Note: If you’re a fan of Caliban, you might be interested in this interview we recently conducted with them!
Almost exactly two years after the release of I Am Nemesis, Caliban are back with their follow-up effort Ghost Empire. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone – after all, Caliban have managed to keep a remarkably steady release schedule going with nine albums in 17 years. The key to Caliban‘s success and longevity in a genre that has seen many of its bands die out or breakup up in the last five or six years, has been an almost relentless touring schedule and albums of consistently good quality. Ghost Empire is no exception, and Caliban fans will most definitely embrace it. This is both a blessing and a curse, as I’ll explain further below.
Ghost Empire sees the band take a slightly different direction than some of their most recent releases. Caliban have always been more guitar-driven than some other bands they often get lumped (and tour) with. Riffage has always been strong point of Caliban, content to not only play the chugs but also some more impressive and technical stuff. They definitely induce memories of earlier -core bands that were influenced more by the hardcore sound than the metal side, and by and large that’s still there. Ghost Empire sees a slight shift of attention, though, to a more robust “epic” sound. There are more sing-along choruses on this album than I ever remember there being on a Caliban release, and honestly it’s handled pretty well. Songs like “Devil’s Night” manage to slow the pace down a bit without being boring, and it includes one of the aforementioned choruses that fit the mood and tempo perfectly. The song “Good Man” manages to smoothly transition from a few somber lines into relative brutalness with seemingly zero effort. If this sounds like your kind of thing, you’re probably in for a treat.
I would say the vocals on Ghost Empire are by far the best in Caliban‘s now extensive catalog of offerings. The yells and growls sound better than ever, and the clean vocals during some of the choruses absolutely soar. Not only that, but some of them are even pretty catchy too. There are a few instances where things get a bit too cheesy for my tastes (the song “yOUR Song” has some pretty cringe-inducing background chants and melodies) but for the most part they work very well. You have to give Caliban credit for managing to make some alterations to their sound that most of the fan base will probably love. These abilities are some of the reasons why Caliban just didn’t up-and-die during the great metalcore purge of 2008-2010. Their perseverance is paying off – each album has charted higher than their previous one, and the tours they belong to seem to be getting bigger and bigger.
As for new fans? Well, if you’ve never listened to them before then Ghost Empire is probably as good of a place as any to start. The combination of catchy riffs, vocals, and the general somber atmosphere and soundscape this album possess is in the same realm as, say, the last Architects album. Maybe Ghost Empire isn’t the type to be blasted out of your car speakers, but one that should be listened to with some nice headphones. This might turn some people off – and anyone that has already tried listening to Caliban before and didn’t quite dig them won’t be impressed with anything they’ve done on Ghost Empire, but you know what? That’s perfectly fine. Caliban seems to be getting bigger and bigger, and it’s well-deserved.