Australia’s Caligula’s Horse have been on an upward trajectory in the prog metal scene since their inception back in 2011. The band’s third and fourth albums, Bloom and In Contact, were both stellar efforts that placed deservedly high on year-end progressive metal lists. Rise Radiant is the quintet’s latest effort, and with it Australia’s best progressive metal band faces the daunting task of meeting lofty expectations.
Rise Radiant most definitely starts and ends in spectacular fashion. Bookends “The Tempest” and “The Ascent” are two of the band’s best songs, showcasing sharp riffs, complex arrangements, and Jim Grey’s outstanding vocal delivery. “Slow Violence” and “Salt” are equally up to the task, the former featuring a jagged riff and sharp vocal delivery with an almost funky feel, the latter a dynamic piece that alternates between hard-hitting and subdued verses.
Other impactful songs include “Valkyrie,” which follows a template similar to “Slow Violence,” and “Oceanrise,” an uplifting piece with the stellar lyric “The desert cannot drown the water, be the flood be the ocean.” Structurally it is quite similar to opening song “The Tempest,” and the similarities of these songs do tend to hold Rise Radiant back slightly.
The only real misstep to be found is the lengthy ballad “Autumn.” The song is slow and long, and doesn’t really lead us anywhere as it plays out. This, along with the repetitive nature of the previously mentioned songs, serves to drag down the middle of the album to a small degree. It’s a minor nitpick, but there’s a strong chance a couple of these songs will be skipped during repeated listening. Sadly, my review copy didn’t come with the two bonus tracks, covers of Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up” and Split Enz’ “Message to My Girl,” two songs I would have loved to hear Caligula’s Horse’s versions of.
As expected, the production on Rise Radiant is impeccable, crystal clean in much the same fashion as similar contemporaries such as Haken, Leprous, and Karnivool. Newcomer Dale Prinsse’s bass growls and thrums wonderfully beneath the guitars of Sam Vallen and Adrian Goleby, while Jim Grey’s voice soars above the mix, displaying a full range of emotion. Grey is without question a leading talent in this vein of progressive metal.
Rise Radiant may not quite reach the lofty peaks of Bloom or In Contact, but it comes close. At its best, the album showcases Caligula’s Horse’s capacity to both pulverize and captivate, with hard-hitting metallic complexity and nuanced, emotional performances to boot. Mid-album lull aside, this is another top-notch release from Australia’s preeminent progressive metal band.
(released May 22, 2020 on InsideOut Music)
Heavy Music Headquarters Rating:
Watch Caligula’s Horse – “Slow Violence” Video
Enjoyed their last album, so I’ll be giving this one a try. It helps knowing that expectations are that not all the songs are killer.