Asymmetry by Karnivool

Karnivool's Asymmetry

Release date: 19th July, 2013

Asymmetry is the third album by Australian progressive band Karnivool. Well-known for their album Sound Awake(2009), fans of the band believe Karnivool are yet to disappoint but with this record, they’ve certainly ventured in a direction which might not keep them afloat on the success of Sound Awake for very long.

The album starts off with Aum which is an atmospheric track with brooding sounds. Nachash is slightly heavier and messy. Karnivool are trying so hard to experiment on this album and yet not budging from their base. Ian Kenny on vocals is the band’s strongest performer. However, on Asymmetry, his vocal prowess is anything but satisfactory. His hooks are too few and far between. As far as We Are, the single off the album, is concerned, the drums and riffs dominate the mix and what you’re left with is largely a mess. It isn’t memorable, a trait you’d identify the band with. The Refusal delves into the heavy side with screamer vocals, but it threatens to derail the album.

Karnivool ends up creating huge impenetrable walls of sound and distortion which just block out what really works for them – Kenny’s vocals. On Aeons, they get the atmospheric sound just right. It’s a track light on guitars and heavy on drums (there’s Steve Judd to thank for that) but it works. The album is 66 minutes long and for an album that long, the number of memorable songs is disappointingly low.

Sky Machine and Alpha Omega make the rest of the record pale in comparison, as they’re easily the best songs off Asymmetry. Float and Alpha Omega work beautifully for Ian Kenny. But in the end, they don’t work out quite so well for Karnivool.

The album ends with Om – a piano track with a recording of a man talking about death.

Asymmetry is an album you have to push down your throat because it comes from a good band which made this album probably out of pressure from fans who, in all honesty, don’t know what they want. The riffs don’t stay in your head, interludes like Amusia are a mess on the drums. There have always been comparisons with Tool and it feels like this album is a conscious effort to make progressive music inaccessible to the average listener. However, complexity for the heck of it is rarely ever appealing and it leads to something pretty self-indulgent, sad to say, like Asymmetry. The tempo changes between aggressive and calm are supposed to be indicative of Kenny’s darker side but they result in chaos for seemingly no rhyme or reason.

Karnivool tried too hard to change what they do well, so they ended up with songs having little to no originality. There are too many interludes and too few hooks, whether vocal or guitar. Asymmetry doesn’t justify the long wait between two albums. The production is flat and at times the instrumentation is hard to segregate or decipher even after multiple listens.

Kenny is the band’s best asset but he is wasted on this record. The hype over the interwebs is something that would make it hard to judge the overall reception of the album, though it is quite likely that Asymmetry will have decent album sales despite having nothing redeemable.

Rating : 2.5/5

You can listen to We Are here.

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6 thoughts on “Asymmetry by Karnivool

  1. BLAHMASTER says:

    Great review! (though my opinion differs a bit)

    Some fans may benefit from listening before purchasing, but I think the direction this album took is refreshing.

    This album is constantly moving and does not rely on hooks to keep tabs on the listener’s attention. It’s not for everyone. I, for one, am very happy with the production. I can pick out each instrument (including the vocal instruments) because one or another isn’t pulled forward, waving for my attention.

    I’m curious what your thoughts on Cog are.

    • bhavicka says:

      I’ll go on and say that this album is more atmospheric than progressive. It’s not a bad thing and I’m all for experimentation but I feel Karnivool didn’t utilize their potential to the hilt. Again, the album has it’s moments but I just feel that Forrestor Savell worked well for Karnivool but Nick Didia didn’t quite fit the part. But that’s just my opinion.

      Cog is probably the most successful independent band from Australia right? I’m a huge fan of Sharing Spaces but sadly, I haven’t heard Just Visiting yet.

  2. Sadly, the only thing I disagree with bhavicka about is Kenny being the bands best asset… lets face it, successful bands need a strong singer, hooks and melody to catch the average non musician listener’s attention. IMO Karnivool have become popular not only through hooks, but also because of the depth of talent they have in their ranks and their ability to put on a great live performance. They have a lot of credibility among musicians and popularity among non musicians and I think their ability to play between those two crowds has been what made them so popular- at least in the US. This album seems like it panders toward the musicians, but being a musician myself I am left unimpressed.

    • bhavicka says:

      Hey, thanks for your comment.
      Firstly, the reason I said Kenny is the band’s best asset is because I’ve seen Karnivool live too, his vocals are great and for an untrained ear, Ian Kenny is the man representing Karnivool (it’s what lead guys do!) plus he’s also famous for his other band. This album however, tries to be more about the other 4 band members, it tries very hard but it doesn’t quite get there. Though I’ll admit Steve Judd is great and gives the album a “live drums” feel which I understood after several listens. But in-spite of all that is said, Asymmetry isn’t a mistake. Just something that doesn’t feel wholly satisfying.

  3. This one is a tough listen, especially the first few times. However, if you can get past that first few times you might just be hooked. I’m still picking up on different things on every listen….part of the discovery I guess. I can see why this one’s not for everyone…but then Karnivool isn’t for everyone. Personally, I like it…a lot.

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