Review – Caliban: Gravity

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  • Bio: n/a
  • Label: Century Media Records
  • Release Date: March 25th, 2016
  • Genre: Metalcore
  • Website: Visit Website
  • Rating (out of 10):

Germany’s Caliban are one of the bands in the metalcore movement that could easily be classified as unforgivably overlooked since the release of A Small Boy and a Grey Heaven in 1999. Over the years, the band has jumped around with their sound across nine different albums, even dabbling in more of an mainstream rock influence style for 2007’s largely dismissed effort The Awakening. 2012, however, saw the band pretty much revitalizing themselves, leading to one of the most important albums for the style in quite some time before stepping away from what made that recording so powerful come 2014’s Ghost Empire. Now, here we stand at the release of their tenth, simply titled Gravity. But does this remind listeners and fans of why Caliban has remained a staple force in the metalcore underworld since their inception, or is it just another entry that offers little innovation to stand out on its own?

Much like previous outings, Gravity sticks to more of a modern melodic metalcore approach, the kind popularized by As I Lay Dying and even Killswitch Engage, though still keeping some of the atmospheric hooks at times that I Am Nemesis cut listeners deep with. Unfortunately, it isn’t enough to make the album sound all that distinct, having a largely digital production quality that does sound good, but rarely ever offers anything you can pick out from the crowd. This, really, is where Gravity suffers the most, leading it into more of a generic direction than some songs make it seem like they want to take it. “Left for Dead” incorporates some of those post-metalcore haunting hooks in the chorus, surrounded by highly aggressive, hard-hitting riffs and shouting all around, even during the breakdown just a bit past two minutes in. This performance all around screams the group’s best abilities captured in just the right way, carrying that pissed off, fed up nature that anyone who listens to Caliban can immediately relate to and get caught up in. The same goes for “Paralyzed”, though the lighter melodic bit with cleaner vocals does feel a bit tacked on.

For the most part, though, Gravity is composed of your standard Caliban performances, which isn’t a bad thing really. “Who I Am” presents some truly infectious scaling riffs during the chorus, giving it an empowering sensation that plays off the rebellious main verses quite well. “The Ocean’s Heart” is also worth noting for its slower pacing and head banging mandates the grooves often present outside the lighter chorus. “For We Are Forever” has a little more passion behind it, giving the more hardcore influenced tendencies of the group’s sound a lot more meaning compared to just being pissed off and angry as hell constantly without treading into the mainstream waters found within “brOKen”. The title name should really say it all, but this radio ready anthem is like a blend between that very album’s musical foundation and the sound of Hollywood Undead.

Caliban

But what really stands out on Gravity is some of the more progressive moments. “Crystal Skies” takes advantage of the bulky sounding guitars for the main verses before shedding into far more uplifting Scale the Summit style hooks in a truly exciting explosion of adrenaline and singing. There’s a brief choir-like bit of ambient just beyond two-and-a-half minutes that does take on more of a disruptive mainstream appeal for a bit, though the on-edge conclusion helps paint everything that came before as more of a pipe dream of someone with their head in the clouds, ignoring the crushing reality around them. But then there’s the polar opposite on “brOKen”, which is more of a Hollywood Undead anthem in the style of Caliban‘s The Awakening. While it isn’t bad, it only reinforces the aforementioned generic side of this album.

Aside a few questionable transitions here and there, Gravity is really only hindered by the fact it just sounds like a cross between As I Lay Dying and Unearth as far as the technical side of things goes. As for the music itself, it stands as a release that shows off the progress the group made over the nine previous albums. From your standard metalcore fanfare to the more infamous side of the group’s history, right down to what put the band on the map once more recently, Gravity has something for everyone, though not everything for any one listener in particular. And that’s just fine despite sometimes having a song or two act like a monkey wrench being thrown into the gears of an otherwise well oiled machine.

Caliban

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