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Album Reviews : Karnivool – Sound Awake

By on June 16, 2009

The year is 2005 and Karnivool release one of the best albums by an Australian artist in years. It eclipses the bands previously released debut ep. Its a brilliant album from start to finish, showing equal parts power and beauty. The rise of Karnivool is quick. I’m not talking overnight coup quick, but for an independent band, it was quick. National treasure Ian Kenny, in the meantime is also vocalist for pop rock band Birds of Tokyo, also on a quick rise to fame in Australia, arguably because of the vocals of the aforementioned super human Kenny. Putting my man crush aside, they record an ep and 2 albums before Karnivool finally decided after 4 years that maybe its about time to put out some new music.

Those 4 years are up, and the album is now unleashed for our aural pleasure. One doesn’t expect a band like Karnivool to keep the same sound on successive releases, and that holds true to ‘Sound Awake’ . The transition from from the persona ep to Themata included shorter, fuller sounding songs, not in a commercial sense, but knowing what can be cut from a song, and what should stay. The 5 tracks on the persona ep came in at 34 minutes, Themata’s 12 songs at 48 minutes, but on ‘Sound Awake’ they have opted for the ’size matters’ approach. 11 songs clocking in at over 70 minutes. There are of course the ‘normal’ length songs for Karnivool (around the 5 minute mark) but they’ve also included some epic beasts like Deadman coming in at over 12 minutes, and Change, at close to 11 minutes.

One of the major changes to this release is hard to pin point. Its a great album, but while listening there is just something.. different, and I cant put my finger on it. I had fears of an overly prog album after Set Fire To The Hive was released as the lead single, but thankfully this isn’t the case. Maybe its the fact that all five members of the band – bassist Jono Stockman, guitarists Mark Hosking and Drew Goddard, drummer Steve Judd, vocalist Ian Kenny – contributed to the album writing on this release as opposed to just Goddard last time. Or maybe its that Kenny has expanded his vocal repertoire after his releases with Birds. Hard to say. Either way, you can be sure this release isn’t just Themata 2.

This album, although not following the track list is in 2 halves. You have the themeta-esque sounding songs, the ones that really rock, but with a new twist, and you have the songs that fall into new territory for Karnivool. New Day is the first of those songs. Its the first track that shows the real difference between Sound Awake and Themata. Not only due to its 8:20 in length, but due to its minimalist, and open approach to the music. The band really shines on this one. The track is loud and full when it needs to be, but also pulls back when it needs to focus just on Kenny’s singing.

Set fire to the hive was the first taste anyone got from Sound Awake. Its the shortest ’song’ on the album (the medicine wears off is 1:49, but are we really calling that a song?), and also the heaviest. A vocal effect harshens the beauty of Kenny’s voice, along with a funky bee sound on the guitar, and a Themata-esque rocking chorus. A good choice to whet the appetite of the fans. The majority of the Themata-esque tracks (Simple boy, Goliath, The Caudal Lure) are hard but don’t quite hit the heaviness of Themata. This isn’t a bad thing necessarily, but overall the album doesn’t pack the metal punch that its older sibling did.

The 2 epic tracks that finish the album really help set Sound Awake apart from its predecessor. The first is Deadman, a live fan favourite for a while now. And to the joy of many a fan, the recorded track stayed pretty true to it epic live proportions. The other is Change. After a familiar ending to Deadman (that of a snippet of Change (part 1) from Themata) the track doesn’t fade seamlessly like many fans wanted, but it still ticks all the right boxes. Hard and soft when needed, quality music, Kenny on fire, and epic. Together the album is finished on a high.

2009 demonstrates a new Karnivool, one willing to experiment more with new sounds, and expand on what we’ve come to love. The band calls Sound Awake a grower, and although it doesn’t quite hit the brilliant mark of Themata straight away, given time, I think it will. Do yourself a favour and check it out! 9/10

Band: Karnivool
Album: Sound Awake
Year: 2009
Genre: Alt/Prog Metal
Label: MGM/Sony
Origin: Perth, Australia
http://www.myspace.com/karnivool

Track Listing:
1. Simple Boy
2. Goliath
3. New Day (Reviewers Choice)
4. Set Fire to The Hive
5. Umbra
6. All I Know
7. The Medecine Wears Off
8. The Caudal Line
9. Illumine
10. Deadman
11. Change

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Scott is one of the fine co-owners of this establishment, handling the live content side of the site. Since 2008 he has been supplying the site with finely crafted photos. Check out his other work at scottboelsen.com, or boost his ego on facebook