Review Summary: A fantastic debut that proves to be engaging, catchy and the shape of things to come.
Though this has elements of progressive rock and alternative metal, nu-metal also happens to find a place inside too. This record has elements of all three and the final genre certainly gets a bad reputation for being bland and juvenile. Fortunately, this impressive debut combines these aspects with undeniable finesse. Make no mistake that the more nu metal esque parts won't take away the experience of this record and despite the records underwhelming ending, it makes for quite the enjoyable ride. Karnivool's debut into the Australian scene certainly left its mark as one of the most essential bands to come from it.
Be rest assured that Karnivool can really play their instruments in a mature manner. Unique time signatures, skillful guitar riffs, and Ian's best vocals are not hard to come by on Themata. The band as a whole sounds great and the production is rock solid with every band member getting to shine at particular moments. The music is capable of being very heavy and the drumming is outstanding for the most part with no intrusive snare drums to be found like in their latest release. Mind you this has more of an alternative metal sound, there are essences of what the band would later become in songs like "Fear Of The Sky" and the albums outstanding opener "Cote."
The album kicks off with a bang in "Cote" with an ambient opening as the intense guitars jump in shortly after. Excellent guitar riffs compliment Ian's emotional vocals and Ian never has to aggressively shout or scream to get the point across. He just sings with a great vocal range and he demonstrates excellent falsetto sections in "Cote." The excellence continues into the title track where the guitar riffs are the true height. The riff is catchy and Ian gives a fantastic vocal delivery in the verses. However, what really stands out in "Themata" is how well written the lyrics are and how undeniably badass that main guitar riff happens to be. The song is without a doubt one of the highlights of this gem.
The entire first half of the album follows the same trend as the first two tracks, but they miraculously pull this off without any song sounding the same. "Fear Of The Sky" mixes the music up with a fantastic time signature that is both tough to follow and unique. It also contains a incredible chorus that is catchy and memorable. Once we come to "Scarabs" the entire album shifts into different territory. "Scarabs" is a heavy metal-like instrumental this is masterfully played and intense. The style change continues into the last three tracks. "Sewn And Silent" is a mellow track with acoustic track driven by Ian's once again emotional vocals. "Mauseum" and "Synops" are two tracks that would feel right at home on their newest record and they could have easily replaced some of the lackluster interludes.
There are two more tracks on the record, but can we really consider them tracks at all" "Omitted For Clarity" is literally twenty seconds of complete silence and nothing else. "Change" has all of this ambient build up with quiet vocals and just as you think the song is coming to a thrilling climax, it ends abruptly. What they were thinking with these final tracks, I have absolutely no idea.
Themata exists as a truly engaging record that triumphs on every front that includes musicianship, accessibility and potential. It has overwhelming amounts of passion and only makes the listener want more in the best way possible. "Change" many be a disappointing album closer, but what it does assure the listeners is that the band will surely be back for more. Be rest assured that they return with a bang years later.