Album Review: Karnivool – Asymmetry

Review: Billy Geary
When Sound Awake was released in 2009, Karnivool began to receive acclaim on an international scale, with the record’s more expansive sound resonating with fans of progressive music worldwide. It was a huge step forward for the band when compared to their debut, signalling their establishment as one of Australia’s most innovative bands. Appropriately titled, Asymmetry sees the band change tack again – moving towards a sound of dissonance and adventure, while still retaining the melody of their past releases.

Somewhat misleadingly, the Sigur Ros-esque ‘Aum’ opens the album, Ian Kenny’s familiar falsetto ringing out across the ambiance before giving way to ‘Nachash.’ Here, fuzzy guitars and Jon Stockman’s thudding bass are centre of attention, further driven by Steve Judd’s off kilter drumming combining for as sound reminiscent of Gojira. The track signals the stark progression of the band between albums two and three. ‘AM War’ steps up the distortion again, with Drew Goddard and Mark Hosking’s squealing guitars creating a noisy, if almost punk rock track held together by Kenny’s fantastic vocals. Later on, ‘The Refusal’ reprises the former methodology, with Stockman adding some unexpected, yet satisfyingly searing screams throughout. The brazen addition to their sound once again shows that the quintet are not afraid to step outside the box, or even throw the box away all together as is the case with ‘The Refusal’.

In many ways, Asymmetry is Karnivool’s heaviest record to date. Perhaps not in the traditional blazing wall of distortion sense, and while that does occur at points (i.e. ‘The Refusal’ and ‘The Last Few’), Asymmetry’s heaviness stems from its sheer atmospheric weight and occasional dissonance. In fact, one of the successes of Asymmetry is Karnivool’s ability to deliver perceived heaviness in an array of methods. Much of this can probably be attributed to the band choosing to enlist producer Nick DiDia for this record, aiding them in stepping away from the Forrester Savell cultivated sound found on their first two records. On Asymmetry, his production is nothing short of fantastic, maintaining the band’s newfound dissonance while still ensuring everything stands out in the mix.

The back half of the record is where Asymmetry really impresses. Longer tracks such as ‘Aeons’ and the chill inducing ‘Sky Machine’ are a master class in the use of dynamics and atmosphere. The refrain of ‘Chemical fires will see their way home’ in ‘Aeons’ sees Kenny at his angelic best, while acoustic and electric guitars combine on ‘Sky Machine’ to form a brooding epic. However, penultimate track ‘Alpha’ is the track that will be burnt into listeners’ memory. From simple beginnings – a straightforward drumbeat, lightly picked guitars and subdued vocals, the track slowly evolves across its eight minutes into a completely different beast. Reprising the disjointed rhythms from earlier on the record, Kenny’s vocals are given a somewhat robotic treatment amidst squealing guitar and sledgehammer bass before exploding into a crescendo of sound. Certainly, it’s one of Karnivool’s most adventurous tracks and as a result, could be one of their best to date.

Even for the most dedicated of Karnivool fans, Asymmetry will take a little longer than expected to work your way into. However, once it clicks and one can make sense of the dissonance and raw production, it is a record that will keep on giving. In fact, Asymmetry is likely to be the most rewarding, innovative release of the year.

‘Asymmetry’ is due for global release on July 19th, 2013

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KARNIVOOL announce “Asymmetry Tour” – August 2013