Review Summary: I don't want this to end, I don't want this to end.
I listened to this album originally because it blew my mind that a hard rock band could still top charts on Sputnikmusic. I thought you guys were all over that rock scene. But this isn’t a generic hard rock band and I got a dose of why it isn’t on my first listen. It was more different than anything I could’ve imagined...that grungy opening riff of “Simple Boy” that leads into Ian Kenny’s serene voice? Are you kidding me? I had to let that album sit after the first listen. I liked “Goliath” and “Set Fire to the Hives”, but I guess I wasn’t ready for the whole package yet. I mean when you look at how long the damn tracks are before you listen, it’s pretty discouraging.
Then it happened one by one...
I got addicted to “New Day”, an 8-minute song that should turn me off by its length but somehow the dreamy atmosphere and progression of the song kept me coming back again. This is not the “hard rock” I had assumed I was going to get addicted to. The build-up to the final two and a half minutes of the song literally forces you to stay with the song, knowing you will be rewarded for your patience.
Then “Simple Boy” and “Umbra” invaded my mind. “Simple Boy” is easily the strongest track on the album with such a powerful entrance: “I’m high above the world, why should I feel pain?” The song makes itself memorable not by following the “Themata” strategy, but by settling down with guitars that seem more reflective and gentle after the eerie solo rather than punchy riffs. “Umbra” uses the crunchy sound of the guitars to relax listeners and pull them into the song before crying “Wake me with a bottle ‘cross the head”.
The rest of the album unfolded itself rather easily after that; my biggest surprise being how strong the song “Deadman” is, despite its unfair length of 12 minutes. It sounds at first like something out of a Daft Punk
album, which I understand is a weird way to describe Karnivool
. It has an almost electronic sounding beat at the beginning (although I know it’s obviously guitars still). It’s all fantastic at luring you in and that’s the idea of the whole strategy in “Sound Awake”. “All I Know” has maybe the best build-up and breakdown of the entire album and my favourite line: “This is the sound of your reason to wake. Have we forgotten now? We can’t relate.”
Maybe the most exciting part of the album is the final 2 minutes of “Deadman” where the band includes the final portion of “Change (Part 1)” that ended the last album and transitions it into the final track (Part 2). It’s not at all what you expect, when you leave the chaotic sounds of hustling and bustling that Part 1 finishes with, you’re greeted by a tribal percussion that moves into lurching guitars and Kenny’s unbelievable intro of “Hello, Hollow, Halo”. I came to the conclusion though after I heard “Themata” that I absolutely hate Part 1. The ending cut-off of that song is without a doubt the biggest buzzkill in modern musical history. If I would have been a fan back in 2005-06 when that came out, I wouldn’t have stood for that. Think of how long Karnivool fans had to wait to hear how Change (Part 1) turned out...four years!!! Still, I don’t think any fans prior to “Sound Awake” could have expect what Part 2 would bring, and I think most would find it absolutely breathtaking and rewarding as the drums trail off at the end.
The Australian rock music scene is steadily becoming one of the most consistently amazing and revolutionary cultures of music in this day and age. Bands like Dead Letter Circus
and Kenny’s other band Birds of Tokyo
are offering new musical sounds and themes I never thought possible. My lesson: trust Sputnikmusic listeners when they rate something 4.2/5...they know what they’re talking about. And Ian Kenny, you’re my hero.
Set Fire to the Hive