Caliban - Gravity Review

Caliban - Gravity
Caliban - Gravity. Century Media Records

Caliban, the Northern German metalcore band named after the legendary half-human half-devil character from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, had a slight problem on its hands. How would it follow up one the finest melodic metalcore albums ever made, its own 2012 opus I Am Nemesis?

Enslaved to the plight in the way that Shakespeare’s Caliban was enslaved to his own nemesis, Prospero, Deutschland’s Caliban made the decision to back away from the emphasis on melody found on I Am Nemesis, and get heavier than anything it’s done in its 20-year career.

A Bulked-Up Sound

Gravity is not only the title of the album but a reference to intent. Caliban bulked up on muscle weight and apparently went through enough Hhg to develop a serious case of ‘roid rage. The opening song “Paralyzed, has as much potty-mouthed name-calling as anything on a L’il Wayne album. Perhaps it’s an over-the-top attempt at playing anger against confusion, but it’s a solid song and a great opener.

“Paralyzed” is smart in allowing the melody to stand out more than in most of the other songs, but the shouted invective ensures that it will not see the light of day on anything that uses an antenna to get metal into your earholes. Still, it’s still smart in its acknowledgment that streaming, downloads and a couple crates of CDs will be how Gravity throws its weight around in an uncensored world.

I Am Nemesis is a landmark of metalcore in finding ways to keep to its thundering roots while injecting devastating catchiness into the product, and their 2014 follow-up Ghost Empire followed a similar path. Gravity keeps the melody hidden behind the amplifier backline and layers guitars one atop another like a game-time party dip until they forge a siren-like ferocity.

Forget the party dip: the guitars are layered with brick and mortar. Marc Görtz and Denis Schmidt pummel through each song as if using air hammers instead of guitar picks. Patrick Grün on drums shines as he has on the last couple of albums. He’s mysteriously overlooked when the conversation turns to metal drummers who should have hurricanes named for them. As the guitars have been powered up to blow out all the windows in the surrounding stadt, the drums suitably dish out vicious hematomas.

The Bottom Line

The amazing aspect of Gravity, is that for all its murderous punch, Caliban have not forgotten to carve out a place for nuance. The melody may be loaded under the giga-tonnage of guitars, yet still manages to stick out an arm to wave at passersby. Beneath all the specific gravity of Gravity, Marco Schaller adds spot-on bass; for all its heft, this is where the album’s real muscle resides.

“Who Am I,”” Crystal Skies” and “Left for Dead” tip the balance toward the anger and disillusionment side of the scale, playing more to the metaphor of being enslaved to people’s un-niceness. “brOKen” is a balladic tractor-trailer towing a load of self-affirmation and manic-fit fury. The album is 46 minutes of uber-emotion on a teeter-totter with a rage elephant on one side and a ruminating dachshund on the other. The dachshund is scrappy but can’t beat the gravity of its predicament. In the tornado of Gravity’s apocalypse, it’s hard to hear the tiny bark of honest defiance in the eye of the storm.

“Who Am I” is the obvious standout track, and should be the single, but it can be amazing which song gets picked up for the most airtime. “Walk Alone” is a probable pick-up due to its steam-engine gone amok riff, short but catchy choruses and the best fit into the metalcore formula. The guitar solo might screw it up, because its good but takes time away from the aggressive vocals shouting obscenities.

Caliban’s world-class metalcore is where metal straddles the line between music for car commercials and music that connects with metalheads who have not mutilated their bodies past the point of finding gainful employment. The true believers out there may look down their noses at Caliban’s Gravity, but its their choice to not revel in the very thing that Shakespeare’s Caliban cautions:

"Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices…"

(released March 25, 2016 on Century Media Records)