo, the song’s instrumental section is easily the best on the album. Vallen’s unique style, although apparently Petrucci-influenced, has a really great vibe to it and has some great harmonization going on. The mellow breakdown in the middle of the track provides a nice breather to the intensity of the track and makes a nice contrast to the intense metal preceding it. The exiting solo is great, utilizing some really nice sounding sweeps and shreds. Overall, it is a fantastic track, fusing much of the band’s overall style into a nice concise track.

Ephemera is a fantastic little melodic track, with some sublime harmony between the vocal parts and some really great acoustic work. The atmospheres and ambient layers also really add to the track very nicely, giving it a fantastic spacey feel. Another great feature is the symphonic pieces, accenting the music nicely. Overall a shorter, but very pretty, track; it gives the album a nice dynamic.

Equally Flawed, next to Alone in the World, is my favorite track on the album. Opening with a fantastic little piano diddy, it soon transitions into a sweeping metal groove session. Combining some really great melodies to front the great metal riffs and some really nice lyrics, the song has not trouble getting into the upper sonic echelons, utilizing some really amazing arrangements between each instrument for different themes from earlier in the track and countless other really fantastic compositional pieces.

Calliope’s Son, although it opens with most likely the cheesiest opening I’ve ever heard is a great track. Although the first notes set you up for one of the cheesiest track ever, they soon modulate into a really fantastic mode. The song flows into a really great adventurous metal track, reaching heights as the smash hit success Haken did last year (2010), with some really fantastic metallic section and some really great contrasts and dynamics between each instrument. Overall it’s a really fantastic track which really closes the album well.

ALBUM OVERALL: For a debut, this is spectacular. For an album, it’s damn fantastic as well. Blasting out of only a little experience with an indie prog metal band, Sam Vallen and his trusty vocalist Jim Grey have come forth with a highly professional and superbly crafted section of music, with a fresh style and a great vision for the genre. Each track has countless little diverse tidbits that really give the album life, breathe air into a great composition, and set this band off onto the great road to success, and a great cult following of devoted prog listeners. 4 stars.


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