CONCERT REVIEW: CALIGULA’S HORSE & EARTHSIDE At Toronto (The Axis Club) & Texas (Come And Take It Live) – January/February 2024

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The Earthside and Caligula’s Horse tour reached Toronto on February 06th, and fans witnessed a dynamic evening of progressive metal. The Axis Club, formerly known as Mod Club, has recently reopened after facing financial difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the crowd wasn’t at full capacity, there was still a substantial attendance, creating an intimate yet energetic atmosphere for the performances.

Both Earthside and Caligula’s Horse have garnered acclaim for their recent album releases, respectively “Let The Truth Speak” and “Charcoal Grace”, and their setlists reflected a balanced selection of songs, albeit understandably leaning towards their latest material.

Earthside kicked off the night at 07:30 PM sharp, with their unique blend of ambient prog. They kicked their set with an epic journey entitled “We Who Lament”. With a lineup consisting of Jamie Van Dyck on guitars, Ben Shanbrom on drums, Frank Sacramone on keys, and Ryan Griffin on bass, the band does not have a fixed vocalist. In the studio they have guests such as Lajon Witherspoon (Sevendust), Björn Strid (Soilwork), Daniel Tompkins (Tesseract), and Eric Zirlinger (Face The King, Seer) taking on vocal duties. Given the obvious logistical and financial challenge of bringing all singers on tour, using pre-recorded vocals, with the screen projections featuring images of the singers. “Pattern of Rebirth”, the second song on their show, showcased the more streamlined side of their songwriting, while “Watching the Earth Sing”, started with delicate guitar notes and slowly built into an atmospheric gem with a hypnotic beat. It was followed by the title track of “Let the Truth Speak” and the set closer, the instrumental “The Closest I’ve Come”. Their last show in town had been at the Hard Luck Bar in 2022, opening for Danish proggers VOLA, but tonight was a whole new level of production.

Texas prog nerds got a special treat the following week when the tour landed in Austin’s metal mecca, Come and Take It Live. While the set itself remained unchanged, it was historic in that it marked the very first time Earthside was joined by a live singer on stage, when local guy AJ Channer of the band Fire From the Gods, hopped on stage and ably delivered his verses “Pattern of Rebirth.” Earthside main man Jamie van Dyck was visibly both nervous and thrilled and confided to the audience that they’d just witnessed a historic moment in the band’s history. This set was not without its problems, though – a few songs were marred by a handful of technical glitches, most humorously a muted keytar during “The Closest I’ve Come” that forced the dervish we call Frank to scamper across the tiny stage so he could finish off his part on another keyboard.  The Earthside guys handled the obstacles with good humor and aplomb, and the gracious headliners had the charcoal grace (see what I did there?) to let them go over time so they could play their marvelous set closer completely unabridged.

After a triumphant performance at the ProgPower Festival last year, Australia’s Caligula’s Horse finally reached North America on a headliner tour, promoting their watershed release “Charcoal Grace”. They took the stage with finesse, beginning with the ethereal tones of “The World Breathes with Me” from their latest release from such album. Vocalist Jim Grey‘s emotive delivery added depth to the introspective lyrics, particularly evident in the intense performance of “Marigold.” The lyrics here are introspective and poetic, exploring themes of self-discovery, personal growth, and the passage of time.

“Golem” followed, with Sam Vallen (guitars) and Dale Prinsse (bass) working in perfect sync, even through the most intricate tempo changes. Throughout their set, the band demonstrated tight musical cohesion, with standout moments including the djent-infused “Dark Hair Down” and the melodic “Bloom.”

Another high point of Caligula’s Horse‘s set was the proggy intricacy of “The Tempest”, a song that explores themes of inner conflict, personal struggle, self-discovery and resilience, being almost complimentary to the concepts explored in “Marigold.” The dynamic rhythms of “Oceanrise,” showcasing drummer Josh Griffin‘s skillful contributions, didn’t come unnoticed either, eliciting a great reaction from the crowd. Despite exploring heavy themes, songs like “Dream the Dead” managed to evoke an uplifting atmosphere, albeit with moments of reflective contemplation like the breakdown around its 5-minute mark. “Mute” – a song which at times is reminiscent of Soen, while also reminding us of Muse or even Leprous, was a journey full of twists and turns, which closed the Aussies’ main set.

Overall, Earthside and Caligula’s Horse offered a great double bill with different shades of the overarching term “progressive metal”. Both bands played to their strengths and delivered captivating performances that left a lasting impression on the audience. The evening was ultimately a memorable experience, culminating in the epic encore of Caligula’s Horse‘s “Graves.”

Photo Gallery (Photos by Gonzalo Pozo):

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