Words by Tracey Moyle.
Last night Brisbane Prog Metal Gods Caligula’s Horse, kicked off their Let It Grow Tour, giving their devoted fans something incredibly special, playing not one but two of their much loved albums in full to a packed house at The Zoo.
The mass line up at the door from 7pm had passers by wondering what they were missing. The Brisbane boys have no doubt built a following of dedicated C-Horse followers since their conception in 2011 and tonight the fans’ adoration for the band, mirrored by the band’s adoration and familiarity with their fans, was highly evident.
Cult classic 2013 release concept album ‘The Tide, the Thief & Rivers End’ and their popular 2015 release ‘Bloom’ were the setlist for the night and the anticipation ran like an electrical current through the venue.
Tonight’s support was a step back from the impending Prog spectacular. Brisbane’s Hazel Mei opened the night with something very different to the upcoming show everyone had come to see, but proved no less mesmerising.
Self described as ‘Poetic lyrics, ambient flair and a jazzy twist’ she took to the stage accompanied by a second acoustic guitarist for the night, with a sweet innocence bubbling over with confidence. Opening the set with So Pretty, and its up-beat tempo the songs ebb and flow throughout had the music telling the tale as much as the lyrics themselves. Then Mei’s beautiful tone rang through in Lost and Found with its cool and breezy indie folk vibe. Putting a story into song is something she does well and a personal tale of a friend going though a hard time led us into the emotional input of Put That Bottle Down.
It is(n’t) Real, another personal tale of that moment when you find your confidence and realise it’s time to live your life, gave us a beautiful upbeat indie pop number. Finishing her set with Golden Chains she puts her passion into this song with her frustrations toward consumerism and greed. The anger at the world’s ignorance to what is important in life. Our existence shouldn’t revolve around possession and wealth, with the message coming across that we should nurture the world we live in and in return we will get all that we need. Beautiful storytelling with heartfelt lyrics – “maybe we will die in golden chains” ringing out with rich emotion in her vocals.
Her beautifully sweet but powerful voice had won over a large portion of fans who had gathered for a night of Prog Metal. Music is about claiming the heart and soul of your audience and Hazel Mei did exactly that.
It wasn’t long before Caligula’s Horse hit the stage to a welcoming roar. Lead singer Jim Grey started the night with a wholehearted thank you to the fans for coming out and supporting the band not only this night but from their early days playing the clubs of Brisbane. They wanted to do something special for their fans and tonight’s show was exactly that, playing their two most popular albums back to back. They opened with Bloom taking us straight into their 2015 release of the same name, first up. Grey’s beautifully hypnotic rising and falling tone had the crowd mesmerised from the start taking us back to the ever changing waves of emotion that comes through in their songs. With the sheer brilliance of lead guitarist Sam Vallen alongside unwavering support from guitarist Adrian Goleby we are taken on a familiar yet breathtaking electric journey through their music with an almost liquid merging into Marigold continuing an epic tale through song. Drummer Josh Griffin pounds the message home with Dale Prinsse’s hammering bass driving the point right through to the end. Firelight is more of a rock song, with a lighter mood to the music but lyrically still profound – “This is for the ones who burned so short, and so bright.” There is thought and intensity in their songs both musically and lyrically.
“How could this all last, when we burn so brightly? We’ll escape like spark and shadow, knowing that the world will end.”
Following the journey of ‘Bloom’ the melancholic Dragonfly comes next with a heaviness resonating throughout, building a sense of foreboding amongst their completely enthralled followers.
Rust takes away the tension and brings on a sense of release with the crowd moving constantly, responding to the music. The third single release off ‘Bloom’ – Turntail came next and by now C-Horse had the fans in a progressive state of satiated metal bliss. Grey prompted the crowd to call out what came next with Daughter of the Mountain to follow. Their devoted fans taking it all in.
Finishing off their first set, only Grey and Vallen held the stage with the simplistic and beautifully emotive vocals of Grey and the guitar mastery of Vallen lifting the already soaring spirits of every soul in the room with the final two tracks from ‘Bloom’ Undergrowth and City Has No Empathy Acoustic.
Musically our minds had been blown but we knew there was more magic to come.
During their break, like a musical palate cleanser, Hazel Mei returned with her soulful storytelling. She brought us the mellifluous The Violin, with stirring beauty and a power behind her she vocally controlled the song with calculated skill. Despite the break from the main act the support kept the crowd up close. She finished off with Fool, a jazzy number full of sass with an almost upbeat hint of Pink Floyd sneaking into the acoustic guitar.
Not long afterward the mammoth performance Caligula’s Horse had prepared had fallen into it’s second set. Playing one album in full is a great effort but two is sensational. And anyone who has had any contact with this band would know that their songs do not fall into your average 3 minute 30 seconds bracket. It wouldn’t work if they did. It would be like cutting a Tolkien story to novella size.
‘The Tide, the Thief and River’s End’was written as a musical journey telling a tale from the first song to the last. It was explained by Grey as “based around two cities” and tells the story “of the journey of a group of people escaping oppression, and seeking a new home free from tyranny.” So this is more than a bunch of guys playing awesome tunes. This is a pilgrimage into the powerful narrative of music and lyrics.
A Gift to Afterthought begins and Grey’s expressive vocals are matched by the skill of his band. Again they are tight and supportive and perfectly merge at all the perfectly timed peaks and valleys of this song.
Waters Edge continues the epic tale. It’s mesmerizing watching Grey deliver with so much emotion behind his lyrics. Deep and atmospheric, the mood was captured by the crowd. They were infatuated, hanging off every euphonic word. With a sudden crescendo the song rises and ends in an air of defiance.
Atlas continues the story, the crowd have happily settled in moving with the emotion of the music. Continuing on, Into The White (as I interpret it)tells the tale of the burden of a freedom won. The heavy mood of this song again rings through in lyrics and musical skill. Old Cracks In New Earth, instrumentally comes together in a barrage of sound with Vallen’s magical guitar skill itself carrying a constantly evolving musical narrative supported by the steady rhythm of Griffin and Prinsse with Goleby holding them together with his own unwavering skill. Grey back on vocals with Dark Hair Down revving up the crowd almost at the end, with another impending battle song, brought to life with heavy bass riffs and belting drums. By now the room is musically lit.
Grey reminds us that there are only two songs to go and despite the mammoth effort of the night the crowd are still begging for more beyond the predetermined ending. But alas, there will be no encore. Thief follows and it’s the first time they have played this live, not that you would notice.
The climatic end comes with All Is Quiet By The Wall. Grey’s unwavering vocals along with the undeniable instrumental skill of Vallen, Goleby, Prinsse and Griffin perfectly merge to set the foundation for possibly one of our most talented rock bands regardless of sub-genre classification. Why they aren’t outselling some of our more commercially popular bands is beyond my comprehension. Progressive, Rock, Metal call them what you like, they are just ‘fucking awesome.’
Caligula’s Horse continue their Let It Grow tour in Sydney and Melbourne before taking off to South America touring Chile, Peru, and Mexico. Do no miss this show. You can get tickets HERE.