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Caligula’s Horse – Charcoal Grace

Caligula’s Horse – Charcoal Grace

Caligula's Horse - Charcoal Grace

Some bands become instant favourites the moment you first encounter them. For me one such band is Caligula’s Horse. Having seen them several times and in three different countries, they are now a firm fixture in my favoured list. They have never failed to impress both in a live environment and on their albums. A new release by the Brisbane four-piece is always something to look forward to. Their sixth album “Charcoal Grace” is no exception, other than the fact that I now also get to review it.

Comprising of nine tracks and running in at over an hour, it certainly is not a disappointment, far from it. The album is bookended by two lengthy tracks starting with ten minutes of ‘The World Breathes with Me.’ If this epic number does not get you in the mood, nothing will. It is complex and melodic with a solid backing from bassist Dale Prinsse and drummer Josh Griffin. This sonic backdrop allows vocalist Jim Grey and guitarist Sam Vallen to work their magic.

Next up is a track that has been out on YouTube for a couple of months, which you may already be familiar with. If not, see below for your delectation, and enjoy the stunning piece of tech-metal that is ‘Golem.’

The title track takes the form of a four-song suite. This 24-minute opus sees the band use everything in their well-stocked locker and the result is epic. The introduction to this mini prog adventure starts with ‘Prey’ and atmospheric orchestration interweaved with flourishes of guitar from Sam. This dies away to be replaced with plaintive vocals from Jim. Slowly the track gathers more substance and becomes more intense with each gear change. Melding into part 2: ‘A World Without’ it continues in a similar vein. An exquisite guitar solo from Sam carries you through to the end of this portion. Part 3: ‘Vigil’ is more of a sedate and emotional song.

There is ambiguity in the lyrics, but the chapters of ‘Charcoal Grace’ appear to be about death. Perhaps that of someone close, and the associated mixed feelings that come with it. The final part of this suite is ‘Give Me Hell’ and it is the heaviest of the four. Choppy riffs and atmospheric orchestration make for a powerful track, and there is more excellent guitar work from Sam. To appreciate this emotive suite completely, I suspect it requires some quality time to immerse yourself in the full experience.

It almost feels like the album should end here, but thankfully there is still much more to go. So onward we continue with ‘Sails,’ which brings a change of pace. This slower track is mellow, dreamy, and if you concentrate, it invokes the sense of sailing on a calm sea. The penultimate song ‘The Stormchaser’ is more upbeat but still mellow overall. This catchy number is accompanied by a video with an intriguing storyline running alongside.

To end this delicious hour or so there is another epic. The final twelve minutes are taken up by the multi-faceted ‘Mute.’ Jim sings the first few lines unaccompanied before the full band comes in. The song rises and falls, and in a couple of places, what sounds like a flute can be heard. This is a truly fantastic track to finish off an amazing album.

Well, January is certainly serving up some sumptuous fruits, and this is another strong contender for my AOTY 2024. In these terrible times (was it not ever thus) where news is rarely good, releases such as this sustain me. They help to hold back pessimistic thoughts and long may it continue. The song writing is sublime, the execution flawless, and the urge to play the whole thing over again is inescapable.


  1. The World Breathes with Me
  2. Golem
  3. Charcoal Grace I: Prey
  4. Charcoal Grace II: A World Without
  5. Charcoal Grace III: Vigil
  6. Charcoal Grace IV: Give Me Hell
  7. Sails
  8. The Stormchaser
  9. Mute

About the Author


I’m Bob, I hail from Robin Hood country (Nottinghamshire) in the UK. Rock and Metal music has played a big part in my life for many years. From playing guitar in local bands, to attending dozens of Festivals and countless concerts. I have been taking photos at gigs (whenever possible) for a number of years now, and as the camera gear has got better so have the photos. I continue to seek out new Bands and tend to prefer the more technical and heavy stuff these days. I live with my wife Sarah, who fortunately likes the heavy bands as well, and our cats who have to listen to it, whether they like it or not. Apart from gigs and photography (not just concerts) I also enjoy hill walking, films and discovering new beers (and drinking them).

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