Review Summary: It may be inconsistent, but Themata hits the sweet spot for sure.
In a recent interview, world-famous guitarist Slash expressed his love for a progressive rock outfit by the name of Karnivool who had not too long ago emerged from Australia and gained a respectable amount of popularity in the United States. He explained how he felt their music was passionate, how they possessed a certain “spirit” so absent in modern rock music, and summed up the five-piece band nearly perfectly when he stated that "You hear a lot of flash-in-the-pan bands that are catchy this or catchy that and there's something cool about it, but it doesn't have an enormous depth to it, whereas Karnivool actually have something going on that is very unique and multifaceted.”
And while this is all very true-Karnivool’s music is unique, and it is multifaceted, perhaps one of their best qualities is that, while holding tightly to the aforementioned features, Karnivool manage to remain notably accessible. They hit the sweet spot somewhere between catchiness and complexity, approachability and originality. It’s a tightrope many a band has tried to walk-but only a handful has truly succeeded. (Such as Fair to Midland, Dead Letter Circus, etc.) Themata
is certainly not an album your average mainstream listener couldn’t adjust to easily-but it’s also interesting and unique at the same time.
I was originally lured into this album after hearing the title track and undisputed album highlight "Themata" some time ago. "Themata" is a wonderful track, consisting of some impressive instrumentation, a huge, soaring chorus, and catchy verses-spiced up using a unique and intriguing exotic flair to the music. Unfortunately, upon hearing the album, I was disappointed to find the exotic flavor essentially absent for the remnant of the release. And although this is more a simple case of misleading first impressions than a serious flaw in the musicianship, it’s sadly true that consistency is not Themata
’s strongest asset. For example, the incredible opening duo of "Cote" and "Themata" set hopes high for the album-expectations that can only be dropped once "Shutterspeed" commences. It’s not a bad song by any means, but it’s boring, drab and lifeless-and following the greatness of the emotional "Cote" and the soaring "Themata," it feels overshadowed. The next four tracks are all strong-particularly instrumental piece "Scarabs"-but then, the last three proper songs fail to impress or intrigue enough to warrant a full listen-with the exception of "Mauseum."
Don’t let this put you off though-Themata
is a fantastic album. Despite the fact that you may not like every track here, the better songs present are impressive to say the least. There’s certainly plenty of hours’ worth of musical enjoyment to be found amongst the near-perfect vocals of "Cote," or the groovy melodies of "Roquefort’s" verses, or "Fear of the Sky’s" chugging riffs. And although Themata
doesn’t display Karnivool’s potential anywhere near as well as the follow-up, Sound Awake,
it is still a great piece of work.
It is, after all, approved by Slash.