Almost four years separate the band’s last album, Rise Radiant, and the release of Charcoal Grace. Like every other band on the planet, the pandemic hit Caligula’s Horse badly. They couldn’t tour to support their wonderful Rise Radiant album, and guitarist Adrian Goleby’s departure in 2021 brought the Brisbane-based band down to a quartet.
Caligula’s Horse – Charcoal Grace (InsideOut)
Release Date: 26 January 2024
Words: Robert Adams
Remaining guitarist Sam Vallen has taken his role to new levels on Charcoal Grace. In fact the whole band have taken a huge leap forward, not only in the scope of their songwriting but in the musicianship on display.
Charcoal Grace has nine tracks in total. The opener, The World Breathes With Me, is a studied introduction to 2024’s version of Caligula’s Horse.
The track ebbs and flows from beautiful melancholy and clean riffs to bludgeoning power over the course of its ten minute run time. Every member is firing on all cylinders and you are left with a huge grin on your face at the track’s conclusion. This is a fantastic start to the album.
“The World Breathes With Me is a powerful musical journey that sets the stage for Charcoal Grace as a whole,” the band said. “It pulls right back to a bird’s eye view of what we saw and experienced during the years of the pandemic. While we did lose our faith in humanity, we ultimately reconnected in the understanding that we are all forever connected to one another through breath and to the world through each other.”
The first single, Golem, is next up, and this track comes at you like a funked-up djent monster.
“Golem is about how we all struggled with the weight of expectation through the pandemic,” the bands said. “We felt that weight acutely as musicians, being trapped with no notion of when, or even if, we would return to the life we knew, all while feeling the pressure to create our next work rising. While that’s our specific experience, the themes of Golem are something we can all relate to. It’s a heavy song with an emphasis on riffs and driving rhythms.”
Charcoal Grace, the title track, is spread over 24 minutes and four songs. It’s the most ambitious track(s) of Caligula’s Horse to date, and they pull it off with great style. The suite deals with the band’s experiences during and after the pandemic, covering life, love and loss.
It’s a truly remarkable series of songs that could so easily have disappeared up their Antipodean posterior, but instead, Caligula’s Horse show maturity and restraint during the four tracks that make up this opus.
Sails gives us a short breather but not for long as bassist Dale Prinsse, drummer Josh Griffin and guitarist Sam Vallen once again stretch their musical muscles. Jim Grey’s vocals go from choirboy innocence to full on devilish roars.
The current single, The Stormchaser, gives more twists and turns. “The Stormchaser is about the divide we all saw through the pandemic,” Sam Vallen said. “How, rather than banding together to overcome the challenge of those years, many chose to serve themselves at the expense of their community and their society.
“Watching this, as we all did, was a humbling and infuriating experience, and it has lingered in all of us. Musically, The Stormchaser is quite different from those we’ve revealed so far from Charcoal Grace [Golem, The World Breathes With Me], emphasising space, dynamics, and timbre with a particular focus on the emotional range of Jim Grey’s vocal.”
The album closes with the truly gorgeous Mute. Clocking in at 12 minutes, it’s a beautiful journey to Charcoal Grace’s conclusion.
Caligula’s Horse – Charcoal Grace
The World Breathes With Me
Charcoal Grace I Prey
Charcoal Grace II A World Without
Charcoal Grace III Vigil
Charcoal Grace IV Give Me Hell