Review Summary: Epic, in every sense of the word. 'Sound Awake' cements Karnivool at the top of the Australian rock pile.27 of 27 thought this review was well written
For anyone that has been following Karnivool since the release of their critically acclaimed debut Themata
in early 2005, Sound Awake
is more than anything else, a relief. A relief because its finally here after being ‘six months away’ for the past two years and also because it is such a huge step up from Themata
. It is however, a moot point to compare the two records as they are so different. Themata
was almost solely guitarist Drew Goddard’s conception with the other members, bar vocalist Ian Kenny, having very little input in the actual song writing, whereas Sound Awake
is a much more collaborative effort and it shows in the music. Goddard describes the two perfectly, “Themata was an album of hooks, whereas Sound Awake is an album of lures”
The moment the xylophone chimes signal the start of opener ‘Simple Boy’, followed by the almost Isis like sludge metal riffs the listener knows they’re in for something a little different. From here, new listeners to the band would be expecting a voice like Aaron Turners to blast out of their speakers, but instead they’re ‘stuck’ with Kenny. For years Kenny has been regarded as one of Australia’s best rock vocalists and on Sound Awake
it only takes one song to cement his place at the top of the pile. ‘Goliath’ begins in much the same way as ‘Simple Boy’ but instead moves off in a different direction, giving bassist Jon Stockman and drummer Steve Judd a chance to show off.
While ‘Goliath’ and ‘Simple Boy’ were largely about the instrumental side of Karnivool, third track ‘New Day’ is all about Kenny. ‘New Day’ is where Kenny excels with his vocals being the primary focus of the song, moving from soft angelic verses to the choral heights that only he and a lone few others can soar. ‘New Day’ is the perfect example of how far Karnivool has come in the last four years, blending both atmosphere and anthemic choruses together, something which wasn’t quite done to perfection on Themata
First single ‘Set Fire to the Hive’ is somewhat the black sheep of the album, with Kenny’s pissed off vocals and Goddard’s ‘bee swarm guitars’ providing a bridge between the riffage and choruses of Themata
and the new found atmosphere and progression of Sound Awake
. ‘Umbra’ sends the album straight back into the atmosphere of before, providing one of the more mellow points on Sound Awake
before letting loose towards the end of the song, bringing to mind early Tool and later Cog. Likely second single ‘All I Know’ is the most radio friendly song on the album while ‘When the Medicine Wears Off’ serves as an intermission between the two halves of the album featuring just Kenny’s vocals and a guitar.
The second half of the album is where Karnivool really hit their straps and show their diversity with ‘The Caudal Lure’ being one of the more progressive songs they’ve written, featuring plenty of samples and another fantastic chorus. ‘Illumine’ a ballad to the Sun, starts of a little differently with plenty of sampling before easing into more great riffs from Goddard and Hosking. It is also on the last few songs, as well as the rest of the album that producer Forrester Savell (The Butterfly Effect, Dead Letter Circus) shows his worth, bringing the plethora of different sounds together finding the perfect balance.
The old saying ‘save the best till last’ seems to fit with a number of things, none more so than Sound Awake, with ‘Deadman’ and album closer ‘Change’ proving to be two of the best songs to come out of Australian alternative rock in a very long time. At twelve minutes long, ‘Deadman’ is something a little new for Karnivool (not counting their abysmal self titled EP) mixing everything that is good about the band, weird time signatures, perfect instrumentals and hauntingly amazing vocals. Mixed in with a little bit of lyrical genius from Kenny; “This moment has come and gone, it’s time we all moved away”
At the end of ‘Deadman’, there’s a nice little surprise for long time fans, a reworking of ‘Change (Part 1)’ from Themata
, featuring a xylophone instead of the original ambience, providing the perfect segue into ‘Change’. ‘Change’ is the definition of diversity, how so much can be going on in a song and it to come out as well as it has is ridiculous. Beginning with a plethora of tribal percussion courtesy of drummer Steve Judd, including a didgeridoo of all things, before the heaviest riff on the album emerges and then disappears as quickly as it came. ‘Change’ is by far the best thing Karnivool has written, seamlessly moving from tribal metal and rock to acoustic passages with ease, however it is once again Kenny that steals the show, his call and response of “Hello, hollow, halo”
enough to give this reviewer shivers down the spine.
With what is sure to make waves all over the world, Sound Awake
has thrust Karnivool right to the top of the Australian rock pile, completely eclipsing other heavyweights The Butterfly Effect and Cog’s latest efforts. While it doesn’t contain as many big choruses or huge riffs as Themata
, Sound Awake shows their coming of age from a band with potential to one that has what it takes to go very, very far.