Karnivool

Asymmetry

Written by: AP on 28/12/2013 18:15:34

There is a burgeoning music scene down under, yet despite ranking among its most notable representatives alongside the likes of Parkway Drive, Karnivool have yet to witness equivalent success overseas, where they continue to remain a cult sensation. Karnivool was founded in 1997 in Perth, Australia, bizarrely enough as a Nirvana and Carcass cover band; an odd juxtaposition of styles to be sure, but then, they've never deserved the label normal. Not even now, nearly 17 years later, main man Ian Kelly having discharged all but guitarist/backing vocalist Drew Goddard from the band under the pretext that "they were all clowns" and progressed into writing highly original progressive rock, of which this third outing "Asymmetry" is another beaming example.

It's no secret that Tool has delivered an immense influence onto this band, whether it be Kelly's ethereal, Maynard James Keenan-inspired singing, the prominence of the bass guitar, the esoteric nature of the songs, or simply that the bands share the last three letters of their names. It's full of cyclic rhythms, shadowy tones and lyrics that twist themselves toward the intellectual, and often poetic musings of Dredg, but despite its elusive nature, "Asymmetry" imbues an overwhelming feeling that everything is there for a reason, serving an integral role in the construction of Karnivool's complex, and at times perplexing universe. The album sounds complete - as it should, given the four years of labour that have gone into its creation (last we heard from Karnivool was via the fantastic "Sound Awake" in 2009).

Mind you, "Asymmetry" is not intellectually condescending, and very little of it suggests pretence. There is a certain smugness to Kelly's tenor and falsetto, not to mention the obscurity of his lyrics, but even so songs like the galloping "Nachash" and lead single "We Are" offer relatively easy access - even for those not accustomed to prog rock complexity. True neither of these tracks conforms to a traditional structure or pattern, but they both still come with bits to latch onto, whether it be the intoxicating groove of bassist Jon Stockman, the organic drumming of Steve Judd, or the oft repeated lyric "Starting to swell, this is bigger than you / I thought it could be something beautiful / It's beginning to feel like we're part of something big", delivered in evasive, yet oddly compelling style by Kelly in "Nachash". The lulling buzz of bass combined with a soothing xylophone in "Eidolon", too, is an unforgettable experience, especially when presented in contrast with the song's loud and atmospheric second half.

Unlike so many other albums subscribing to a progressive philosophy, Karnivool have managed here to construct songs that never outstay their welcome, even those stretching beyond seven minutes. There's a wonderful fragility to "Aeons" and "Sky Machine", both introspective, long-winding odes to the apocalypse, utilising a more patient convection of their concepts and sending the listener on a dreamlike journey through the mind's eye. They're psychedelic, but more so in a contemplative manner than one demanding the intake of mind altering substances. Inevitably, the depth and interconnectedness of the songs insists that "Asymmetry" be consumed in one portion; the strength of the singles does translate to moments which can be appreciated individually, too, but for the most gratifying experience, the album must, indeed, be viewed as a single thread.

Stretching past 60 minutes of running time, "Asymmetry" battles to maintain the listener's interest with diverse weaponry, probing the listener's attention with peaks and troughs of monumental rumble and whispering tranquillity, onslaught and wander, immediacy and reclusiveness. But there are moments which do not woo as irresistibly amidst, and these are grouped at the end of the album, with the slow and anonymous "Float" claiming the Razzie as the pick of the litter. These are but minor obstacles to an album, which only grows more enticing with each listen, however, and I'd advise any fan of progressive rock and -metal to find space for this disc on their shelves.

8

Download: Nachash, We Are, Aeons, Eidolon, Sky Machine
For the fans of: The Butterfly Effect, Dead Letter Circus, Dredg, Tool
Listen: Facebook

Release date 19.07.2013
Cymatic Records / Density Records / Sony

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