Tidal Wave of Sound

Image: karnivool.com
Image: karnivool.com

Words by Darren TYNAN

The most recent chapter of Karnivool’s ongoing sonic legacy, ‘Asymmetry’, hit shelves nationally on 19 July 2013 and unsurprisingly. I wasn’t the only desperate fan salivating upon its arrival.

The Perth rock outfit refined their work in 2005 with full-length debut album ‘Themata’, and 2009’s release, ‘Sound Awake’, gave musical sustenance to hungry fans. It’s been eight years since Karnivool’s debut, and like a complex ale that’s matured over the years, the band’s new album is richly layered with progressive flavours.

The fact that this album has a different feel to previous work will perhaps be a source of contention among fans. It’s dark, introspective, has more dynamic scope and is more spacious than previous albums. Don’t fear though. Put on your best headphones, immerse yourself, and be rewarded with a treasure trove of sounds.

Musically, Asymmetry is a mixed bag. Meandering layers of clean guitar, emotive and penetrating bass, vocal samples, deep, resonating overdriven chords and swirling ambience all culminate with sophistication and complexity.

The track ‘Om’ is an example of the new dimensions Karnivool are exploring. ‘Om’ explores the Buddhist idea of the illusion of separation. The track features a completely stripped back soundscape; piano keys ring out pensively while the power of the spoken word moves the listener.

‘A M War’ is another highlight on the album and truly showcases the musical control the band has over their instruments. It shows their masterful use of aural space – they know when to build suspense, when to attack hard, when to come to the fore and remain in the background.

This aforementioned track is saturated in darkness, as vocalist Ian Kenny warns, ‘We’re almost out of time, in this hopeless cold divide’. The suspense is thick, and the song builds again as dissonant guitar chords ring out, illustrating angst and dread.

Karnivool is still as heavy-hitting as always, but have infused their distinct sound with a new level of musicianship. I was lucky enough to catch Karnivool live a few years back, and their performance was excellent. One thing that stood out to me is how this album is tinged with a ‘live’ atmosphere at times.

The mixing never sounds too clinical or dry, and seems to be a perfect balance between studio production-quality music and the ‘raw’ human energy and attack synonymous with their live shows.

Asymmetry is palpably heavy in more ways than one. It is a sonically distinctive album, and is a must-listen for fans of contemporary Australian rock with a progressive edge. The breadth of the album is doubtless; the melodies linger in your brain long after they cease.

Time will tell that this work is a perfect example of the powerful art of storytelling through music; Asymmetry is a force to be reckoned with.


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