Review Summary: With Asymmetry bursting at the seams with forced unusual time signatures and experimentation, Karnivool releases their most inconsistent record to date.
No album has left me with a loss for words in the sense that this album has. After listening to this many times, I’m still left speechless, but for all of the wrong reasons. Something is missing from Asymmetry that made their past releases epic and amazing. Whether it be the dip in lyrical quality, the pointless interludes, the monotonous snare drum, or Ian’s sometimes forced vocals, the record wears its flaws on its sleeve. The record is still not terrible, but one must question whether Karnivool was just experimenting with sounds or if they just lost the drive to create compelling progressive rock music.
The biggest flaw of the album that really brings the whole experience down is the annoyingly intrusive snare drum. For some reason, the band thought it was a great idea to give the percussion a heavily monotonous feel. It clearly wasn’t and the snare sticks out like a sore thumb in the albums average mixing. Steve Judd is an incredible drummer, but songs like “Nachash” and “The Refusal” do not do him justice. Karnivool has always experimented with unique time signatures and it always payed off for them. However, songs like “Nachash,” the unusual time signature is incredibly contrived, but the soaring guitars save the song from being a total disaster of an opener. “The Refusal” is the biggest offender of this snare drum gripe. It sounds like Steve is literally just banging on the snare the entire time. Jon Stockman also does something screaming in it and Karnivool doesn't do this often. It’s an odd choice because screaming has never fit Karnivool's style.
Karnivool doesn’t seem to know the proper time and place to use interludes either. Not only are the interludes like “Aum” and “Amusia” completely uneventful, they serve no specific purpose on the album. However, the title track has an unusual beauty to it and it actually leads into one of the standout tracks “Eidolon.” The interludes don’t bring down the experience as much as the percussion, but the interludes should really be saved for concept albums, which Asymmetry is not.
Ian’s vocal delivery for the most part is exceptional, but songs like “AM War” and “Alpha” really showcases how he forces these notes out occasionally. It sounds like Ian is aiming to hit notes that he can’t hit anymore towards the end of “Alpha,” but the song is overall fantastic to say the least. Ian shouts “I’ve gotta get out of the way” towards the end of “AM War” and it is one of the albums most awkward moments in edition to most of the record’s contrived time signatures.
Remarkably enough, tracks like Eidolon, Sky Machine, Float and We Are really saved my rating from dipping any lower. The title track interlude leads into Eidolon and the song is undeniably catchy with the climax around the two minute mark being one of the record’s best moments. Sky Machine is one of the band’s best songs and it is one of the only songs on Asymmetry where the percussion sounds normal and doesn’t intrude on the listener. Ian’s emotional delivery, epic guitars, and the lyrics really shine on this one. Float has an amazing aesthetic to it and it is incredibly soothing. It is almost as if Ian is singing us a lullaby and you actually feel like you’re, well, “floating” as you’re listening to it. We Are’s infectious lyrics and guitars really absorb you just like Sky Machine even though Sky Machine is extraordinarily better.
What it really comes down to with this record is that the word “inconsistent” really defines it. It’s strange some of the band’s best work ends up on this album. It’s clear that the band tried to experiment with different sounds on “Nachash” with Ian’s singing being heavily distorted and in “The Refusal” with Jon screaming, but for the most part it didn’t pay off. Now that it’s all said and done, it is extremely unclear where Karnivool is going to go next. Hopefully we’re not in for another four year wait.