Sound — 8
Honestly, this album was the first release I've listened to from Karnivool. I went back and listened to their back catalog to get a handle on the band and their history. They initially formed in 1997 in Australia, but had a shaky lineup until it stabilized later on and has stayed the same since 2004. Ian Kenny (lead vocals) and Drew Goddard (lead guitar and backing vocals) are the only founding members remaining in the band. Mark Hoskirg (guitar and backing vocals) has been a member since 2003, Jon Stockman (bass guitar) since 2000 and Steve Judd (drums) since 2004. They have been compared loosely to Tool in the way they create atmosphere with their music, but honestly it seems like that is a common and lazy comparison used for an entire breed of progressive rock/metal. Karnivool's early sound had a lot of elements of nu metal, but has taken steps with each release to move into a more progressive direction. This may be in part due to the band admittedly not feeling confident in their songwriting and as they've slowly grown more comfortable their songwriting has matured rather drastically. "Asymmetry" is the band's third full length release, and contains 14 tracks. The total runtime of the album is somewhere in the neighborhood of just over an hour. The track "The Refusal" was the first single and released in May, though only locally to radio stations in Australia, it seems. A music video for "We Are" as released shortly after in June. The album opens with a short track titled "Aum," which is an instrumental soundscape that just helps build atmosphere. From there the album goes into "Nachash" which has an interesting futuristic vibe to it. "We Are" has a strong bass presence and some tremolo effect going on, while the vocals have a more contemplative feeling to them. The track "The Refusal" has an almost doom metal feeling to it, with some very heavy bass and guitar riffing. The title track "Asymmetry" has a weird glitchy looped opening which builds up with some very heavily distorted atmospheric guitar work. "The Last Few" is almost certainly the most aggressive song on the album with heavy riffing and an almost out-of-control feel. The track "Float" has an interesting lilting carnival lullaby type of thing going on. "Alpha Omega" is a slower tempo track with a light melody going along with the vocals and a basic drum pattern helping to fill it out and the track slowly builds to an almost schizophrenic crescendo. The album closes out with "Om," which is mostly a very sparse piano melody and a monologue (possibly from an old move I couldn't figure out where they pulled it from). Really an excellent track to end the album with, as it has just the right type of vibe for that purpose.
Lyrics — 8
Ian Kenny has a voice well-suited for progressive rock/metal, though at times does seem comparable to Maynard James Keenan or Steven Wilson (from Porcupine Tree). As a whole, the band's musical vision is pretty original, and Ian's voice acts as a good counterpoint to all the craziness the instrumentation throws at you. Honestly, while I haven't been familiar with Karnivool before this album, I would rate Ian up towards the top of the spectrum with progressive vocalists. The lyrics from the album all have the appropriate introspective and abstract feel for a good progressive album. As an example, here are some of the lyrics from "We Are": "I know there's something wrong/ stop making it up/ We're too proud to see/ we've lost more than our trust/ and now there's nothing left/ well is dead and dried up/ Its disease has left a foul taste in our cup/ It just keeps on flowing / and we drift on knowing/ it just keeps on flowing/ this babble from our mouth/ who we are/ I fear most of the time/ carry on shuffling/ in order and in line/ who we are/ I fear most of the time/ carry on whipping boy/ stare into the light/ stare into the light/ and it feels familiar for good reason."
Overall Impression — 9
This is one of those albums that I'm really happy to have reviewed because it opened me up to some good music I wasn't otherwise aware of. Listening back to their previous work, Karnivool is evolving in an interesting direction that I look forward to watching as they continue to release new music (hopefully on a faster timetable than their previous releases). My favorite tracks from the album would have to be "The Last Few," "Float" and "Alpha Omega." There aren't any tracks to dislike on the album. This was a really solid effort by Karnivool.