“I don’t like outward complexity – I enjoy being stealthy about it, and Steely Dan are beacons for that”: Meet Sam Vallen, the shredder swiping yacht rock chords and turning them into one of 2024’s best prog-metal albums with Caligula’s Horse

Sam Vallen
(Image credit: Katja Ogrin/Redferns/Getty Images)

Reflecting on the tumult of the world on sixth album, Charcoal Grace, progressive metal storytellers Caligula’s Horse have created a much darker affair than their previous works. It’s a record rife with long, protracted songs, mood shifts and fluid lead playing. 

Yet for guitarist Sam Vallen – who founded the Brisbane quartet in 2011 alongside vocalist and co-collaborator Jim Grey – much of his key songwriting work happens away from his beloved Ernie Ball Music Man guitars. 

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Phil Weller

A freelance writer with a penchant for music that gets weird, Phil is a regular contributor to Prog, Guitar World, and Total Guitar magazines and is especially keen on shining a light on unknown artists. Outside of the journalism realm, you can find him writing angular riffs in progressive metal band, Prognosis, in which he slings an 8-string Strandberg Boden Original, churning that low string through a variety of tunings. He's also a published author and is currently penning his debut novel which chucks fantasy, mythology and humanity into a great big melting pot.