Karnivool - Sound Awake

by Dan Upton

I was introduced to Australian 5-piece Karnivool as the next big thing in progressive rock. I'd heard a couple of cuts from Sound Awake and was pretty much hooked, so naturally I was very excited to see a copy had shown up in the ol' review stack.

It's difficult to give any one band as a reference point for describing Karnivool's sound. Opener "Simple Boy" starts off with a slow, heavy, detuned groove that wouldn't be out of place on a Sevendust album. Many of the songs have the heavy atmospheric sound of bands like Hurt or 10 Years. The vocals could be compared to 10 Years or A Perfect Circle. Some of the guitar layers and vocal harmonies on songs like "Goliath" and "New Day" also evoke current tourmates Fair to Midland. The intro to "The Caudal Lure" is similar to Deadwing-era Porcupine Tree (or maybe I just listen to PT too much). The fact that it's difficult to pin them to comparable band or sound is a good indicator of the wider variety of sounds and uniqueness of the band's voice.

The material on the CD is mostly in the longer range more typical of prog rock, with most of the songs well past the 5 minute mark and two topping 10. I suppose whether that's good or bad depends on your attention span and interest in prog, but the longer songs don't really feel like they went long just for the sake of being long. On the other hand, they do have the ability to write fairly tight, rock radio-friendly songs; look no further than "Set Fire To The Hive," the shortest song on the disc and full of melodic and guitar hooks (including a guitar riff evoking buzzing angry bees). The album does have plenty of atmospherics, although they're primarily guitar and sample driven, as opposed to trotting out the Mellotron.

The two songs I'd heard before getting the CD were two of the shorter songs, the aforementioned "Set Fire To The Hive" and "All I Know." They're a fairly good introduction to the rest of the CD, with the exception of the rest of the songs being somewhat more sprawling. Still, because the songs are so well constructed, this album wouldn't be a bad step for the rock fan looking to take the first steps into more progressive territory. I'd say Karnivool pretty much knocked it out of the park onSound Awake, so go check out the videos for those two songs and check out the rest of the album if you're into any of the bands I mentioned before, and let's hope we don't have to wait 4 years for another album from them.

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