Caliban: Ghost Empire

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Caliban: Ghost Empire
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Caliban: Ghost Empire
Metalcore
Century Media Records
February 4th, 2014
Release length: 52:01
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Germany’s Caliban has been around for a long time, though never got that strong a foothold in various regions, such as here in North America until Century Media took notice and picked them up. Over the years the group continued to grow, and sometimes take some steps back in their career. 2007’s The Awakening was met with a great deal of negativity, largely considered the most generic album in the band’s discography, whereas 2012’s successful I Am Nemesis made the group one of the most important in the Metalcore genre once again. With fans eager for another round of atmospheric Metalcore, many are showing fear due to the recent samplings that have been appearing on the internet to promote the upcoming ninth full-length release Ghost Empire. Is this yet another backwards motion, or is it a more robust modern experience on the Post-Hardcore influences of their previous outing?

In a way, Ghost Empire falls between the group’s most recent worlds, but largely keeps to the sound established on I Am Nemesis. “King” introduces a rich digital presentation with crisp, sometimes booming drums and clicks to the bass kicks, as well as deep distortions outside some of the higher pitched Shoegaze style riffs that appear in the chorus the bridge around two minutes in. This is complimented with some additional industrialized sound effects. Around three minutes the song slows, giving way to those effects once more with some softer clean singing the leads to a far more enthusiastic chorus that wraps up everything together quite well. The end result is a heavy, aggressive track with the right amount of emotion behind it. This environment continues throughout the rest of the track list, sometimes being much richer or dialed down to the point of non-existence, but Caliban often do push towards Hardcore/Post-Hardcore terrain that works for the sound they’re using.

“Chaos – Creation” has a good deal of melody to the chorus that gives the powerful lyrics and inspiring music a little more bite. The main verses, however, are a different experience all together, trudging along in a chugging manner just shy of being considered a breakdown. There is a jump to softer riffs and background chanting about two minutes in, but the shift is abrupt, unlike when it picks back up into a more emotionally driven version of the chorus about thirty-five seconds later. “I Am Ghost” has plenty of commanding moments that will make you bang your head along instinctively, having a brief softer passage about three minutes in that leads to a solid breakdown thanks to how pristine the drums sound. Keyboards will sometimes replace the highly melodic background guitars, which sound great against that Hardcore brotherhood sensation the genre often carries with it.

There are some songs here that, unless you hear them in context with the rest of Ghost Empire, they will sound like generic Metalcore. “Devil’s Night” carries a typical chugging approach with a little more complexity at times than your standard one-chord Deathcore breakdown or song. If it weren’t for a good amount of tension and the softer, clean chorus offering a glimmer of hope against a mournful funeral-esque presence everywhere else in the song, especially with the ringing church bell effect that hits once in a while, this could very well have been pointless fodder instead of another passionate performance. Then there’s “nebel” and its traditional melodic Metalcore approach laced with more of an Emo touch akin to Sirens by It Dies Today. However, the emotion and German lyrics make sense when you hear the amount of passion that appears throughout the release. The Industrial effects that appear in some spots do add a little extra edge to some of the softer passages, and help build to the explosive hostility towards the end, making the whole experience feel like a build up to a mental break without actually using a breakdown to push that forward. Of course, this is more an interpretation and may be different to other listeners.

Sadly, there are a few blemishes to be found. “Good Man” feels recycled due to how similar the chorus sounds to “We Are the Many” off I Am Nemesis, just backed by clean chords that are pulled to the forefront instead of the the higher-pitched melodic riffs from the previous effort. This is forgiveable after sitting throuh “Falling Downwards.” While it suits the emotional pull of the release, the Electronic bits and vocals in the main verses sound like something lifted off a Hollywood Undead album. The same goes for “I Am Rebellion,” though the main verses are more instrument driven than technologically. And finally there’s the more mainstream “Cries and Whispers.” There are some mechanical effects that act as bridges, though very short and don’t really have the same impact. The music is faster and heavier, working perfectly with the energetic shouting vocals. The chorus has a simple Shoegaze-style to the riffs in the background, but are restricted in volume, making them rather ineffective.

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While Caliban successfully clings to the emotional environments and performances that made I Am Nemesis such a success, Ghost Empire finds the group delving throughout their catalogue of musical directions to create a highly varied effort with Post-Hardcore touches that sometimes only work when put into context with the album in its entirety. There are some songs that push the generic tendencies of The Awakening, and some like “Falling Downwards” that really push beyond the line of mainstream. If you go into this release expecting a rehash of their last outing, you’re going to be let down. Ghost Empire is not something that will hit you right away, instead is a release you need to listen to more than once to truly embrace, especially if you aren’t familiar with Caliban‘s past and the number of changes they made to their music over the years.

01. King – 4:03
02. Chaos – Creation – 3:31
03. Wolves and Rats – 4:00
04. nebel – 3:13
05. I Am Ghost – 3:46
06. Devil’s Night – 4:24
07. Your Song – 4:27
08. Cries and Whispers – 3:56
09. Good Man – 5:08
10. I Am Rebellion – 4:21
11. Who We Are – 4:09
12. My Vertigo – 3:16
13. Falling Downwards – 3:48
Initial Pressing Score: 8/10

Caliban
Caliban

Digital review copy of this release provided by Century Media Records.