Oh boy, this one yanked me straight back to my high school days. I grew up as a melodic death metal and metalcore fanboy, and the German dudes in Caliban were always a staple on my playlist. To tell you the truth, in my earnest effort to be a trve metalhead, Caliban were one of the unfortunate bands to fall through the cracks, but when I was asked to review their 2016 album Gravity, I couldn’t help but jump to the opportunity. I will try my best to keep my high-school enthusiasm to a minimum, because Gravity is a phenomenal album.
Caliban had a few hit-or-miss releases in the past, but I am really glad they decided to buckle down to write a more focused record, and Gravity is truly a callback to their former glory. I can easily find catchy hooks in all of the twelve tracks of this album, which by itself is no mean feat. This is an album that seems to keep on giving. With each listen, I was able to discern subtle nuances that make me think that though most listeners will take this as yet another generic metalcore album, there are a few layers here and there that really make this album pop.
Gravity has more of the dual-vocal approach that we have become accustomed to in this genre, but the double-whammy of Andreas Dörner’s metalcore screams and backing vocals by guitarist Denis Schmidt are what got me into Caliban in the first place. The latter’s clean vocals often kick in for the choruses and manage to be catchy yet not sappy or clichéd. One of the standout tracks where even Denis decided to show his vocal range is the German language track Mein Schwarzes Herz (My Blackened Heart) which instantly became a favorite for me. Alissa White-Gluz of Archenemy fame is featured on The Ocean’s Heart and she adds a cool little touch to an already solid song.
This album is no slacker in terms of sheer aggression either. Album closer Hurricane opens with a thrashy riff that would get even the most ardent of metalcore haters to bang their heads and get into the pit. Guitarists Denis (Schmidt) and Marc Görtz know how to write memorable riffs, heavy breakdowns, and color them all with layers and overdubs to make memorable songs. Though I do find them swerving scarily close to the djent trope from time to time, they thankfully bring their riffs back to traditional metalcore quite quickly. The pacing on Gravity is done well and Caliban tries their best to not sound repetitive. Drums are rock-solid and lock in with the breakdowns rather well, and there is no slack in the bass either. There are a few electronic glitches here and there, but these are common in modern metal releases.
There isn’t really anything wrong with this album in my opinion. It doesn’t break new ground. It sticks to a tried and tested formula, and it just works. If I really wanted to get snooty about it, I would have liked the clean vocals to be just a tad bit louder in the mix. But the production is so good overall, that I am prepared to let it slide.
Pick up this album!
Favorite tracks: Mein Schwarzes Herz, Walk Alone, The Ocean’s Heart.
Caliban – Gravity (CD) / Century Media Records / 12 tracks / www.calibanmetal.com / http://www.centurymedia.com/artist.aspx?IdArtist=220