If there’s a band that represents the very centre of the metalcore landscape, the eye of the storm where everything is at its flattest, calmest plateau, it’d probably be Caliban. That’s not to say they’re bad – over twenty years of existence would imply that there’s at least something there – but none of their ten albums have ever caused much of a stir, presumably due to a very rudimentary take on metalcore that’s never been all that innovative.
So if that’s been the case across ten albums, what real belief is there that it’ll change on the eleventh? And thus, Elements does everything in its power to fulfill that statement, primarily be being another functional metalcore album that rarely ventures into anything more. And it’s worth wondering how many albums like this Caliban really have in their tank, particularly now when they don’t seem to be evolving at a point where pretty much every trick in the book has been totally rinsed.
It ultimately means that there’s not a lot to say when it comes to Elements, and any true standout moments are exceptionally fleeting. The clearest is probably Ich blute für Dich, with the benefit of lyrics in their native German that do sound harsher and more aggressive from a purely sonic point of view, but the sense of theatricality on I Am Fear and Masquerade greases up the wheels even more, to the point where it actually seems as though Caliban might be on the right track to achieving something with identifiable presence. That is, until the rest of Elements confirm that these moments of flash are just garnish for what is otherwise a fairly bog-standard metalcore album. It ticks all the right boxes – the breakdowns hit, the drums crash and Andreas Dörner does have an admittedly powerful scream – but it never goes beyond that, and feels so safe as a result. Of these thirteen tracks, there’s barely anything beyond a hook that’s worth remembering, because a) it defaults so deeply into no-frills territory that it might as well be a blank slate at points, and b) it’s nothing that hasn’t been done innumerable times before, by Caliban themselves, no less.
And that really begs the question of whether Elements is really worth it. For Caliban completionists, there’s bound to be something of appeal here (probably the exact same things as their previous albums), but otherwise, this doesn’t feel as though it has all that much to offer besides cursory thrills and another run through the gauntlet of forgettable metalcore tropes. It might be worth a listen if you’re curious, but it’s also a reminder that Caliban are becoming the embodiment of a band where, if you’ve heard one album, you’ve heard them all.
For fans of: Darkest Hour, Still Remains, Heaven Shall Burn
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Elements’ by Caliban is released on 6th April on Century Media Records.