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CD review: Germany's Caliban offer weighty aggression on 'Ghost Empire'

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German metalcore merchants, Caliban return this month with their ninth slab of sonic machinations. Once again co-founder and guitarist Marc Görtz had his hand in the album’s production as well as his usual gig as songwriter. Likewise, fellow co-founder, vocalist Andreas Dörner handled lyrical duties. The band, which was founded in 1997, also features guitarist and clean vocalist Denis Schmidt, bassist Marco Schaller and drummer Patrick Grün.

Metalcore, as a subgenre has become maligned in recent years. and some could argue, fairly so. It has become quite derivative, with most bands sounding like clones of the other. Bands who do not create their own signature are bound to fall victim to sonic sepsis and rot away. Caliban has begun to make a statement about its own sound, making a notable impression with 2012′s highly regarded “I Am Nemesis“. “Ghost Empire” continues to set the band apart from others of its ilk.

The album begins with a mammoth dose of brutality on “King”. There is an enormity to this track, making it a strong opener. For those paying attention, Görtz and Schmidt manage to put a djent in your skull on “Chaos – Creation”, which the guys have been slowly slipping into more and more of their songs. This track has nice groove and good atmosphere.

There are some incredible breakdowns on “Ghost Empire“, with one of the best popping up on the aggressive,”nebeL”, which features an appearance by Callejon’s Bastian Sobtzick. The band stuck to their native tongue for this one.

Arguably the album’s strongest track is, “Devil’s Night”, which can be viewed above, with its mélange of vocal performances and bombastic chorus. This is followed by the raise-a-toast conviviality of “yOUR Song” and the intriguing, “Cries and Whispers”.

The rest of the album is steeped in aggressive and groove-laden heaviness, offset by compelling textures as on “I Am Rebellion”, which has the most catchy and impressive chorus on the record. Trivium’s Matt Heafy even throws his weight around on the bonus track, “Falling Downwards”.

The entire album is a balance of caustic vocals against sweet cleans and abrasive riffage against ambient keys and synths. There is fantastic technical dexterity and aural diversity on this record that helps keep it fresh. There are few moments where things seem to bog down just a pinch, but never for long. “Ghost Empire” continues to mark Caliban‘s progression away from the clutch of traditional metalcore acts, but there is still more room to grow. The band must continue to evolve, but “Ghost Empire” is a solid move in the right direction. An impressive and at times captivating record.

Rating: 7.6/10


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