Review Summary: Karnivool makes ends meet.
Australian progressive titans Karnivool are back again with their much awaited studio record, Asymmetry. For a while now, fans have been teased, twisted by this rather conventionally unconventional band. Whatever the reason, the wait is well deserved, and at its core, well worth it. Asymmetry marks a high point in the boy’s careers, showing that the bad are more than capable of exploring new ground without forgetting who they are or which sound got them this far. Asymmetry is a swirling mass of news, old's and mixes wrapped up in a sixty-seven minute opus and frankly is a highlight of the progressive rock genre for 2013. Karnivool have taken everything that made ‘Sound Awake’ such a hit and expanded it, transformed it into a majestic record full of your typical Karnivool flair. That’s not to say that Asymmetry is a copy of the band’s past works, instead, Asymmetry shows a band shape-shifting, growing and maturing into a titan band of the progressive rock genre.
Previous statements from the band identified a group who wanted to explore new sounds, themes and influences. Karnivool has not only brought in the new, but have exceeded the typical expectations of the group. ‘Asymmetry’ is the proverbial masterpiece of a band coming to grips with the fact they could put anything on CD with a guarantee that it will never disappoint. Tracks like hard hitting, yet ethereally contrasting ‘The Refusal’ stand as instant “proggy” highlights. Smooth croons contrasted with mid-range screams, driving riffs and melancholic clean guitars all make head-way for a band that simply, steps over the typical boundaries of the genre. Take the title track for example; it lulls you into some syncopated, rhythmic crescendos, building the pressure on the listener, before letting the pressure build again with a slight electronic break up. It’s important to note that the title track is but an interlude, bringing the tracks either side together but is merit-able by its own rights. Karnivool shows unlimited expertise at layering sounds together and harmonizing vocal groups. A gift that many take for granted or ignore completely.
Overall, it’s a shame that this ‘only’ runs a little over an hour. For the most part, fans will want more. Those new to the group will fall in love and will work through the group’s catalogue to find more of the music. This is not a band simply making an album off the back of a successful release, instead Karnivool explore new ground, making the most of their influences and the break between records. These guys are only continuing to grow, recent tours have seen them visit the U.K (Sonisphere, Download, Greenfield, Southside and Hurricane) which is impressive by their own standards, but for Karnivool and the new record, it’s a sign of things to come. Take a listen to “Float”, the tracks tranquil sound is contrasted by the lyrical content that soars with the album’s overall atmosphere. The song is eerie, calm, yet underlies a dangerous, sinister theme. It’s not direct, showing the subtlety of a band who knows exactly what they are doing. Operatic vocals join the sonic fray, building the atmosphere, which turns the track on its head leading onto, ‘Alpha’ which remains yet another of the band’s highlights, reflecting back on the band’s progressive simplicity.
Despite the album’s rather lengthy run-time, Asymmetry is completely justifiable from front to back. The record is a mesmerising display of polyrhythmic groupings and lyrical flamboyancy to maintain the interest of the listener throughout its fourteen tracks. Ian Kenny’s vocals are a talking highlight of Asymmetry and never do they sound out of place or key. It is Kenny’s warm crooning that holds this progressive feel together without bloating the album. That however, is only the start of the sound behind Karnivool’s expansive and gargantuan instrumental aspect. It takes multiple listens to fully appreciate the complexity behind Kenny’s vocals. There is more going on here than first meets the ear. After a while, the listener will realize the multiple strokes of genius to be found throughout the album. Electric guitars laced with subtle acoustics and a steady bass rhythm, combined with the rather impressive and often overlooked percussive talents of drummer Steve Judd. It’s easy to get lost in this whirlpool of noise, it’s not a bad thing and it would be wise to let the music’s momentum take you for a ride, Asymmetry is everything Karnivool wants it to be, it’s their baby. For those doubting whether this Perth act would be able to top their previous release, ‘Sound Awake’ (2009), those claims can be put to bed as Asymmetry is Karnivool’s monolithic opus to date. Asymmetry is an album you could listen to for many years to come and is well worth your time in checking out.