Review Summary: While it may not reward the listener immediately, given the right attention and due respect, Asymmetry blossoms into something beautiful.
For anyone familiar with the music created by Australian 5-Piece Karnivool, you will probably have seen the self-proclaimed critics and naysayers complaining about their 'Progressive' tag, letting everyone know they should be considered and Alternative Rock/Metal band and what not. For those of you unfamiliar with the band, have a listen.
Anyhow, it's not difficult to see why these tags are thrown around, Karnivool have gone through a variety of styles and sounds as they have developed and matured, from 2005's Alternative Metal success 'Themata' to 2009's critically acclaimed 'Sound Awake', which combined the debut albums hard-hitting edge with fresh ideas, complex song structures, diverse and original compositions and beautiful use of dynamics, using each musicians talents to their full potential. This album put Karnivool on the map as a key 'Progressive' band in the genre's movement, yet the unorthodox song-structures and fresh sound that was created couldn't outweigh the memorable and instantly rewarding tracks for the faux-critics to accept the Aussie's as a true 'Progressive' act.
Not that they cared anyway, but with the release of Asymmetry, Karnivool have proven that they are capable of a constant progression as a collective of extremely talented musicians, and the world will now see them as the act they have worked to become.
Asymmetry opens with 'Aum', a short passage, setting the stage for the musical journey the listener is about to experience. It gives the listener a sense of space and atmosphere, that is key to the albums success as a piece of music. 'Aum' serves its purpose before kicking off into 'Nachash', which introduces the style of writing on the album, each track being a journey that the listener must be carried on to let the music reveal itself. The track also shows Karnivool's ability to create and release tension in such a focussed and efficient way, an idea they have now perfected from 'Sound Awake'.
This tension is carried until it collapses, before opening into 'AM War', where heavy dissonance and musical disorientation takes over. The song confuses and throws the listener around until the tension peaks and the listener joins the band for some short head-bobbing, before being thrown back into a sea of sonic war-fare.
This new writing style is at it's best on opus tracks 'Aeons', 'Sky Machine' and 'Alpha Omega', each track over the 7 minute margin, each track a musical journey that take the listener to places that have rarely been explored by music before, if allowed to do so.
Asymmetry also showcases the dark/light or positive/negative idea that was present on 'Sound Awake', often creating both darker parts in the songs and uplifting passages. A good example of this is 'The Last of Us', which flows seamlessly from dark to uplifting sections, creating a beautiful balance. The album artwork supports this concept, alongside various aspects that make up the album, the guitar interplay and lyrical content provided by Ian Kenny.
Throughout the album Kenny provides lyrical substance, a message that should be resonating with us all. Staying on the same theme but not repeating himself, his voice floats and seeps through the songs, guiding the listener to wherever the song may go. Losing the instantly rewarding hooks present on 'Sound Awake' and his other project, 'Birds of Tokyo', his melodic sensibilities are now subtle and engaging in ways that aren't immediately apparent.
Another improvement for Karnivool is Andrew Goddard and Mark Hosking's guitar work, which has been refined and further developed. They use their guitars as instruments of environment and atmosphere, often using delicately composed interplay as well as the hard-hitting parts to layer a dense atmosphere, using two guitars players in a fresh and inventive way onto the flawless foundation created by drummer Steve Judd and bassist Stockman, who are now stronger than ever before.
Developing on all the musical ideas present on their last album and progressing towards a more mature song-writing style, this album is a step-up from 'Sound Awake' in every way for the band and is everything they wanted it to be. It may take time to digest and understand, but given the right attention and due respect, Asymmetry will reveal itself as a stunning musical journey with immense gravity in creative musicianship that so many artists lack.