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Karnivool - Asymmetry CD (album) cover

ASYMMETRY

Karnivool

 

Heavy Prog

3.46 | 68 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
4 stars Karnivool are an Australian band that I had heard of, being Australian, some years back when there was quite a fuss over their rise to fame in this country. "Themata" released in 2005 seemed to buzz by without raising too much of a stir outside of Perth, but 2009's "Sound Awake" was hailed as an Aussie classic and really made the country aware of how great Karnivool are. This latest release is actually heavier in every department with very strong emphasis on distorted rhythm guitar with a metal sound and pounding percussion and a deep resonating bass. The vocals remind me of Tool or Soundgarden on this latest release "Assymetry". The artists present are Ian Kenny on vocals, Andrew "Drew" Goddard on guitar, Mark "Hoss" Hosking on guitar, Jon Stockman on bass and Steve Judd on drums.

From the outset on the drones of 'Aum' the band have adopted a darker sound with definite influences of Tool, especially in the off kilter rhythms and odd time sigs of 'Nachash'. The deep resonance of the bass synth gives this an industrial metal feel and the guitar riffs are as exploratory as Tool. The guitars are executed with inventive relish and blast with a distorted machine grinding ferocity; check out the intro to 'A.M. War' that is one of their outstanding tracks. The time sig is so fractured it wakes up the ear on every listen and has an unsettling effect with its broken cadence. The drums are incredible on this track reminding me of the intricate work of The Cardiacs. There are many switches of tempo throughout the album but this track takes so many twists and turns it is veritably spellbinding. I was surprised as there was nothing like this on their previous album and it is a change for the better. Listen to 'A.M. War' to hear one of the most chaotic time sigs in years! It is unbelievable and must have really shaken up old Karnivool fans. At one stage when the tempo gets fast it is hard to locate the actual rhythm as it competes so dissonantly with the other instruments. I must admit I loved this battle of the instruments complete with its beautiful chaos.

Following this brilliant track is 'We Are' that is also very riff heavy and features Kenny's exceptional vocals and Goddard and Hosking going ballistic on guitars. This is a more FM alternative sound but the album needed some commercial sounds after the previous tracks, and this became the single deservedly. 'The Refusal' features booming guitar distortion and some screamo vocals over relentless drum crashes and bass runs that are a constant presence, very much like Oceansize or A Perfect Circle.

'Aeons' is a more lengthy track at 7:18 and feels like a Porcupine Tree song in the opening, especially in the vocals. It builds from reverberated tremolo guitar to strong synth lines and the rhythm section of drums and bass. I was reminded of The Mars Volta once the time sig became chaotic and then it settles into spacey passages and lyrics about chemical fires; "will I breathe again, will my lungs fill with fire, when the smoke clears who will still remain here."

'Asymmetry' is a short sharp burst of prog that loops a sequenced keyboard and is joined by distant vocals and distorted improvised guitar as heavy as the sound of Sunn O))). It feels like a transition, a real oddity, and leads to 'Eidolon' with a pleasant bassline and gentle guitar joined by crystalline vocals. The lyrics are reflective "maybe I'm just too proud to stand in your defense, still I feel the pull of hidden wires, I'm never gonna try again to speak my mind." This song is more radio friendly and accessible, certainly a welcome change after the high strangeness previous. The melody is infectious and really stays with you unlike the unusual approach of constantly switching time sigs on other tracks.

'Sky Machine' is a longer track at 7:49, beginning with multi-tracked vocal harmonies and stunning drum tempos. Inevitably the heavy guitars crash through and then a great melody in the verses is heard. I love the sound of the guitars the way they reverb and overlap on this track. It is also wonderful when the music settles down and we hear the warm vocals of Kenny in the mid section.

'Amusia' is a transition that is just odd but delivers nothing to enhance the album at all. I am quite perplexed with the short transitions and really believe they would have been better used as intros to lengthen the rather short songs. They simply don't offer anything and feel like fillers. 'The Last Few' returns to the more intricate layers of musicianship and feels a bit messy though I admire the rather innovative percussion sounds, that are the opposite to any prosaic approach of most alternative bands these days. It is difficult to locate any semblance of melody and this just swishes by with a lot of sound but very little substance in terms of melody or structure. The album has run into a lull at this point after its blistering start so I hoped the next few songs would be outstanding.

'Float' is a psychedelic exploration with reverberations of glissando guitar in the Steve Hackett tradition. The vocals are sung in falsetto and are very emotive on this track. There is genuine beauty here and it literally feels as though it were floating along with chiming reverb attached to distant droning harmonics. The feeling of melancholy is strong and yet it feels as though a ray of hope is shining with the repeated "just enough to get by".

'Alpha Omega' is more like a real song without all the complexities and even features an infectious melody that can easily be recalled. 'Om' concludes on yet another oddity that is an instrumental of piano free form style, and enhanced by eerie atmospherics that sounded like Godspeed You! Black Emperor for a moment. When the recorded interview begins it sounds even moreso like GY!BE and yet I am at a loss as to what the band are trying to achieve with this strange ending; is it after all a concept album? And if so what it is it all about?

At the end of the latest Karnivool album I am once again left pondering what a masterpiece it could have been had it been more structured and made some kind of sense; perhaps even a plausible concept would have helped but it all seems to have been thrown together randomly. This is okay for a commercial album where the listener is not more demanding and just wants to hear a bunch of songs they can sing or dance to, but surely a prog band should deliver more, especially after 4 years hiatus. Karnivool certainly are not commercial or a band you would likely dance to, moreover they are thought provoking and inventive at their best, but the problem is in the short transitions and filler material that mars the rest of the outstanding work; it doesn't seem to serve any purpose. I am still impressed by this album in many ways and believe it deserves recognition for its innovative approach to the medium, especially on songs such as 'A.M. War.' The album has received attacks from the prog community for its chaotic soundscapes and lack of structure and I can see this is justified, but nevertheless the musicianship is outstanding, if a little too clever for its own good. It is excellent music though and a great way to idle the hour away on a lazy evening with the headphones cemented on. Karnivool refuse to sell out to the commercial trappings of so many other alternative bands and maintain intricate musicianship without languishing into dull radio friendly mush. For this very reason and for their innovative approach they deserve better exposure in the prog community and should be given a chance as I believe the offer a great deal and are a very original and talented band.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |

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