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Fearless Sound: An interview with Caligula’s Horse


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Since their formation in 2011, Caligula’s Horse has been one of Australia’s most acclaimed and consistently impressive prog rock acts.

Caligula's Horse

Through their signature fusion of enticing melodies, resonating guitar-work and an ever-evolving aural complexity, the band has quickly transformed from online sensation (thanks to their viral debut, Moments from Ephemeral City (2011)) to an international juggernaut, as proved by their recent touring stint in Europe with such titans as Anathema, Pain of Salvation and Opeth.

As one of the very last treks to promote their 2015 opus Bloom, Caligula’s Horse packed every available opportunity into their brief time on our continental shelf, finding the chance to sneak in two headlining UK shows immediately after their plethora of summer support slots.

“When it comes to playing support, we know we’re going to get an awesome crowd but it also means we’ve got a reduced set, so we’ve got to tailor it to winning people over,” guitarist and co-founder Sam Vallen explains before his group’s first British gig since 2015. “At least here we can play more of the protracted material as well as the stuff that’s been cast aside otherwise, so it’s really fun to be able to express ourselves a little more.”

“I remember back in Australia, we had this really lucky run of about half a year, where we just kept getting all these support slots,” adds lyricist and vocal virtuoso Jim Grey. “It was a great experience, but by the end of it I found myself going on-stage thinking ‘Fuck, I miss my crowd.’ It’s a really different experience playing to your people, so I’m looking forward to these two shows.”

With the weight of having to win over an almost entirely unfamiliar audience lifted from their shoulders, Caligula’s Horse graciously plays an extended set to their English attendees, which includes a new track entitled ‘Graves’. Taken off of the band’s upcoming fourth album In Contact (2017), the track is a fifteen-minute-long, soulful epic that perfectly demonstrates the variety of its parent record.

“It’s definitely much more dense than the early material. It’s quite colourful in the same way Bloom was, but I suppose in its own sort of natural way, in that it is thicker and more varied,” Vallen says of the new song.

“It’s very, very dynamic. This is a song that we spent three months on and then hit serious writers’ block afterwards,” he laughs. “It was such an all-pervasive experience, we put everything into it. But it came out really good, I think.”

The In Contact record, of which ‘Graves’ will be the immense closing suite, is due in September and, much like Caligula’s Horse’s sophomore release The Tide, the Thief & River’s End (2013), the disc will be an expansive concept album.

“In the universe that this album exists, all pieces of art, whether it be music, scripture or whatever else, is an attempt by human beings to unknowingly try and remember a dream we’ve forgotten,” Grey explains.

“We sculpted these separate characters in separate chapters, and each one of them represents an artist on a journey and the things that are happening in their lives. If you take that underlying concept, the chapters are about their personal and artistic journey, and the nature of inspiration and where it comes from.

“The characters, they aren’t related in space or time, they all have different stories, but the overarching thing that connects them all is that they all reach. They’re all reaching and unknowingly, through their art, reaching towards their dream as well. And so, because of that, it’s all about being in contact with something intangible and not to mention, being in contact with each other through art.”

To add to the build-up to the new album, Caligula’s Horse have rereleased their first two records, Moments from Ephemeral City and The Tide, the Thief & River’s End, both of which were highly sought after, out-of-print rarities until very recently.

“I think it’s really important to us that it’s available over here in particular because, in Europe, people really want to dig into the hard copy,” Jim continues. “They don’t just want the digital download, they want to hold the thing and have the material, and for them to be able to get that really easily is awesome to us.”

“For us, it’s more just the excitement of making them more available. Physical copies have always been really tricky to get,” says Sam. “I’ve seen copies on Amazon for exorbitant costs. We still love those albums and …River’s End still tends to be a fan favourite, I think the concept resonates really well with people.”

For British Caligula’s Horse fans, then, 2017 will potentially offer up a grand total of three new CD’s to pleasure hungry ears. Not only will the band’s beloved classics be hitting record shop shelves once more, but the ambitious In Contact will soon complete the trifecta, offering up not only mind-bending progressive rock, but also intriguing storytelling and heartfelt characterisation to boot.

Read our review of Caligulas Horses headline show at Camdens Black Heart here.

Caligula’s Horse’s upcoming album, In Contact, will be available on 15th September via InsideOut Music. Rereleases of the band’s first two albums, Moments from Ephemeral City and The Tide, the Thief & River’s End, are available now, also through InsideOut.

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