Caligula's Horse – Moments From Ephemeral City

Progressive metal has seen something of a resurgence in recent years. Of course, the style never truly halted, but it’s only been in the past few years where the fusion of prog and metal has been given a new, modern face to it. Caligula’s Horse is a band that aptly defines where I think the sound is at nowadays; a draw of melodies, chunky Meshuggah-like rhythms and general response to modern trends in rock. Suffice to say, this Australian act is able to avoid many of the tired conventions that once had me turn my nose at the ‘new’ progressive metal coming out. Made even more impressive by the fact that this is more-or- less a one man operation, Caligula’s Horse and its debut album will not feel out of place in any progressive metalhead’s diet.

Perhaps best known as the guitarist of Quandary, Sam Vallen forged Caligula’s Horse as an attempt to get the heavier side of his musical expression out. Although vocals are offered here by the talented Jim Grey, Vallen does everything on ‘Moments From Ephemeral City’, from the songwriting to recording. Though Caligula’s Horse now has a full band to play this music in a live setting, the debut is mostly the product of one man, and had I not known that, I would never have guessed it. Though Caligula’s Horse is the debut of what could be called an ‘indie’ act, it is expertly executed, and the composition is only enhanced by Vallen’s modern recording and emotive musicianship. In regards to the style and sound of Caligula’s Horse, the fellow prog metal squires in Haken came to mind. There is a healthy acknowledgement of modern prog rock in Caligula’s Horse, and the metal element of the band’s sound comes out less than I would have expected. Regardless, moments such as the chugging climax to ‘The City Has No Empathy’ make Vallen’s allegiances clear, drawing from the Meshuggah-conceived style now commonly known as ‘djent’.

The composition is quite varied, ranging from Dream Theater-like instrumental fury to jazzy breaks and epic prog swells. ‘Moments Of Ephemeral City’ is graced by the fact that each song manages to stay significant and distinct from one another, although it was somewhat disappointing that there was never the same emotional intensity and flow of songwriting after the excellent opener. Jim Grey’s vocal work is a very welcome addition to the sound of this band, giving another dimension to the sound through his smooth, even jazz-like vocal delivery. Through the heavier sections and soft observations, his voice fits the mood perfectly. Caligula’s Horse leaves me wanting more of their music, although it would be even better to hear them explore their metal side more, which I felt was a little underdeveloped on the record. Regardless, ‘Moments From Ephemeral City’ is a great modern prog record, brimming with memorable musical themes and consistent execution. I have high hopes for this band in the future.


1. The City Has No Empathy (Your Sentimental Lie) (6:10)
2. Silence (7:13)
3. Singularity (3:33)
4. Alone In The World (11:04)
5. Ephemera (3:19)
6. Equally Flawed (6:09)
7. Calliope’s Son (Don’t Ever Look Back) (5:09)


* Sam Vallen – all instruments, production, composition
* Jim Grey – vocals


1 Comment

  1. Fuzius

    October 10, 2012 at 4:08 am

    What a great band, I’m impressed..the main riff has a familiar vibe about it, and the lead guitar is played very tastefully!

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