Album Review: Karnivool - Asymmetry (2013 LP)

A moody, mysterious vibe is conjured with sparse percussion and cold, soothing guitar structuring the atmospheric, almost ethereal tones of Ian Kenny’s voice which swirl throughout out. This is “Aum”, the 2:22 opening track on Asymmetry, the highly-anticipated third album from Karnivool.

Four years have gone by since the ground-breaking Sound Awake blew people’s minds around the country, indeed internationally as well, and this album is testament to an exploration of the band’s traditional roots in prog music, with levels of experimentation thrown in for good measure. A good band will know how to manipulate the sounds their chosen musical genre presents, but a great one will know how to push the envelope and produce music that demonstrates an evolution of the sound – Karnivool belong with the latter.

When I first heard singles “We Are” and “The Refusal”, I thought I had a pretty good idea as to how the rest of the album was going to go, but fuck, was I wrong. The fantastic metal riffs and punishing drumbeats that are scattered in amongst the quieter, almost contemplative moments on the record really make it shine and stand out amongst the other Karnivool records and, considering the amount of time taken in honing and perfecting this balance of catchiness and harder musical facets that would appeal more to the tech fans and music ears, it’s no real surprise that the band have gone and taken things up to 11 on this album.

“Sky Machine”, “Nachash” and “Eidolon”, to me, stand out because they demonstrate, once again, this talent Ian Kenny has for bringing a certain pop sensibility within his vocals and songwriting, to the unique Karnivool sound. These songs soar high and while, on their own, they go beyond the standard three to four minute long mark, you don’t care. In fact, the way these songs flow into each other, you lose time and the ability to notice the breaks. It’s one stream of sound and it’s wonderful to sit back and blissfully jam out to.

There’s a sense of honesty and sheer passion on this record that perhaps we haven’t seen on the other Karnivool records that’s been tapped into here and, having discussed the record with Hoss recently, my initial thoughts on this seemed to be confirmed - Asymmetry was about striking nerves and approaching territory within the band’s musicality that they hadn’t yet gone near, or near enough on an album. The title itself alludes to fragmentation or irregularity and, to listen to this album from “Aum” right through to “Om”, you get this sense that Karnivool made entities here, as opposed to one seamless hour and a bit’s worth of prog rock. These entities are joined together through the great interludes mentioned before, somehow making it all work.

I’m taking a punt in saying that those worrying about how Asymmetry will fit alongside Sound Awake and Themata will have those worries washed away within the first ten minutes of listening to this album, easy. ‘Vool are back and they most certainly did not disappoint.

Review Score: 8.9 out of 10

Asymmetry will be released on July 19 through Cymatic.