I’m not sure if the guys in Caliban have lost their identity, or if they’ve ever truly had one of their own to begin with. All I know is that I used to highly anticipate their new releases, and lately I’ve come to dread them. Looking back at their respectable 17-year career, I suppose they’ve always been a mirror image of the Metalcore climate at the time (even long before it became a household genre tag). They came up with Heaven Shall Burn, they gigged with Heaven Shall Burn, they’ve done splits with Heaven Shall Burn, and their earliest work unequivocally sounds a lot like Heaven Shall Burn. No complaints here, but the point in time when Caliban really began to up their game (2003’s Shadow Hearts and 2004’s The Opposite from Within) via beefier production, ballsier melodies, and emotive clean singing just so happened to coincide with the breakthrough success of like-minded scene giants in years prior (Poison the Well, Killswitch Engage, and From Autumn to Ashes to name just a few). Still no complaints. These German mosh wizards did the Emo-tinged brutality thing as well as if not better than anyone, and they essentially rode that style to glory all the way through 2009’s Say Hello to Tragedy. But now the year is 2014. Metalcore has become a dirty word, and in most cases not without good reason. The genre has stretched itself paper thin in recent years, warped beyond recognition through desperate hybrid attempts ranging from Dance Pop to Glam Rock. For Caliban to assimilate with their surroundings these days means only career suicide. Thankfully they haven’t gone that far off the deep end yet, but with 2012’s I Am Nemesis, I began to sense the infiltration of an inauthentic alien presence (“you-got-a-fuck-ing-be-kid-ding-me” is right). Still not a complete failure, the record did have its solid hits, but far too many misses by Caliban standards. With Ghost Empire, the band has drifted even farther into what’s-hot-now insanity. For the first time ever, the once-mighty Teutonic titans have delivered an LP that’s more fizzle than sizzle. It’s littered with uncharacteristic tactics like Radio Rock, Djent, Prog, Electronica, and even Southern Rock. It feels like a Hot Topic throwing up on your boots. I don’t know what this is, but it’s not Caliban. The only two songs here worth a mixtape’s B-side are “Devil’s Night” —with its infectious clean-vocal chorus— and “Your Song” — with its hooks and gang sing-along qualities. Nothing else on the album comes close. Schizophrenic trend soup from a group capable of so much more. Caliban has the talent, the passion, and the seniority to be leaders, yet Ghost Empire follows blindly.
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