There is something so incredible about the new Karnivool record “Asymmetry” and having been a fan of the band since their 2005 debut album “Themata” I feel like indulging in clichéd journalist wank and saying that this is the album they have been building to their whole career. To put it into context I’ll say that I was impressed by “Themata” and then totally flawed by “Sound Awake” but the sound of “Asymmetry” is just a whole new level of musical achievement for Karnivool and it is an incredibly satisfying album.
What makes Karnivool such an amazing and respected band is the way in which they take the time to craft such complex yet emotional movements of music. There is equal parts science and mathematics in terms of the time signatures and overall musical arrangements but the players themselves are harvesting all of their collective emotions to communicate their songs with a depth and intensity which allows for an easy resonance as a fan. It is that commitment to making emotionally deep music that helps set Karnivool apart from most of the rock n roll happening in Australia at the moment. Add into this a degree of mystery and the stylistic dynamics of Progressive Rock and you start to understand just how perfect the Karnivool sound is. I understand why people both love it and hate it but I refuse to indulge the people who don’t enjoy what the band offers with my list of defence mechanisms as to why Karnivool are so vital, you either love it or you don’t. I personally love every inch of this bands discography so that should give you a hint as to where this review is going.
After listening to the album for the past 24 hours I have been struggling to find the accurate words to sum up why I’m so impressed with “Asymmetry” as an album. I think the first thing that stands out is just how introspective the songs are. This is the most internal and reflective I’ve ever heard the band. It sounds like there has been a lot of personal loss influencing the mood of the music because there is this spooky reflection on the power of mourning someone no longer here. These songs are way too deep to be just about the loss involved with relationship breakdowns although there are peppering’s of this kind in a few of the tracks. Whether it is romance or death doesn’t really matter because the mysterious swoon of each track sways with a hushed hypnotic hurt stemming from some kind of internal yearning for something or someone.
With such a reflective record also comes a way darker sound and considering the fact that the band has always framed their music with darkness it sounds refreshing to see this darkness explored in such mature ways with mood and space used over science. It allows for a level of drama to build in the songs giving the album room to open up and build slowly. Each song plays its part in painting the musical landscape and in true Progressive Rock fashion it all feels like one big song split into 14 different parts. That is not to say the band hasn’t previously achieved this it just feels like this time round it is explored and matured further to the point where it has totally reinvented their sound.
The perfect example of this is the amazing back half of the record that starts with the seventh track “Asymmetry” and ends with the albums haunting closing track “Om” which stands as the perfect end credits to all of the spook swoons communicated prior. The pace and mood of this part of the album showcases a new level of artistry that Karnivool had only hinted at on previous albums. Depending on why you clicked with the band in the first place you’ll either see the value in the new sounds on display or you’ll be passionately against and confused by it. I love it because it is the type of sound I always knew the band would reach and a sound that favours art over the often redundant dynamic requirements required when playing rock and roll.
I think the final track “OM” deserves a special mention because it is such a beautiful track that was the perfect choice for closing the album. It may not be the track that gets the most attention based simply on the fact that it is some very sparse piano chords mixed with some spoken word samples but I think that everything good about “Asymmetry” – from its reflective mood to the drama, the darkness and overall emotion – is on maximum display with “OM” and that goes to show you the power of the bands songwriting because there is not a distorted guitar in sight during this track.
When all is said and done I like “Asymmetry” because it is the very definition of what a good album should be. It keeps delivering you something every time you listen to it and no matter how many times you hear it you always find something new. This album favours art and emotion over the cycle of “hit singles” and filler. Karnivool have created something pretty special with “Asymmetry” and by making such a dark and spacious masterpiece they have opened up their sound giving it new dimensions. The most rewarding part is that through the bands commitment to making art this intense is that they may have just released the album that will see them crossover to a larger mainstream audience and that is always positive. It would be a triumph to see music this dark and progressive resonating with the mainstream listener who were previously unaware of the band.
Who cares about that really, for now just find yourself a great pair of headphones and slip into the swoon of “Asymmetry” and see where it takes you.
10 Cassette Tapes Out Of 10
By Dan Newton