Review: Karnivool’s Asymmetry


I’d love to jam my filthy fingers into the clock’s mocking skull and grind everything in reverse. I’d be buying my first used car (an apple-red Nissan), not remembering it with nostalgia. I’d get haircuts that start a couple inches over my eyebrows rather than a couple inches above the back of my neck. I’d be too young to put my name on a Presidential ballot, and I wouldn’t be fifteen years removed from that first notorious break-up that alienated me from the shallow mainstream and convinced me to dedicate myself to something like, you know, deeper, man. I’d be jamming alt-metal and post-rock like they were the Google Maps of the human condition, like all our questions were their own answers, like social conservatives were just a handful of guitar pedals and acid hits away from enlightenment. And I would fucking love Asymmetry.

Karnivool have fashioned an epic inner-eye monster of a record. Asymmetry is more than an hour long, and it covers an appropriately vast and varied terrain. I find myself lamenting my age when I realize that I’ve spent most of the album picking out the similarly ambitious works by other artists that I’d probably choose to listen to instead. Before we head too far down the maligned reference rabbit hole, though, a note: People who are not me have always liked mentioning Tool here – probably because the bands share the last three letters of their names – but anything this rock-oriented relinquishes the esoteric quality inherent in Tool’s cyclic rhythms and shadowy tones.

The trebly dissonance of “A M WAR” recalls some of the melodic angst that characterized Elementary, the last album by math-tastic where-r-they-nows The End. The latter day sludge ‘n’ soothe approach of compatriots Silverchair imbues multiple songs here, as Ian Kenny’s tenor muses over crunchy guitar crags and bass valleys. Somehow, the core drive of “The Refusal” splinters into a Steve Austin rant (and no, that touchstone does not come easily to a Karnivool review). The lyrical content often twists itself toward the intellectual highs and poetic mehs of Dredg’s perplexed writing style (“My mind’s always window shopping, but I can’t afford the payment” from lead-off “Nachash”), and the sonic shape-shifting is by far more El Cielo than The Great Misdirect.

It’s hard to hate on any recording so vulnerable and well meaning. Karnivool’s latest effort is a sparkling jeweled gauntlet to the sky, a refusal to live within the boundaries of others’ constructed reality. I heartily recommend Asymmetry to any 24-year-old truth seeker with a rock-steady moral compass and a whole life ahead. The melodies never lock into anything truly hummable, and the music melts into fleeting forms that evade easy structures, so it’s hard to imagine this record bumping any of the aforementioned reliable standbys. But really I think I’m just too old for Asymmetry.

Density Records will release Karnivool’s Asymmetry digitally on July 23 and in a variety of physical formats on August 6. Stream the track “We Are” here and order the album here.

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