My friends are probably sick of hearing me talk about Karnivool. They are my favorite band at the moment. If you've never heard of them, they have been called Australia's answer to Tool. Asymmetry is the new disc, and it's the most Tool-esque album of their compendiary catalog. I don't want to drive those comparisons into the ground, though. Karnivool is a unique reduction of progressive rock and atmospheric alternative metal. Vague enough? Good. 2009's Sound Awake is godly, in my eyes. They may never top it, and honestly, I wasn't expecting Asymmetry to reach vertiginous heights of ophthalmic coition. Confusing enough? Good. Basically, I didn't think it was possible for this opus to surpass its predecessor.
It doesn't. In all fairness, it couldn't. I connected to Sound Awake on a deep, emotional level. You know how certain music defines you? Like, you heard it at the right time in your life and it pierced your fucking soul? That's what Sound Awake did to me. As a teenager, I assumed that every new release from my seraphic circle of anointed bands (Deftones, Alice in Chains and Opeth to name a few) would blow my mind. As an adult, I've learned why that's not possible. That doesn't mean that Asymmetry is a dispiriting disappointment. Quite the contrary; it's a pronged, piquant affair. This five-piece was focused in the studio, and it shows. Please oblige my attempt at an analogy...Aenima is to Lateralus what Sound Awake is to Asymmetry.
I promise that I'll forfeit the Tool references, but hear me out. Sound Awake - like Aenima - was layered, yet immediate. Dense, yet catchy. Asymmetry - like Lateralus - is less accessible. Technicality is reinforced. It's still melodic, but those pristine melodies are dressed in angular signatures and partitioned by walls of ambient noise. On the surface, there seem to be a handful of filler tracks. Those moments serve a purpose, however. Asymmetry is an album that requires several spins. I tried to review it after five listens, give or take, but I wasn't comfortable with the music. I needed to dive in headfirst. Even now, I don't love every song, but I understand where they fit in the grand scheme of the full album experience.
Yep, it's one of those CD's. "The Refusal" is the only tune that makes sense out of context. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's the heaviest piece of abstract art-rock here. "We Are" serves as the first official single. Its bizarre cadence is slightly offputting, but Ian Kenny's soulful vocal lines will be stuck in your head for days. I want his voice, goddamn it. He turns backwards arrangements into hummable, palatable bits that could fare well at radio. Having said that, Karnivool tosses the concept of a verse/chorus formula into a proverbial litter basket. Hell, "Aeons" barely repeats itself at all. The docile "Eidolon" comes the closest to being conventional, but it's followed by "Sky Machine," a nearly 8-minute composite of spasmodic drumming and thick vocal harmonies.
Stylistically, the album title is rather telling. The front half of Asymmetry is brimming with direct, riff-based quasi-metal. The closing numbers are sparse, and the instrumentation gradually dies down. I might be too A.D.D. for the slow-burning "Alpha Omega." My mind is usually occupied with something else by that point (sex, Godzilla, sex, The Ultimate Warrior, sex, German thrash). All in all, this is excellent prog/alt/whatever. Sound Awake resides in its own universe, so it wouldn't be fair to put the two sets side by side. Rate Asymmetry on its own merits. You may find that it's pretty damn impressive.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 11:50 PM