Saturday, July 26, 2014

Caliban - Ghost Empire

Ghost Empire
Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

There’s no denying Caliban played a part in founding the modern metalcore scene; their first couple of albums were the template on what was emerging as a bold and new sound that forged metal and hardcore together, and served as model sound that many acts were to mimic in years to come. But for all of their forwarding thinking experimentation in their formative years, the German outfit has had a chequered past at best, with their studio output a mix of the exceptional, and the uninspired.
After a few years in the wilderness, Caliban took many by surprise with their 2012 release ‘I Am Nemesis’. The album was a huge return to form for the band, and proved that while the band wasn’t about to reinvent the wheel in terms of what metalcore sounds like, they could at least reignite their inspiration and release a truly memorable release. Obviously keen to keep the momentum going, the five piece outfit (Comprising of vocalist Andreas Dörner, guitarist/vocalist Denis Schmidt, guitarist/co-producer Marc Görtz, bassist Marco Schaller and drummer Patrick Grün) are back after a short two years away with their ninth full-length effort ‘Ghost Empire’.
And as expected, the new album is another worthy effort from the long running metalcore outfit, with the band maintaining the standard set with their last album, but with enough changed to showcase a move forward.
The album is opened up in heavy fashion with ‘King’, which features some Djent styled thick grooves and some aggressive guttural growls from Dörner. Of course, Schmidt’s clean vocal efforts are out in full force through the choruses, which provides a perfect counterbalance to the band’s heavier sounds. Production wise, the sound is heavy, but still retains plenty of dynamics. And the brief inclusion of studio effects around the breakdown is a welcome addition too. Overall, it’s a hard hitting song, and the perfect way to introduce ‘Ghost Empire’ to listeners.
Although a little slower in tempo, ‘Chaos – Creation’ is another winner with its twisted riffing, hammering drums, thick grooves and memorable choruses, while ‘Wolves And Rats’ follows a similar path to its predecessor, but with some additional gang vocals in the choruses and strings and piano to emphasis the heavier and more intense moments within the song.
Although fairly formula like, the German sung ‘nebeL’ (Which is German for fog, and features a guest vocal appearance from German metalcore outfit Callejon’s front man Bastian ‘BastiBasti’ Sobtzick) is melodic and heavy enough to enjoy for what it is, while ‘I Am Ghost’ is another example of a solid song that is good, but not what you would call one of the album’s strongest or memorable efforts.
After a couple of misses, the band once again hits the mark with ‘Devil’s Night’ and the fan-rallying ‘yOUR Song’, which has the perfect balance of soaring melodic choruses, crushing groove structures and twists in the song’s structures to keep things interesting (Even if the chorus in the latter borders on the cheesy side of cliché).
‘Cries And Whispers’ is a personal favourite, and is probably the closest the band come to replicating the kind of sound and song writing that featured throughout ‘I Am Nemesis’, while the moody and decidedly experimental effort (At least for Caliban) ‘I Am Rebellion’ is another firm favourite.
Unfortunately, the album does have a couple of misfires towards the tail end. ‘Good Man’ (Which features a guest appearance from Callejon guitarist Christoph Koterzina on vocals) bears a striking resemblance to Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Hurt’ for its first minute, which overshadows the rest of the song (Which is typically Caliban sounding), while ‘Who We Are’ is a little too In Flames sounding for me, to be considered a true indication of what makes up the true Caliban sound.
But for all of the hiccups, the band finishes the album off in fine form with ‘My Vertigo’, which stands out for its melodic death metal like riff, melodic choruses and its clever use of effects throughout.
In light of how strong ‘I Am Nemesis’ was, ‘Ghost Empire’ is a worthy follow up. Sure, it does have some songs that don’t quite met the high standard set, but there’s plenty which do. And in light of what the band has produced in the years prior to their album from a couple of years ago, ‘Ghost Empire’ is easily one of Caliban’s worthier efforts.

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© Justin Donnelly

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