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Music / Caligula's Horse

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Center: Sam Vallen, Second from left: Jim Grey

Caligula's Horse is an Australian Progressive Metal band from Brisbane, Queensland. They were formed in 2011 by lead guitarist and songwriter Sam Vallen and lead singer Jim Grey, who to this day are the primary core of the band. The project was initially a one-off collaboration, but positive response to their debut album Moments From Ephemeral City led them to continue producing records. After releasing a follow-up EP, titled Colossus, later that year, they produced a full-on Concept Album, The Tide, The Thief, and River's End, in 2013. After signing with InsideOut Records (a progressive metal-focused label), they released their first major commercial success, 2015's Bloom, and then another, somewhat different concept record in 2017's In Contact, while steadily gaining further worldwide recognition and expanding tours. In March 2020 they announced their fifth album, titled Rise Radiant, to be released in May of that year.


Their style within progressive metal has been, as is to be expected, compared to contemporary projects such as Dream Theater, Opeth, and Haken, as well as their fellow Australians Karnivool, and Grey's vocals often get compared to a cleaner Maynard James Keenan, but they occupy a unique niche within the genre. Vallen has, on various occasions, mentioned Steely Dan, Frank Zappa, and Jeff Buckley as inspirations for his compositions.

Decidedly not an example of the trope of the same name, though the band did name themselves after the original example of the trope.

The band's discography:

  • Moments From Ephemeral City (2011)
  • Colossus (EP) (2011)
  • The Tide, The Thief, and River's End (2013)
  • Bloom (2015)
  • In Contact (2017)
  • Rise Radiant (2020)

Current band members include:

  • Sam Vallen - lead guitar (since 2011)
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  • Jim Grey - lead vocals (since 2011)
  • Josh Griffin - drums (since 2016)
  • Dale Prinsse - bass and backing vocals (since 2019)

Past band members include:

  • Dave Couper - bass and backing vocals (2011-2019)
  • Zac Greensil - rhythm guitar and backing vocals (2011-2017)
  • Geoff Irish - drums (2011-2016)
  • Adrian Goleby - rhythm guitar (2017-2021)

How could this all last when we trope so brightly?:

  • Addled Addict: The protagonist of the "To the Wind" saga on In Contact is a hardcore alcoholic who has long tried and failed to get sober, with "The Hands Are the Hardest" serving as the most blunt portrayal of his situation - he's got the shakes and is too sick to even function, let alone focus on his art. By "Love Conquers All", he's dejectedly gone back to drinking and the cycle has begun anew.
  • Album Intro Track: The title track of Bloom serves as one, starting quieter and calmer before gradually building to the heavier sound of its Siamese Twin Song, "Marigold".
  • Concept Album:
    • The Tide, The Thief, and River's End is a fairly traditional one, with the story being told based mostly on Vallen and Grey's word in interviews, the album's liner notes, and fan interpretation.
    • In Contact is one as well, though it tells four distinct but thematically united mini-stories, ranging from four tracks long to one:
      • "To The Wind" is the first story, centering on an artist who is driven back to alcoholism despite his attempts to quit the habit, due to pressure from his fans, his own desire and fading willpower, and the physical withdrawal symptoms. At the end of this segment is a track discussing his motivations for quitting, suggesting either a sad flashback to his attempts or a cyclical nature to the story.
      • "The Caretaker" follows, telling the story of a composer in classical-era Europe (inspired by Film/Amadeus) who falls in love with a male patron of his, and is forced to channel his socially-forbidden feelings into a private composition he will never publish.
      • "Ink" tells the story of a cynical revolutionary in modern times (the eponymous Ink, as he is known) and his more idealistic younger brother, who served as a balance to his more pessimistic view of humanity. Upon the brother's death, Ink is forced to assess his worldview, and comes out of the crisis urging the people to represent the good his brother saw in the face of the evil that he had seen in society.
      • Finally, the album's closing track, "Graves", represents the fourth story, that of a sculptor who is conflicted between his desire for revenge against a rival and a desire to care for his newborn son, along with the fear that his son may turn out to be just like him. While the situation is never made especially clear, the ending of the song implies he kills the rival despite knowing he won't get away with the crime.
  • Epic Rocking: They have their fair share of long songs, given their genre. Most notably, "Alone in the World" from Moments From Ephemeral City clocks in at 11:04, and "Graves", the fourth and final chapter of In Contact, reaches a full 15:31.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: "Graves" focuses on a sculptor who is envious of a more successful rival who he accuses of stealing his work. The song ends with him possibly murdering the rival.
  • Grief Song: "Firelight", about a deceased friend of the band.
  • Homage: "Dragonfly" from Bloom is meant as one to Jeff Buckley.
  • Lighter and Softer: Bloom is considered a step this way by both the fans and the band themselves, featuring generally more uplifting lyrics and even a fairly standard pop single, "Firelight". It still has its share of heavier moments though.
  • Longest Song Goes Last:
    • "Graves", which runs for 15:31, closes out In Contact.
    • Rise Radiant ends with the 10:43 "The Ascent".
  • Precision F-Strike: The ending refrain of "The City Has No Empathy (Your Sentimental Lie)", the ending of the verses of "Colossus", and the chorus of "Rust" all include these, while "Inertia and the Weapon of the Wall" includes a more traditional non-repeated version. None of the repeated versions quite fit Cluster F-Bomb territory, though.
  • Siamese Twin Songs: Bloom opens with the title track leading directly into "Marigold", while In Contact includes the Spoken Word in Music track "Inertia and the Weapon of the Wall" leading directly into "The Cannon's Mouth".
  • Spoken Word in Music: "Inertia and the Weapon of the Wall" from In Contact is a spoken-word interlude (with layered vocals and effects at various points for emphasis), representing a speech given by the character of Ink. Interestingly, this track serves as the summary of the album's overall theme, and forms Siamese Twin Songs with the following track, "The Cannon's Mouth".
  • Title Drop: An odd example of this trope overlapping with Non-Appearing Title is "The Cannon's Mouth", which doesn't appear in the song itself, but in the last line of the preceding track, "Inertia and the Weapon of the Wall":
    So spit in the cannon's mouth, and tell 'em Ink sent ya!
  • invokedUnpleasable Fanbase: Discussed in "Dream the Dead", which is from the perspective of such a fanbase, demanding that their favorite artist relapse into alcoholism so they can get to see more of his art, even if it kills him to make it. By "The Hands Are the Hardest", he's so sick and miserable from withdrawal symptoms that abandoning his latest shot at sobriety sounds like a great idea. In discussions about the album, Grey and Vallen mentioned that they wrote the song to explore the darker side of fanatic obsession with another person's creations, to the point of trying to control their lives.