Live review: Caligula’s Horse and Brutai @ The Black Heart, London, 28/6/17
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Despite it being only two shows long, the UK tour of Australian prog rock mavens Caligula’s Horse has been a diverse affair. The short trek began over the weekend with a solo show at Southampton’s Talking Heads. With no support act to speak of, the deck was already stacked against the band, made unfathomably worse by the fact that the show only had an audience of 27 people. Being the ever-consummate professionals that they are, however, Caligula’s Horse was able to pull through and deliver an intimate, energetic set to this small handful of their followers. Tonight at Camden’s Black Heart though, a wholly different story can be told. Unlike their previous show’s measly attendance, tickets are sold out and Caligula’s Horse have one of London’s fastest-rising metal bands, Brutai (★★★★☆), as an opener. Hot off a set at this year’s Download Festival, the local quintet arrive in a flurry of muscular riffs and immense melodies. Rhythm guitarist Felix Lawrie and keyboardist Alex Lorimer co-helm a dual vocal attack while the instrumentals deliver a tight, intricate, heavy pummelling. Driven by tight shreds like those on ‘Relapse’ and ‘Spiders’, all of which are powerful enough to shake the Black Heart to its very foundations, Brutai perfectly set the tone for the technically-inclined juggernaut set to follow, made complete by a surprisingly large turn-out for a supporting band. The only real flaw with this set is that, after recent performances at huge festivals like Download and Bloodstock, the band feel constrained on the smaller stage of the Black Heart. Constantly, they express a desire to move and spread out in keeping with their energetic metal tunes, yet that is an opportunity they are never afforded. However, the headlining Caligula’s Horse (★★★★★) very quickly make themselves at home in the unbelievably sweaty venue that they will be performing their hour-plus set within. The incendiary and heavy ‘Marigold’ begins the proceedings, with its undiluted ferocity crossed with ambient verses and thought-provoking lyricism summarising both poles of this band’s versatile sound. Both in regards to technicality and showmanship, Caligula’s Horse are unstoppable tonight, with every member of this five-piece from Down Under hitting every single note perfectly, all while appearing to have the time of their lives on-stage. Front-man Jim Grey makes no bones about dancing and head-banging along with his own group’s avant-garde tunes (quickly encouraging tonight’s immense crowd to follow suit), while even the instrumentalists, especially seven-string maestro Sam Vallen, also find themselves able to explore what little space the Black Heart offers. The band’s sense of humour shines through almost perpetually, with singer Grey’s charismatic repartee with select members of tonight’s audience offering up many a chuckle. Yet, there is also a very meaningful undertone that carries itself through the set, not only through lyrics like those found on ‘Daughter of the Mountain’ and ‘Water’s Edge’, but also in the spoken word interlude ‘Inertia and the Weapon of the Wall’, which heralds an acidic, vitriolic attack on the apathy of the establishment and the warmongers. Balancing out the underlying seriousness of their set with the anthemic closer ‘Rust’, Caligula’s Horse doubtlessly shine bright at the Black Heart, delivering soul, humour, charisma and technical perfection in equal measure to make for one of the best headlining sets to grace the venue in a very long while. Caligula’s Horse’s upcoming album, In Contact, will be available on 15th September via InsideOut Music. Brutai’s latest album, Born, is available now via Transcend Music. Read our review of it here.