Prog-rock harbours some of the world's finest guitarists, but for every saint there are 100 sinners: the world's most vapid, mechanical players. Sam Vallen, guitarist with Australian proggers Caligula's Horse, is definitely not one of the latter.
I'm much more interested in phrasing surprising you. I can spend hours doing a solo, but it's not constructed
"The problem is that complexity becomes a thing unto itself, rather than embellishment of the songwriting," says Sam. "When we write, it tends to be with an acoustic laying the foundations – before I even create the riffs. You can't go wrong when there's substance to your songs and they're not all about technicality."
Nonetheless, Sam is one of the cleanest and most technically-adept players we've heard in recent memory. He just uses his tools well. His band's third album, Bloom, is filled with vibrant twists and turns, not least in Sam's stunning melodic leads.
"I'm much more interested in phrasing surprising you," he tells us. "I can spend hours doing a solo, but it's not constructed. I just play until it has a kind of energy. It has to have some kind of journey."
The band's clever but economic complexity is reflected in their rigs – both Sam and rhythm guitarist Zac Greensill tour with an Axe-Fx Ultra, a Mesa Simul- Class 2: Ninety power amp and a "bullet-proof" MusicMan JP7.
"That's one thing you learn touring Australia," reflects Sam. "When you've got thousands of kilometres between big cities you don't let your gear die!"
- For fans of: Dream Theater, Karnivool
- Hear: Marigold