Hailing from Germany, Caliban has released seven full-length studio albums since their inception way back in 1997. I am Nemesis would mark their eighth release in thirteen years; a boatload of albums for a band of any stature. With so many releases, can Caliban maintain the aggressiveness and creativity they’ve been known for around the metalcore circle, or will this be considered one of their “off” albums that fans rather forget happened altogether?
Caliban has always had a reputation of being one of the “grandfathers” of modern day metalcore, almost a guardian angel of sorts. Almost every release has been consistently solid, and they’ve been around seemingly forever. Where other bands started to take shortcuts after their new found fame and put out half-assed lazy albums that alienated a rather large portion of their fan base, Caliban has for the most part stayed the path. Always adding just enough new elements in their music to claim that they’re moving forward, yet never completely leaving behind their devoted fans in the dust. As I mentioned before, this formula has worked for nearly thirteen years; so it’s not surprising that not much has changed here.
I am Nemesis opens up with a three song blast that immediately gets you interested in hearing the rest of the album, which is definitely a good thing. Where some bands stumble out of the gate with an awkward intro that doesn’t fit with the rest of the album, or lackluster songs that leave you scratching your head as to why they chose to make them the first tracks on an album; Caliban does it right on I am Nemesis. Sections like both of the end in “We are the many” and the chorus of “The Bogeyman” do a great job at capturing your attention and making them instantly recognizable and catchy. The album also does a nice job of not front-loading the album with all of the best songs; for the most part things stay consistently good throughout, making for a relatively nice and easy listen. Through my repeated listening it was rare that I thought about hitting the skip button, which is always a good sign.
While some relatively new (at least for Caliban) elements have been introduced in I am Nemesis, such as melodic guitars wailing in the background of some songs and according to lead guitarist Marc Görtz, “technical grooves with MESHUGGAH-like heaviness”, they for the most part play second fiddle to the already established conventions of the band. If you’re looking for some sort of crossover between At The Gates and Misery Signals, keep on walking. Caliban is still strictly under the core flag, which in this case isn’t a terrible thing. I will say though, that injecting a bit more of these new elements into their music would have, I think, been a good thing. When the shimmering guitar tones and chugga-riffs are put to use, the band does a good job of implementing them tastefully and not in a way that will make you roll your eyes in disgust. It’s a shame that they’re used so sparingly throughout the album; they tend to disappear for a few songs at a time leaving you wondering if they’re ever going to come back (they eventually do, but only for a song or two before disappearing again).
The album at times does risk sounding a bit too “samey”; much of the strength in I am Nemesis comes from strong choruses and bridges and I would argue the middle of the album tends to sag a bit under it’s own weight in these departments. Like I mentioned before, it’s never enough to hit the skip button when all is said and done but it’s always on your mind while listening to the album in a “I guess these next two or three songs aren’t that bad” way. Chalk these up as filler material; a ratio of nine good songs on a twelve song album is a good one at the end of the day.
If anything, Caliban should be proud to put out an album that for the most part is rather catchy and accessible. I would imagine at this point in their careers they don’t need to reach out to new audiences; yet I am Nemesis has a good chance at capturing some new fans for the band because, for the most part, it’s a well-rounded album with enough edge to it to keep people coming back. Although rather shallow, the slog through the middle of the album and inconsistent “new” elements keep this album from being awesome, but as it stands now it’s an enjoyable album from one of the most consistent names in metal.