German stalwarts Caliban have been pummeling eardrums since their inception at the end of the 90s. They’ve grown with every album, slowly shifting styles over time, but also showcasing a mastery of each additional skill. And with their latest release, Gravity, they continue that trend into new textures with, as usual, good results.[columns] [column size=”1/3″]
Album Title: Gravity
Release Date: 25 March 2016
Playing Time: 00:45:45
Label: Century Media Records
The biggest changes are here the quantity of clean vocals used and the reliance on orchestral flourishes. Minimal cleans started popping up a few years ago on “I Am Nemesis,” and last year’s “Ghost Empire,” utilized some orchestral arrangements, Gravity frequently pushes them to the forefront.
That’s not to say this album is any less heavy than previous releases. Guitarist Marc Gortz and drummer Patrick Grun use their riffs and beats to stir up a frenzy on nearly all of these songs. Opener “Paralyzed” is a great example of the album to come, with an excellent riff cutting through Andreas Dorner‘s powerful mid-range roar and then a sudden switch to such a soaring, melodic chorus that it pretty much guarantees any music video made for this song will have to be about Vikings. That cinematic spirit invades a lot of these songs – “The Ocean’s Heart,” “For We Are Forever,” “Walk Alone,” which is carried almost exclusively by clean vocals – but other elements are woven into the tapestry too. “Who I Am” dabbles in a very djent-y riff that still manages to hold a melody, “brOKen” goes full ballad before exploding into anguished screams at the end, and “No Dream Without Sacrifice” splits the orchestral, classic, and clean influences into acts of the song. The best is saved for last, though: “Hurricane” is both a throwback to Caliban‘s hardcore roots, with an old-school mosh riff and explosive vocals, and an affirmation of who they are now – but with the biggest, cheesiest fist-in-the-air chorus of the album, and then for kicks it goes out on the single heaviest breakdown of the album as well.
The only real missteps feel like the track order (placing the quite fine but entirely German “Mein schwarzez Herz” second is an odd and disruptive choice), and a couple of the cleaner moments felt forced, like the overly angsty “Walk Alone,” or the multiple clichés in the lyrics of “For We Are Forever.” That said, while noticeable, they don’t ruin the album by any means.
If you miss the early, deathcore days of Caliban, Gravity will likely not appeal to you. Personally, it seems like a brave step forward, and I applaud that.