Welcome to instalment number twenty-two of my 2020 ‘Album of the Year Top 30 countdown’. No big intro, just headlong into the action…

Apart from my normal reminder to anyone new to this series, to check out the links at the bottom of the post to find out who made the cut, from 30 down to 10, as well as my lists from previous years too.

Number 9

Caligula’s Horse

Rise Radiant

InsideOut Music

Score Of Much Metal: 96%

Those who read my original review, will know that I had a difficult time with ‘Rise Radiant’ to begin with. I nearly shelved it. But I didn’t. And that was a wise move, because I now love this record and am beginning to think that it is their best yet. And given the quality of their previous material, that’s saying an awful lot, believe me.

Over time, ‘Rise Radiant’ has proved itself to be a progressive beast of a record. It is heavy, confrontational and aggressive. But it is also fragile, raw, and poignant in almost equal measure. On that score, I really enjoy the impressive ebb and flow displayed by Caligula’s Horse here – the peaks are snow-capped, whilst the troughs are deep, introspective, and a little suffocating at times. This is an impressive skill, but these Australians have mastered it with aplomb.

And the melodies that initially left me cold have proven to contain some genuinely insidious hooks that have dug in without me realising it. Even if I go a week or two without listening to the CD, I will find myself with an earworm emerging when I least expect it, pulling me back for another listen. The whole band should take credit for this, although Jim Grey’s vocal delivery is undoubtedly one of the most important ingredients here – the guy puts in a masterful performance throughout.

All this is then topped off by a great production, and without doubt the best cover artwork of the year. Quality oozes from every pore of this album, to the point where it had to be in my top 10. Once I was able to let the music in and eventually take it to my heart, there was never any doubt about it. Sublime.

What I  wrote at the time:

“Oh, ‘Rise Radiant’, you have not been an easy mistress. Long have been the journeys with you by my side, where I have questioned and dissected our relationship in the most forensic of detail. ‘Am I just with you because of our past?’, ‘do you still do it for me?’, ‘do I still love you like I used to?’ I thought long and hard, as I listened closely to everything you had to say, trying to decipher the hidden meanings, and the glimmers of beauty within you. Would it be worth it, or ultimately all for nought?

It wasn’t an instant epiphany, but those melodies that I previously didn’t like because they didn’t go the way I was expecting, or wanted, started making more sense. The unusual, rather unique phrasings and delivery of vocalist Jim Grey that further drove the direction of the choruses and the various hooks contained within the songs began, finally, to work. The dynamics within each of the eight compositions that I didn’t initially appreciate also became more pronounced, understandable, and enjoyable. It meant that almost imperceptibly, I found that I was giving myself over to the music in ways that I simply hadn’t envisaged previously. It has now got to the point where I find myself wondering why I didn’t like the music in the first place, because it is sensational.

…with eyes now wide open, I can appreciate the subtlety of the music, the clever nuances, the juxtaposition between the heavy and the softer passages. Indeed, it is these marked contrasts, frequently within the songs themselves, that creates a greater sense of drama, urgency and potency to the material.

I can sit here now and state with categoric certainty that ‘Rise Radiant’ is the work of a special band, a band that has technical ability in abundance as well as a rare chemistry that allows the five musicians to speak as one. Put as succinctly as I can, Caligula’s Horse have grown to an extent that they have become masters at creating modern-sounding progressive music that is simply irresistible. ‘Rise Radiant’ is the unequivocal proof of this.”

Read the full review here.

The list this year so far…

Number 10

Number 11

Number 12

Number 13

Number 14

Number 15

Number 16

Number 17

Number 18

Number 19

Number 20

Number 21

Number 22

Number 23

Number 24

Number 25

Number 26

Number 27

Number 28

Number 29

Number 30

If you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here: