When I first heard the two singles launched ahead of the release of Caliban’s latest effort, “Gravity,” I knew good things were on the way. The German metal veterans, who first hit the scene in 1999, have continued to offer something unique to metalcore fans despite numerous lineup changes and the occasional mixed critical response to their stylistic tweaks. Personally, I respect a band that isn’t afraid to push genre limits and reinvent themselves when deemed necessary. Their debut album “A Small Boy and a Grey Heaven,” for example, featured a certain thrash-death influence with its frantic guitar riffs and snare-driven drum patterns.
Fast forward to “Gravity,” though, and we see a band that causes one to rethink what it means to be “metalcore” or any other genre, for that matter. It’s a record that is at times both melodic and heavy, both ambient and riff-driven, and both furious and serene. But rather than feeling like a mish-mash of these characteristics, “Gravity” comes across to the listener as a balanced and well-crafted product that successfully blends them. The production sounds great and it’s clear Caliban put a lot of a thought and studio time into the record to achieve exactly what they planned.
Case in point is the album opener and single “Paralyzed,” which begins with a crushing down-tuned riff and then alternates between the passionately angry snarls of lead vocalist Andreas Dörner and the uplifting, catchy choruses delivered by singer Denis Schmidt. Next up is “Mein schwarzes Herz,” the other track released as a single, which wastes no time in getting straight to the panicked riffage and thunderous drumming that we’ve come to expect from Caliban. But again, the song features melodic respites from the metallic carnage in the form of clean choruses delivered in the band’s native German.
In addition to the keen musicianship and compelling vocal performances, the raw emotion encapsulated in the record really is something to be commended. From track to track, each member works together to invoke the empathy of the listener. One can’t help but practically feel the pain of betrayal the subject of “Left for Dead” must have experienced. For me, this ability is what makes “Gravity” stand out as an album. It’s one that is passionately produced by a band that have been around long enough to be unencumbered by gimmick or genre. Obviously, Caliban are secure in who they are as a band and knew exactly what they wanted here.
For those reluctant to venture out of the confines of traditional heavy metal, don’t let the metalcore label scare you off in the case of “Gravity.” I don’t think of the album as a product of any particular genre as much as I think of it as a compelling and deliberate effort by a unique band that’s evidently got their act together. Give this one a listen!
Release date: 25-03-2016
Reviewer: Chase Lindley