Caliban – I Am Nemesis (2012)

Posted: February 8, 2012 in Music
Tags: ,

As one of the newer ‘genres’ of heavy metal music, metalcore has truly taken the scene by storm. There are quite a few up-and -coming bands that are nothing short of amazing, and a handful of downright masters in the mix. Over the last ten years, I don’t think any other genre has sprung so much new talent on us – but that comes with a price.

For every good metalcore band, there are ten bad ones, and the scene has actually diluted itself a bit over the last year or so. Some bands are labelled metalcore these days that aren’t even really metalcore, which waters down the scene even more.

By definition, metalcore is the combination of “hardcore” and “metal”, and while that sounds pretty broad, the sound is immediately recognizable by most. Sure, some are a little heavier on one side or the other, but based on the success of countless bands over the last decade it is definitely the most successful subcategory in heavy music today.

Where it all started and who is responsible is subject to (pointless) debate, but there are a few bands that brought the genre to the forefront of the scene in the late 1990s. Biohazard and Hatebreed were doing it here in the United States, but a darker, heavier version was getting started in Europe and, more directly, Germany.

It was there that two amazing bands sprouted up (even sharing a few split albums along the way) in Heaven Shall Burn and the band we are reviewing here – Caliban. I credit both bands for not only introducing heavy growls and screams to the mix, but for bring the genre to the forefront of metal, paving the way for commercial success for hundreds of bands.

But don’t thank them. Lead screamer Andreas Dörner has gone on record saying he hates the attention metalcore gets and that a lot of the ‘newer’ bands are already dead and have almost killed the integrity of the scene. Call it arrogance or envy or whatever – Caliban just doesn’t care to be grouped in with all the hype – and that has inevitably cost them. While American metalcore bands like As I Lay Dying, Shadows Fall and All That Remains have reached superstardom, Caliban – for whatever reason – hasn’t had the same luck.

After a lackluster club tour in America in 2011 (of which I was able to attend a show), I was curious if the band even gave a shit anymore. They sure didn’t seem very excited about being rock stars when I saw them – enough so to make me form a pretty negative attitude about their “holier-than-thou” smugness. When I Am Nemesis arrived on my desk, the echoes of last year rang loudly, and I almost skipped listening to the disc altogether.

Good thing I didn’t. Ill will aside, Caliban’s eight full-length happens to be easily the best thing they’ve recorded in their fifteen year career. For a band that seems to have issue with the whole ‘metalcore’ thing, they sure found a way to write the modern-day soundtrack to it. Nemesis has all the components you would expect, and is delivered with an energy and vindication that had been missing the last couple of albums (most recently 2009’s Say Hello To Tragedy which was – well – tragic). Maybe they re-energized after a long spell of touring, or maybe it was direct reaction to a bit of negative criticism – but whatever the reason, Caliban has returned stronger than ever and just may finally claim the American success they have been unable to grasp so far.


I Am Nemesis starts simply enough with the muted lyric “You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me…” then explodes into “We Are The Many” – a barrage of blast beat double kicks and guitar crunches. It’s the heavy, neck-breaking stuff that incites riots, and it’s immediately apparent they have something to prove. This effort continues into “The Boogeyman”, one of the harder tracks Caliban has ever recorded. Dörner’s vocals seem sharp and desperate, adding to the frenetic pace of the track. Even the obligatory ‘chugga-chuggas’ have a different, more powerful feel to them, and the soft orchestral highlights fit in perfectly.

I’ve always found Caliban a better screaming band than a singing one, but rhythym guitarist/singer Denis Schmidt does a fine job with the clean vocal parts on “Memorial”, which is the obvious pick for radio play off the record. It’s a bit more refined, but still stays thunderous throughout. It’s apparent that even on the ‘softer’ tracks, the band is intent on being as close to perfect as they can on every note – and it works.

“No Tomorrow” leans a little on the thrash metal side of things, and is delivered with the continuing energy the rest of the album has placed forth. Again we are treated to some string instruments along the way, but the level at which they are mixed in is delicate and subdued – which is perfect balance against the wall of sound provided by the drums and guitars.

The soft, orchestral opening to “Edge of Darkness” makes you think you are getting ready for a ballad of some sorts, but such is not the case. In fact, the track crushes a little stronger than the previous four tracks at times. We get the relayed harsh/clean vocals again, but almost everything is held underwater by the behemoth drums and bass guitar. Patrick Grün gets a solid workout of double blast bass drum fills that seem almost impossible, and the dial is definitely turned up on Marco Schaller’s slaps. Only when the song pauses for some whispered lyrics does the wall-shaking stop, but it picks right back up and finishes with a fury.

“Davy Jones” marks the halfway point of the record, and is a lot more of the same heavy goodness. There’s enough ‘American’ metalcore here in the choruses to please the Killswitch Engage fans, but for the most part it smothers it over with absolute brutality. The key signature is a little more friendly as well, giving the tune a little bit of an ‘upbeat’ vibe – if you can call a song with lyrics such as “Get lost – get the fuck away from me” upbeat…

While Caliban has always been great at mixing elements, “Deadly Dream” is more hardcore than anything else. A darker, elongated chorus tries to give it an extra metal punch, but this is mosh-pit stuff all the way. It’s a bit of a surprise, but plays itself well – and is actually one of the more interesting tracks on I Am Nemesis.

“Open Letter” reminded me a lot of the aforementioned Shadows Fall in its style and structure, and considering the strength and uniqueness of the rest of the album fell a little flat. I’m not going to spend much time dissecting this track, as there are still better things to talk about.

Like “Dein R3.ich”. One of the things that Caliban has always done well is focus their lyrics on social – and sometimes controversial – issues, and this track is the epitome of just that. It’s a message (in both English and German) about looking into one’s own soul before spewing anger and deliverance onto others, warning that we all have our demons. A great message delivered emphatically.

There is a grand sense of production brought with “Broadcast to Damnation” – which is filled with studio effects, key changes, and more orchestral overtones. It breaks off throughout into different sounds so often that you almost think you are listening to two or three different songs mashed into one, but the end effect is something masterful and memorable. I don’t think the band is overly concerned about having that one ‘epic’ song that everyone will remember them for, but this may have been it accidentally.

It took to the next to the last track before we got the ‘slow dance’ of the record, but that’s what “This Oath”. It’s not a ballad, but has that slower, softer feel to it. What I really liked was the echoed, near-death rasp of the vocals throughout – sounding so desperate at times it made my skin itch. A perfectly haunting effect to a perfectly haunting song.

“Modern Warfare” closes the set in the same fashion it started – brutally. The music remains relentless as ever, and the vocal sweeps between the singers mesh as well as ever. I have always thought Dörner’s screams were far more advanced to Schmidt’s singing parts, but it seems the two have both upped there game on this track – and on the entire album.
In fact, EVERYONE seems to have raised the bar here, and the end result is something you’ll want to hear.

I’m glad the band decided to put the effort forth here – it shows on almost every level. In fact, I Am Nemesis is not only Caliban’s strongest record to date, it just may take the band to the level that they have deserved to be at all along. Let’s just hope it doesn’t go to their heads, as they don’t really don’t need any extra ego…

Trust me.

9/10

Tracklist:
01 – We Are the Many
02 – The Boogeyman
03 – Memorial
04 – No Tomorrow
05 – Edge of Black
06 – Davy Jones
07 – Deadly Dream
08 – Open Letter
09 – Dein R3.ich
10 – Broadcast to Damnation
11 – This Oath
12 – Modern Warfare

Buy It At: Amazon

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