Review Summary: Karnivool's next step is an album that you'll only swallow once you force it down.
Hype seems to be a major stir up for new releases these days, but none of it I would buy. ‘The Refusal is going to be the Set Fire to the Hive of Asymmetry,’ or ‘listen to Sky Machine live, that’s maybe more what you’re after.’ Despite all this, I simply knew that the songs we were given, first the Refusal and then We Are just didn’t kick it for me. I don’t know what else to say other than Sound Awake will always be my most adored album of all time, and I don’t think any other will steal its place. Karnivool led me into the greater world of music, in the days I was maybe still directed by the top 20 or such some years prior, but even in exploring other bands and other genres, Sound Awake always found itself climbing higher and higher on its own shining, elegant column that I always looked to when it came to the art and design of what makes a masterpiece. 4 years on, now Asymmetry is the next step in Karnivool’s discography, and everyone seems to be praising it like it’s the next best thing.
This album first of all is convoluted with interludes, and to put it in perspective, the title track itself is an interlude, as well as the album’s opening and closing tracks. Now, pardon me if you think I’m making unfair comparisons, but the fact is; when you compare to how Change left you once Sound Awake finished, compared to Om’s sustained piano notes over dialogue, what you imagine is exactly the impression Asymmetry left me with, maybe throughout its entirety.
The first half of the album is the most consistent. Steve Judd’s drumming from the get go serves to impress, though it also seems a lot of these songs are constructed from rhythms rather than melodies, most notably The Refusal. When it does fall flat, is when Steve Judd isn’t doing much impressive, such as A.M.War when Steve Judd seems to be playing a thrash beat around 2 minutes in (and repeated again later on), and the riff loses half its strength in the process.
Songs like Aeons thrive off Karnivool’s skill in conducting a song through atmosphere, though the guitars don’t seem to be as busy as we’ve maybe come to expect from Karnivool. For this reason, songs such as Float or Alpha Omega seem like Ian Kenny highlights, but not essentially resulting in the highlights of the album due to the lack of substance. In fact, it seems that Karnivool are inconsistent as to what they’re trying to achieve with Asymmetry. The first half of the album suggests a heavier, more prominent metal sound, while the albums latter half is made up of weaker songs simply existing to elevate Ian Kenny’s voice alone, and not to serve the band. I’m sorry, if I wanted to focus purely on Ian Kenny’s voice, I’ll go to Birds of Tokyo for that where there’s space for that approach, but in the realm of Karnivool, it comes off as a revisit to Themata’s latter half...you know, the songs we barely re-listen to. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the first minute of Sky Machine, because I just cringe at that poppy chord progression and sound it opens up with.
In the end, Asymmetry seems self-indulgent for whatever reason, I do not know. Some songs seem to exist to put the spotlight on either one of the five that make Karnivool, most notably Steve Judd in the more successful pull offs. As a result though, it leaves Karnivool with an album you’ll only swallow once you force it down. None of the riffs stick, none of the songs seem to really leap above each other in terms of originality or personality. It’s a good listen, but I can’t help but feel this is polished up potential in which Karnivool has probably been persuaded to release due to the hype and the fans who don’t really know what they want. Yes, it’s a good album, maybe a ‘great’ one...but if we really stop to think of what we expect and what we’ve heard in terms of the products Karnivool are capable of delivering, maybe we’ve got the wine before its time.