Review Summary: Kardashev are here to stay, ladies and djentlemen
The self-described “deathgaze” band Kardashev essentially stand alone. I’ve always concisely described them as the “djenty band for people who don’t like djent”. Indeed, as I’ve mostly lost interest in that subgenre in recent years, Kardashev remain the band that I just can’t quit. Mainly, this is because the group embraces a complex style melding a number of compelling aspects. Their incorporation of essential ambient and shoegaze textures add an atmospheric and emotional touch, while the more brutal moments are impressive and eased by a well-executed prog edge. Through it all, the group’s obsessions with sci-fi themes, while essentially a cliche in metal circles at this point, have always been engaging. In short, what’s not to like?
Another thing that has set Kardashev apart is their propensity for EPs over LPs. Indeed, despite the group being in existence for over a decade, Liminal Rite
stands as only their second full-length, following two truly excellent shorter releases (2017’s The Almanac
and 2020’s The Baring Of Shadows
). While this new record arguably suffers from a few flaws which might be expected from a band more accustomed to crafting EPs (more on that later), it’s also a beautifully-crafted concept album which keeps alive Kardashev’s impressive reputation for quality.
Depending on the listener, it may or not be important that Liminal Rite
is a full-blown concept album. After all, most of the vocals on this record are largely unintelligible, either guttural death growls or blackened shrieks, and even the periodic clean singing is often hard to process while shrouded in grandiose musical backdrops. Without following the story, Liminal Rite
is still remarkably engaging, full of rich soundscapes, pummeling moments of heaviness, and a satisfying ebb and flow of different elements. All that being said, though, it should be noted that, as someone who has often been allergic to over-the-top metal concept album attempts, this record’s storyline proves quite successful, an exploration of the appeal and dangers of “living in the past”. At times, it approaches the poetic, and again shows Kardashev’s success in utilizing emotion in their music, itself a rather under-appreciated asset in the world of metal overall.
On its own merits, Liminal Rite
holds up quite well even to the high standards provided by Kardashev’s previous output. Tracks like the soaring “Apparitions In Candlelight”, the distraught “Compost Grave-Song”, and the epic closer “Beyond The Passage Of Embers” are fantastic, and there are really no tunes which are less than great. Kardashev come across here as a group which could create an engaging song in their sleep, showing a great mastery not only of their instruments but also of how to arrange a lengthy track without losing the listener’s interest. There’s melody, brutality, and variety, all in spades. That said, there are a few gripes to be made. First, Liminal Rite
does come across as a bit overlong. Its fifty-nine minute and fifty-nine second runtime might not be excessive in the grand scheme of things, but I do feel that the record would hit harder being slightly trimmed down. Partly, this might be due to being used to the band’s two recent slight-but-powerful EPs. This feeds into the second complaint, which is the periodic spoken word sections. While certainly not the worst of their ilk, and arguably necessary for advancing the album’s story along, these often stray into cringe-adjacent territory and distract from the release’s more brilliant qualities.
These few critiques aside, this is a rock-solid effort from one of the most consistent bands in recent years. Kardashev are firing on all cylinders here, and their well-crafted mix of styles make this album worth checking for music fans with an interest in basically any form of metal. Liminal Rite
is a richly-textured portrait of loss and regret, plumbing the depths of very real (if unpleasant) aspects of human experience. It also “goes hard” and “slaps”. In short, this is an album which simply works, regardless of how much investment you put into its animating ideas.