For as much as the metal community prides itself on head spinning guitar solos and tremendous breakdowns, there is always room for critical analysis of the music. Even the most intense offerings of the genre have been subject of academic studies: case in point, Meshuggah and the many doctoral dissertations written about the complexity of their rhythms.
Though occurring on the frigid streets of Manhattan rather than in a classroom, the line outside the Gramercy Theater was abuzz with debates of time signatures, keys and chords, and harmonies. "We must be a prog metal show" laughed one concertgoer, trying their best to keep up.
Such was the case, but even beyond the afterhours musicology lessons, the air was full of excitement for the New York premier of Caligula's Horse. Traveling to the Big Apple all the way from Brisbane, Australia, they were joined with Connecticut's own prog-masters, Earthside, for a night of captivating and bedazzling metal goodness.
Originally set to perform at the Gramercy many years ago, an event postponed due to unforeseen circumstances, it was no surprise to see Earthside guitarist Jamie van Dyck smiling throughout the band's performance. Having released their latest effort, Let the Truth Speak, last November, the set was packed with choice cuts from the long awaited opus.
Leading off with "We Who Lament", Earthside's incredible brand of dreamscapes crafted from sound filled the room in an instant. Wielding textures akin to Scale the Summit, Skyharbor, Between the Buried and Me, and Anathema, transported the crowd to surreal realms and far away places.
One could easily mistaken songs such as "Watching the Earth Sink" and title track "Let the Truth Speak" as being performed by a six or even seven piece band. In truth, van Dyke, along with bassist Ryan Griffin, drummer Ben Shanbrom, and keyboardist Frank Sacramone called upon their academic backgrounds in music studies and their limitless natural talent to create something massive and full of an array of colors.
Thanking the crowd, which included the family and friends of three of the band's members (Griffin's family was said to have attended the Boston show), the set concluded with "The Closest I've Come" from Earthside's 2015 debut, A Dream In Static.
The roar of applause as the houselights came up signaled two things: a hope that fans aren't waiting another eight years for the next album, and even higher hopes to see Earthside back in New York City again soon.
With six albums under their belt released since 2011, to say Caligula's Horse was long overdue to tour the United States is an an understatement. Though having played ProgPower USA in Atlanta two separate years, the quartet had never done a complete North American tour. Naturally, it was not uncommon to spot the band members taking pictures and signing autographs before their set.
Pulling from the books of Opeth, Periphery, Fair to Midland, and Protest the Hero, the boys from Brisbane kicked off the set with back to back cuts from their brand new album, Charcoal Grace. If accolades weren't enough, then the band's blend of progressive metal was more than enough to make a believer of anyone in attendance.
Turning back the clock to 2020, "Slow Violence" off Rise Radiant had the audience on their feet and continuing to move the dancefloor with "Rust" taken from 2015's Bloom. Segueing into "Marigold" and the title track from Bloom, the band pulled two more cuts from Rise Radiant ("The Tempest" and "Oceanrise") to the delight of longtime fans.
Winding down the night with "The Stormchaser" and "Mute", Caligula's Horse closed out the set with the musical journey known as "Graves" from 2017's In Contact. At fifteen minutes in length, the multitude of tones and textures covered in the song was satisfying the musical eggheads as much as it was to any fan of masterful songwriting.
Though bands from so far away have in recent years expressed how hard it can be to tour North America, Caligula's Horse can rest assured that they are always welcome here and fans will be eagerly awaiting their return.
Ticket and photo pass courtesy of Freeman Promotions