Live Review: Dead Letter Opener, Therein, Caligula's Horse

14 August 2012 | 1:51 pm | Sky Kirkham

Up from the Gold Coast, Caligula's Horse combine a strange and eclectic mix of influences with a basic metal base to rather varied effect. The first few songs combine reggae, progressive metal, '80s guitar solos and fairly MOR rock, but the parts don't gel well and the segues between ideas are messy, making it hard to connect. The vocals are the defining point of the set, with the singer displaying impressive range and clarity, and when the band settles and some of the songs stick to a single idea, they're very good. The sound is surprisingly muddy for The Zoo tonight though and when the vocals take a break, the band sounds a little hollow.

Opening with a thrash metal track, Therein display skill and an understanding of the genre, with enjoyable riffs and growled vocals. Attempts to expand beyond that are less than convincing, however. A slower track feels unenthused and features too many unnecessary shifts in tone, while a country-inflected track with mandolin and tin-whistle parts seems more like a jam than a finished song. When they stick to the heavier end of the spectrum they command attention and execute well, but again the transitions are messy and too frequent and it makes it hard to enjoy any song in its entirety.

Dead Letter Opener vocalist Mick Millard sounds a little unenthusiastic as the band sets up, but within seconds of their first track they show that they're still one of Brisbane's most impressive metal bands and, as the set goes on, that impression only strengthens. Richard Young's ridiculously complex beats and extended double kick sequences keep the songs driving forward while Chris Lait makes the hardest guitar parts look effortless.

After a crushingly heavy (in the best possible way) first few tracks, DLO slow things down and put their progressive side on display, as Millard shows off his clean vocals and ridiculous piano skills on the excellent Anger Management. Unlike the other bands tonight, there are never any empty moments; with or without vocals the music overwhelms the room. A new track and their first ever cover further enhance the set and the crowd shows its appreciation, the moshpit going absolutely wild during the final couple of tracks.

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It's not all smooth sailing – the gaps between songs stretch out a little and while some of the banter is funny, a small part is needlessly offensive (there's really no place for homophobia these days, intentional or otherwise). When they let the music do the talking though, Dead Letter Opener are amongst the most talented and interesting groups operating in metal today.