Hard to grasp or ponder where it next might go

This new Karnivool album is a creeper.

At first, it’s baffling, apparently meandering along heedless of direction and coherency. Tracks merge into one another, each crossing over the consciousness of the next, tumbling and churning like convergent streams at a riverhead. It’s hard to grasp or ponder where it next might go; there’s no hooks, no signposts, no obvious pointers.

On subsequent listens the layers begin to peel away, the Perth quintet’s musical vision becoming clearer at the second, the third, the fourth turn around. The swirling guitars, the occasional juddering riff. The enigma starts to unfurl. By the fifth, it’s beginning to make sense, but there’s a challenging complexity, a multi-layered density, a scope so vast that it continues to reveal new facets again and again. Off-kilter drumming, thudding bass, swathes of distortion and dissonance cutting across Ian Kenny’s steady delivery of abstract melody that sometimes appears to be the only thing holding it all together. “Aeons” teases its way toward a crescendo that never comes, ebbing and surging again and again before relinquishing to the mid-point interlude.

Beyond the repetitive, unlovely grinding frontier of the title track, Asymmetry finally gives up its real treasures in its second half.  “Sky Machine” is perhaps the stand out track of the collection, focusing on the complexity of Steve Judd’s drumming as he locks himself around the guitars of Mark Hosking and Drew Goddard in a symbiosis remniscent of the relationship between Danny Carey and Adam Jones. “Float” shines almost as brightly, delicate and evocative with a swirling, surging chorus where Kenny seems finally comfortable now the band has at last delivered a simple melody. It’s a difficult thing to love as a whole because there aren’t enough hooks and there are moments where it feels as if Karnivool have felt the need to be progressive for its own sake, as if they were trying with every aspect of the being to create something an inaccessible as possible and the interludes, especially “Asymmetry”, say nothing. Yet it’s hard to hate and impossible to dismiss because of the sheer scope Karnivool has dared envision. In the end, its triumphs outweigh its failings. Asymmetry is a remarkable album.

1. Aum
2. Nachash
3. A.M. War
4. We Are
5. The Refusal
6. Aeons
7. Asymmetry
8. Eidolon
9. Sky Machine
10. Amusia
11. The Last Few
12. Float
13. Alpha Omega
14. Om