The world we live in is currently a very Anglo-centric world. English is considered an essential tool for people who live in countries where the language is not their first language, whereas English speaking countries do not get the same training in other languages. This lack of proper exposure to languages besides English is detrimental in many ways, in particular when it comes to art and media. Almost any artist or band that reaches any significant level of recognition will have lyrics in English. Of course, there are a few exceptions to this rule, but these artists usually have a particularly unique visual aspect that contributes to their fame. This is a real shame; vocals are as much of a musical instrument as any other, and the language sung in is one of the most important timbres. There are certain expressions and nuances that singing in English wouldn’t be able to offer, but singing in another language gives access to a musical palette that would be limited by singing in English.
Calligram is a multi-national project with members spanning 4 different countries. On top of this, all of their lyrics are sung in Italian. Whilst most would associate Italian singers either with opera or romantic folk music played during a gondola ride on the canals of Venice, Calligram applies Italian lyrics to a very abrasive style of hardcore. The combination of such a brutal sound with an otherwise very romantic language may seem like a recipe for disaster, but in actual fact this has been done before; Italy actually has a very highly regarded screamo movement, with bands such as Raein, La Quiete and Ojne already proving that someone screaming in Italian over hardcore is a method that succeeds with flying colours. However, never before has the music behind an Italian screamer sounded quite as brutal as it does on Calligram’s newest album, The Eye Is The First Circle. Right from the start of opening song 'Carne' the band let everyone know that they won’t be taking any prisoners. Their sound is an absolutely punishing slab of black metal influenced hardcore.
The music on The Eye Is The First Circle brings dissonant guitar riffs, haunting leads, d-beat rhythms, pummelling blast beats and throat-shredding screams together to create an uncompromisingly brutal sound. The lyrics are nothing short of nihilistic, going into topics such as depression and the darker side of human nature. However, once again, having lyrics in Italian gives Calligram a somewhat unique place in the world of extreme metal, especially amongst bands with a similar sound, such as Oathbreaker and The Secret. On top of the lyrics, Calligram also throw in some other influences into their brutal style, such as some post-rock passages in songs like Anedonia, and it’s clear that they are also influenced by death metal and grindcore; the latter being particularly prevalent on 'Vivido Perire', the shortest song on the album that isn’t an interlude.
Overall, Calligram do musical menace right with The Eye Is The First Circle. They certainly won’t be the next band to blow up, and this will largely be due to the abrasiveness of their sound rather than their lyrics not being in English, but the way they bring the poetic nihilism of Italian screamo bands together with a blackened hardcore sound results in an album which is not only utterly crushing, but also morbidly beautiful. The Eye Is The First Circle is an album that shows that, in spite of being spread across four different countries, Calligram have a lot going for them and should be a band on the tongues of anyone who is a fan of extreme metal.
The Eye Is The First Circle is released April 10th via Prosthetic Records. You can pre-order the album here.