Album Review: Caliban - "I Am Nemesis"
After fifteen years, German heavy metal heavy hitters Caliban are still going strong and beginning a new album cycle with “I Am Nemesis.” This album sees Caliban mixing more diverse inspirations into their music and experimenting with mixing in more gang vocals and mosh pit mayhem.
“I Am Nemesis” goes by quickly, and that is to the album’s credit. It is fast paced, never lingers too long on a single idea and keeps the beat moving efficiently and effectively. The pummeling combination of Patrick Grun’s percussion and Marco Schaller’s bass makes for a comparative bullet train of modern European metal.
In the pre-release press, guitarist Marc Görtz talked about how Caliban “added an additional few pounds to make [some tracks] even heavier.” The band accomplished that feat with flair and style, with cavalry-charges-turned-metal like album opener “We Are the Many.” There is in an unmistakable metal gallop in those songs, rendered into a full body movement through the combination rhythm mentioned above.
Additionally, Görtz said “It was important to us to have an elaborate album without any fillers…the sound of the album is the best we’ve ever had by far: it is heavy and brutal without being chaotic.” To his credit, the man is two for two in pre-album boasting. “I Am Nemesis” rips through twelve songs with a well-balanced mix that sounds embellished without sounding forced or distorted. Also, he is correct that there is little to no filler on the album, and that even includes the less well-defined tracks like “Broadcast to Damnation.” Each cut is a complete experience, existing independent of each other. To produce a twelve song effort with zero throw-aways is a laudable achievement.
The album’s biggest attraction is the single “Memorial,” which finds the band effortlessly blending the melodic, clean vocal elements of their nature with the dirtier harmonies of their heavy metal breeding.
Yet, in an amazing, fateful twist, Caliban the band finds themselves obeying the tenets of another European metal band much as Shakespeare’s character Caliban obeys the orders of Prospero. “I Am Nemesis” is a powerful album stuffed to the nines with crushing riffs and destructive metal fury, but it all seems to sound a little bit like Soilwork-lite. Caliban’s new album possesses many fine qualities which are the same as their Swedish counterparts, but lacks the consistent, exploratory explosiveness of the latter band’s latest albums. For those comparing apples to apples, “The Panic Broadcast” is a superior album to “I Am Nemesis.” On top of that, Caliban’s album doesn’t possess a ton of variety, as you can fast forward to random parts of almost any track and hear similar themes both musical and lyrically. While there are twelve complete, independent songs on the album, there may not be twelve wildly different songs.
“I Am Nemesis” compares favorably with many of the modern metal albums on the market, and has many nice features, but is ultimately a one-trick pony. Fans of that one trick will find plenty to satiate their desire on Caliban’s latest effort, but many fans may find they tire of the repetitiveness. Caliban’s album is worth at least one listen, but be advised that if you’ve heard it once, further listenings may not yield different observational results. I like this album, but I didn’t fall in love with it.