Child of Caesar- Spirit & Liberation (Album Review)

Sept. 1, 2022


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German band Child of Caesar was formed back in 2011 by guitarist André Marcussen with the goal of capturing the sound and atmosphere of late 90s gothic metal and rock, and the band did just that on their 2015 debut Love in Black.  The sound on that album fell somewhere between Crematory and Paradise Lost with a healthy dose of the Finnish gothic death/doom sound, and seven years later Marcussen and Child of Caesar return with a new crew of musicians and a significantly expanded sound.  For Spirit & Liberation the core approach of gothic metal, doom, and modern gothic rock is still there, but elements of death metal, black metal, and a healthy dose of punk have been injected to make the sound varied from one song to the next.  Although there are a few uneven moments and the tracks don’t always flow seamlessly, there’s still a lot to like about what the group is trying to do here.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into Spirit & Liberation, as the stunning cover art by Eliran Kantor suggested a gloomy death/doom or gothic doom effort.  But after a few songs, it’s evident that Child of Caesar utilizes this core gothic tone to hop around a wide range of metal and rock adjacent genres.  Opener “Scorpion” kicks things off with a huge hook that feels a bit more death metal or melodic death metal with some of that 90s gothic metal flair, sounding more like mid-period Hypocrisy and Amon Amarth crossed with some Crematory.  It’s a very aggressive way to kick things off and immediately grabbed my attention with its huge sound, but by the time “Your Eyes on Me” kicked in the sound had shifted to a mid-tempo groove that was a bit more alternative metal meets gothic rock.  You’re never quite sure what each song is going to offer, and this does result in a bit of tonal whiplash the first time through, though the heavy and darker approaches do tie things together.  “Ritual Summer” offers up softer moodier rock that explodes in a booming chorus, songs like “Exitus” go full-on punk rock, and there’s even a full-on industrial section on “Seven”.  It’s a lot to take in and admittedly the way that the band transitions between tempos isn’t always seamless, plus there are a few awkward passages that don’t feel like they were fleshed out.  A good example of this is the way the piano seems to jarringly enter on “Lisa”, clashing with what the rest of the track has built up, and it’s these small details that hold Spirit & Liberation back slightly.  Yet even with some unevenness and the occasional iffy track, when Child of Caesar nails the moody and heavy combination on the likes of “Scorpion”, “Godchildren”, and “Native Tongue” it kept me coming back regularly.  I also appreciated the completely unexpected and somewhat strange take on Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco”, which takes the flowery tone of the original and converts it an apocalyptic and doomy sound.

Since their last album the group has recruited a new vocalist, and this also brings a significant change in style to Child of Caesar’s music.  Patrick Pagliaro definitely seems to be a good fit for the ever-shifting instrumentation on Spirit & Liberation as he’s able to deliver harsher screams and growls that wouldn’t sound out of place on a death metal album alongside gruffer singing/yelling and some softer ranges.  Pagliaro does many of these well, and it’s interesting to hear him go from the death growls to something that has more of a gothic/alternative rock feel on “Your Eyes on Me”.  I’m sure the more modern leaning yelling/singing may turn off some who were hoping for a more traditional take on gothic metal, doom, or death metal, but if your tastes are as varied or mine you’ll likely appreciate the diversity.  There are a few moments where the singing sounds slightly off and it seems like Pagliaro might be overextending himself, but these are minor issues and don’t detract from the album too much.  I did find that the vocals sometimes got drowned out in the mix though, as the guitars and bass are so loud that certain pitches struggle to break free the wall of sound.

Child of Caesar has changed significantly on their sophomore album, taking their gothic metal/rock roots and pushing them outwards towards a little bit of everything gothic, metal, and punk.  The results are a bit uneven as songs don’t always seamlessly transition between ideas, yet the group offers up strong enough hooks when they nail it to make this album worth a recommendation.  Hopefully it won’t be another seven years before we get more material, as with some meaningful tweaks and refinement Child of Caesar could come back even stronger.  Spirit & Liberation is available from Dr. Music Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg