Asymmetry review by Karnivool

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  • Released: Jul 19, 2013
  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8.3 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.3 (74 votes)
Karnivool: Asymmetry

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.

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44 comments sorted by best / new / date

    ....'Asymmetry', not 'Assymetry'. Jesus UG. Great record though, less focused on hooks than sound awake and themata and more focused towards ambience/time signatures. Still hasn't really set in yet.
    the short description at the top is described like gourmet coffee. wth does angular licks even mean?
    I'm guessing it refers to any lick that's atonal but has some general musical point to it, like a lot of Dillinger stuff.
    haha i thought this too, creamy riffs - cappuccino perhaps?
    Brand spankin' new Karnivool fan here. I bought this album earlier today and just finished listening to it straight through for the first time. What an incredibly refreshing release after being djented to death by today's typical, overproduced metal...this is gonna stay in the cd player for a while. Noticing a couple people dissatisfied, though.. any recommendations for previous works to check out? What are the diehard fans' favorite albums?
    Hey Red, Themata album as a whole is the gereral crowd pleaser as the songs are shorter more upbeat. Sound Awake - This album for me my favorite songs like Change Part II and Deadman are just brilliant. There are only 3 Albums and an Ep(Persona) so just grab what you can I think you will find you will like the mass of it
    @Martindecorum: On iTunes (and probably Amazon and other major digital distributors), there's also the ep "Set Fire to the Hive", which is basically their single from "Sound Awake" plus a few songs from "Themata". Of particular interest is the live version of Deadman and the version of Roquefort with horns.
    I'm probably about a 4 year listener of Karnivool. Their previous release, Sound Awake, still gets high rotation on my playlists even after 4 years. For me, it's in my top ten albums. As an Australian, its nice to be able to finally have an Australian band in that top ten. I have not listened to the new album enough to give a valuable opinion on it yet.
    It's all good if you really liked Asymmetry, you'll like anything they've done. Sound Awake is more like 'We Are' and 'Aeons' whereas Themata is similar to 'The Refusal, and 'AM War'
    I've been a karnivool fan for about 4 years. Honestly believe that every album has been stronger than the previous. Haven't heard Asymmetry yet, but have high hopes. I'd work my way back: Sound Awake than Themata than Persona.
    Thanks guys. I'll probably work my way back the way mulefish described - the same way I absorbed Tool's discography haha. But these guys really are somethin else!
    Listening to it right now. And ordered the deluxe version of it. Until now, I think it's an impressive record. Now I only need to buy me some tickets for their Amsterdam show and the circle is complete.
    They are so good live, even the live dvd that came with the deluxe version doesn't capture their live presence
    In my class at uni, pretty much everyone except me listens to metal, especially prog, but I showed them 'We are' and they stunned by how good it was. Such a good band.
    As a long time fan of Karnivool, I must admit that I personally preferred Sound Awake as a body of work. The songs were slightly more comfortable to listen to, had some great hooks that were interspersed perfectly, and each song seemed to have a more traditional composition. The tempo and flow between tracks was also very good. BUT... I did really enjoy Asymmetry. What the album lacked in repetition and catchy hooks, it made up for in atmosphere and, at times, eery tension. This album took me places - sometimes they weren't necessarily places I wanted to go, but reflecting on the journey Asymmetry took me on has made me realize how far Karnivool has come since Themata. It's a pretty huge achievement for a band to create 3 albums that are all so varied, yet still feel like Karnivool at their roots. I can't say that I'll happily be listening to all the Asymmetry tracks for the next 4 years, as I have with Sound Awake the past 4, but I will definitely revisit certain songs (Aeons, Eidolon, Alpha Omega, We Are and Nachash).
    fave band, followed them for years being a fellow aussie and had the pleasure of seeing them a number of times and meeting them. all extremely nice guys and fantastic music! The Last few has that Meshuggah vibe in it, as with Scarabs on Themata as Drew is a big fan of them. I think this album is a good mix of both Themata and Sound Awake and was indeed a superb release
    I love Karnivool, but this album, I think, was their weakest overall. I think "The Refusal" is just straight up, not that great. Probably one of their weakest, if not the weakest, song to date. Still some great songs on the album, and miles ahead of most of the competition these days, but still could have been better. Perhaps it just needs to grow on me more, but as of right now that is how I feel.
    That's interesting. Big vool fan here, I thought "The Refusal" was one of the better songs on the album. For me the album was lacking catchy riffs. It seemed too forgettable
    I completely disagree with most of this. In my opinion their strongest release. Loving it.
    Another Perthian proud to say that this band is from my hometown. Listening to this record I can understand why there would be fans of their older work that may be a bit disappointed but I think it is just another chapter in the brilliant story of Karnivool. Sound Awake is an absolute masterpiece in my eyes and it was always going to be difficult to top. But everyone knows that Themata will always be the crowd favourite. You only have to watch the dvd to see what songs the people enjoy. But at the end of the day this is one of the most versatile and talented bunch of people in the world at the moment and EVERYONE should listen to Karnivool.
    This is the first time I have heard about this band, thinking I would give it a shot. This is, in my opinion, the best album of 2013, so far. Great atmosphere and tension. I absolutely love the vocals and guitar work in there. Not to forget the drums of course. All in all an amazing album.
    Gotta agree with edgeyyz, While I can't really say the album is bad by any means, I'm finding myself skipping most of the songs when they come up on my phone. I was really hoping for some more tunes like shutterspeed, etc.
    Honestly, this album is very disappointing. It gets very cacophonic at times (especially with the drums), the best songs are the ones that might have fit on Sound Awake (We Are, etc), the vocals are really underwhelming compared to past 'Vool, and the production is iffy. Whereas I never really disliked any songs on Themata or Sound Awake, I'm commonly tempted to skip songs on repeat listens of this album.
    Exactly. Too chaotic or too soporific, too predictable and too many goddamn useless interludes. And the DVD made me realised how much Asymmetry is awful.
    Given the title of the album, as their aims was for songs that the sounds clashed to create something unique, I respectfully disagree with your opinion being something that makes it 'awful' rather than that making it amazing.
    Unique =/= good. Yes, I can give them credit for experimenting, but I don't agree that the result was successful.
    I disagree with you completely. I feel it was very successful. I also think it was the next logical step from "Sound Awake".
    Great album, in my opinion it's their best. I am greatly looking forward to what they have in store next!
    Mr Winters
    Not a big fan after the first listen, guess it will grow on me after some time. It's a solid album, but Sound Awake is really hard to top.
    What's with all the hate for 'The Refusal'? It's definitely my favourite song of the year so far by a long shot. Karnivool themselves seem to like it a lot, since it was the first song released from the album.
    I absolutely love Karnivool, and I hate to say it, but I just can't get into this album. I wanted to like it like I do the others, but something just isn't clicking for me. I'll give it a couple more listens and see how that affects my liking of it.
    I don't agree with most of the comments so far. I am so chuffed that they have some energetic, up-tempo parts in the early songs. There's also a bit more agression. Apart from Set fire to the hive, Sound Awake just plodded along for 75 minutes. The interplay of the guitars is great I think, no predictable cliche sounding parts at all. The lyrics are much better this time around too. I feel like a lot of the lyrics on Sound Awake were really eloquent ways of saying nothing at all.
    Meh, really didn't care for it. Drums were fine, riffs were really boring and the odd rhythms and dissonance seemed unnecessary, and the vocals were just bland.
    This is pretty awesome. Kenny has to be the best vocalist in Australia. He just has a brilliant tone to his voice (in both Karnivool and Birds Of Tokyo). Loving the creepiness of Float. It's just way to pretty and it really creeps me out. Brilliant record
    I have been a Vool fan for just over 5 years and I must also admit that Thementa and Sound Awake are my preferences. While I love Asymmetry, the production is aweful. It does get a bit repetitive with the polyrhythmic drumming and the interludes are just annoying. What I find strange from the Vool is that the track. Asymmetry is not one of the major attractions of the album. In fact, I find it to be utterly annoying and sounds like someone with an accordian that has just taken an extacy pill. I also cannot see why "The Refusal" was released as the first single for the album, again this song is one that is skipped everytime I listen to the album. It is not a track that you hear and say, "hey this is good, I might just buy the album and see what the rest is like". I like heavy styled (not heavy metal / death metal) music but this off timed, mixed bag of tones just gets to a point where I cannot got furhter and have to press the skip button. The should have released We Are oe Eidolon as the first single. For those here that have only just discovered Karnivool, you might want to also check out some other great Australian Progressive Rock band that you might not have heard of. - Dead Letter Circus - Closure In Moscow - Breaking Orbit (the album takes a few listens to get a hold on to it but it is musically brilliant) - Self Is A Seed And for something else you might not know, the lead singer of Karnivool, Ian Kenny is in 2 bands that have now reached number one on the Australian ARIA charts. The other Band is Birds Of Tokyo.
    Definitely an amazing release, tokk me a few listens but it nails it, and thank you UG for giving a Perth band some free publicity, definitely my favourite band from home here in Perth!
    In general,I really like the atmosphere the tracks create, but feel the actual amount of vocal lines have been over done. 'Less is more'.
    Reviewed 'We Are' in music blog today (still waiting for my copy to arrive) at =]