If there's any band out there that consistently sets very high standards for themselves with every consecutive album, it would be Brisbane proggers Caligula's Horse. However, what makes Caligula's Horse such a great band is that they not only keep these high standards, but they seem to outdo themselves on each and every album they release. Their previous effort, In Contact, took all the best elements from their previous releases and blended them all together into a fantastic album that can really only be described as the pinnacle of their discography so far, which, as a whole, is a masterclass in modern progressive rock.
The band's fifth album, Rise Radiant, simply continues in the high standard that the band has set for themselves. At just 48 minutes it is the shortest record the band has written since their debut, Moments From Ephemeral City, and actually breaks a trend the band was on of each album being longer than the previous. However, what can be said about Rise Radiant is that it streamlines their sound, retaining the outstanding quality of the material on In Contact and compressing it into a more concise album. The opening two tracks, 'The Tempest' and 'Slow Violence', introduce the album on a heavier note, with a lot of downtuned, Meshuggah-inspired riffs combined with Steely Dan-esque melodies and harmonies. Whilst these songs aren't as epic an opener that 'Dream the Dead' was on In Contact, they're a solid couple of modern prog songs that demonstrate exactly what Caligula's Horse do best.
Where the band let their progressive side shine the best is on the longer tracks on Rise Radiant. Third track 'Salt' is a nearly 8-minute example on how to do progressive metal right, as it weaves between softer and heavier sections with some very memorable hooks, and the final two tracks, 'Autumn' and 'The Ascent' wouldn't sound out of place on Opeth's discography; although the former is definitely much more mellow whereas the latter is a 10-minute long mammoth of a song with great riffs and melodies throughout. Overall, the musicianship on Rise Radiant is utterly sublime, and Caligula's Horse do a fantastic job of keeping the album very versatile whilst ensuring the album flows well and stays very consistent.
Vocalist Jim Grey has always given a very strong vocal performance, and that's no different on Rise Radiant. His mixture of crooning and falsetto singing allows for a very refined but memorable vocal performance, and he certainly deserves to be given as much praise as some of his other contemporaries such as Ross Jennings from Haken and Einar Solberg from Leprous. There are more than enough moments on here with some very catchy vocal melodies, perhaps the best examples of this being on the choruses of 'Slow Violence' and 'Salt'.
Overall there is very little to criticise about this record. The musicianship and songwriting is top-notch, the songs are catchy and extremely melodic without sounding derivative, the musical and vocal harmonies are fantastic, and the band works in a few new tricks (such as the brief use of blast beats at the start of 'Salt') to keep things sounding fresh. Perhaps the only criticism about Rise Radiant is to ask where Caligula's Horse can go from here, since they set such high standards for themselves with each album. However, given their track record to not only meet but exceed their high standards, any concerns about whatever they follow up with after Rise Radiant can promptly be thrown under the bus and forgotten about.
Rise Radiant is released May 22nd via Inside Out Music. Pre-order the album here.