Album Review: CALIBAN Gravity
Caliban has long been a powerhouse of heavy melodic force in the metal world, and the band’s new album, Gravity, is no exception. Beginning with “Paralyzed,” a track the band released a video for, Caliban’s work grabs listeners within the first few moments with heavy riffs and great groove. However, though there’s good bass presence, the entire production sounds a bit thin and, for me, the cymbals and snare stand out a little too much, with clean vocals difficult to hear in the mix at certain times—other times, melodies can be made out fine, but the words seem to get mixed in with the rest of the instrumentation. While this persists on certain songs, it fades away for others, but was noticeable to me.
One of my favorite tracks is “Left For Dead,” which offers listeners with the most extreme juxtapositions on the album. With a verse riff that diversifies between low and high end notes, as well as a B section that depends on a faster thrash-based percussion rather than expected “breakdown-esque” grooves, the verses pack a punch; a reverb-filled guitar lead rips over the album’s first screamed chorus, and the energy never lets up. Some fans may be against “brOKen,” which takes the melodic approach and comes off as more mainstream; it could serve as single material if the band ever aims for airplay. While some purists may view this as the weakest point on the album, I would argue that it provides a good break from the relentlessness of the previous 7 tracks, and also shows the band’s versatility. The weakest point of the song comes through its lyricism, but again—it has a more mainstream appeal, and I can’t sleight the band for their choice. The following track, “For We Are Forever,” combines the heaviness of the album through the frame of “brOKen” which leaves listeners with groove shaped around melody, rather than melody used as a break from grooves. It’s a good shift and most likely a live crowd-pleaser.
The band absolutely excels in their songwriting; each track has a “rolling” feeling, as even in moments of downtime there seems to be an energy that keeps the listeners’ attention. For example, in “The Ocean’s Heart,” what seems like a typical chug-based riff adds a sinister-sounding reverb-filled trem layered on top, which gives the verse an entirely new feeling; in other songs, like “Who I Am,” choruses also build with subtle layers of melody, adding just enough variation to keep attention without mindlessly humming the hook. The bridge in the track has a nice extension of the chorus guitar lead with all rhythms changed around it and is one of the highlights of the album for me; the second half of the bridge incorporates more melodic piano, but the shell of palm-muted guitar ticks never leaves the headphones, preparing the listener for an energetic return to an explosive chorus. It should be noted that Caliban has a good control over subtle dynamics and theming in their music, such as the use of pauses, varying prominence of melodic themes, and diversity in screamed and sung chorus hooks.
The main weakness I catch for Gravity is not in its subtlety, but rather, its direct presentation; I do feel that moments of its production prevent the album from sounding as “big” as it could sound, but though there are subtle variations in songs, many songs suffer from having the same feel, which stems from the melody used to deviate from grooves. While this is not a negative, there are few tracks I would actively pick to listen to again and again; a long time listener of the band will be able to pick out their favorites quickly, but Gravity is an album I’ll have to listen to over and over again to really nail my favorite songs due to composition similarity. This could be viewed as a plus for those who enjoy always finding something new on album, and as I stated, is not a negative.
Overall, Gravity is worth purchasing; its musical compositions are noteworthy due to their subtleties that keep them with a “rolling” energy, as well as choruses that are melodically catchy but heavy.