Review Summary: Karnivool has once again proven success with the latest installment of their musical catalog, and any true fan of the band will get the enjoyment out of the album that they were aiming for.
In the year of 2007, the widely acclaimed band from Australia, Karnivool
, released their first full-length album, titled "Themata". The album was well-received in its homeland, but in North America they still were mostly unheard of, despite the debut album's solid singles, but not for long. In 2009, the follow-up effort to Themata was released, "Sound Awake", and it is still being praised for its soaring yet technical progressive style.
Themata was a very good album, but it certainly had its flaws. In some parts, songs sounded similar to others, and the palette of styles the band was capable of covering had only been touched on slightly. Perhaps the most significant information about this album is that its closing track is an ambient introduction to something not yet heard by the band, and when a strong buildup comes up and one expects to hear what's around the corner, the album ends. "Change (Part 1)" was a mean tease of a cliffhanger, and was brilliant, I must confess. However, this will be touched on later.
"So does Sound Awake deliver?" -is the age-old question here. After listening to the album many times over the past couple of months, I must say that the album definitely delivers, in ways that you would expect as well as in unanticipated turns for the band.
This much could be told from just taking one quick glance at the tracklist for the album. All of the songs are full-length this time (no more "Omitted For Clarity"s here!); well, actually, "The Medicine Wears Off" is quite short, but still enjoyable. It makes up for it when two of the songs are more than ten minutes long, with some others still being in the seven-minute category. These guys have a lot of music that they want you to hear! "New Day", the third track on the album, almost sounds like Birds of Tokyo for awhile, then builds up and changes around some once you finally felt accustomed to the song. The entire song is continuously building up, it seems, and maybe it's for the song that follows, "Set Fire To The Hive", which is in another whole category of Karnivool. This is a very strange song, yet somehow incredibly appealing, probably because it's a whole new type of music for the band.
"Umbra", track five, is a nice, atmospheric break from the heavy progressive feel, at least not counting the middle section. Standing out here is the hook that starts the song; it might just be my favorite part of the entire album, out of everything Sound Awake has to offer. "All I Know" continues this dreamy, trance-like feel, and then after awhile, goes into a simplistic and radio-accessible verse/chorus-type deal. The most interesting part is the usage of the cowbell by the drummer, and how it actually fits the part very well for what it's worth.
Another personal favorite of mine, "The Caudal Lure" is about the most progressive we get, which we could have gleamed from the title, most likely. Nonetheless, the song's intro starts off with an awkward drum piece accompanied with some type of percussive instrument (maybe a vibraphone?) on the snare hits; it makes any drummer be confused for quite the long time and rewind- I'm speaking from personal experience here. And also, this review would be useless if I didn't mention the gong shot that happens right before the outro of the track. Wonderful stuff!
"Deadman" is the second-to-last track of the album, and it builds up incredibly well. To be honest, the whole song is one big build-up, more powerful than "New Day", and one just has to wonder where the song will go. And it drags on for awhile, maybe a bit too long, but that's just fine; what's coming next will be a nice little treat for fans of Themata.
The song "ends" after about ten minutes, and then a single vibraphone shot emerges out of silence. Then another after a few seconds, and another, and the chord structure feels familiar because it IS familiar, because it's indeed "Change (Part 1)", just revamped for the new album! This song ends just as Themata did, and then we finally get to hear what happens after the enormous build-up happens. Contrary to common sense, instead of a distorted-guitar intro to the track that is "Change", we hear a nice tribal drum beat, a fast one that makes us feel as if we're running through the jungles of the show Lost. From here, many time signatures are changed up, many "Hello hollow halo"'s are sung, and overall the song is as good as we wanted it to be, if not better. The ending features another awkward drum beat, with silences and pauses aplenty, and a choir singing in the background that almost makes it feel like some sort of, well, religious experience is occurring.
So, does Sound Awake have any weak points?, you may be asking. The answer is yes, of course. Some songs, such as "Illumine" and "Simple Boy" don't live up to the others, and "The Caudal Lure", to be frank, has a particularly boring chorus. Maybe "Deadman" and "New Day" drag on for too long, and "The Medicine Wears Off" leaves you wondering what its purpose was, but the point that I'm trying to make is that this album is still very enjoyable, despite its fallbacks.
Karnivool has once again proven success with the latest installment of their musical catalog, and any true fan of the band will get the enjoyment out of the album that they were aiming for.