Some artists/bands are known for being able to make music that sounds huge. “Huge” in this case referring to music that has an awe-inspiring presence, as if it is either being performed in perfect sync on stages surrounding you in every direction or as if you were in a sphere of sound that encases your whole body. Music like this has a way of giving your ears a sense of depth instead of it being as cut and dry as left, right and center channel. With their last album, Peripety, the self-proclaimed Deathgaze group Kardashev showed that they wanted entrance into this particular section of the musical lexicon. With the release of their new EP The Almanac, they prove that they not only deserve to be included in this group, but placed close to the front of those who lead it.
The reverberating clean guitars, the spoken word in a fictional language created by the band’s vocalist especially for this release and the light background vocals of the opener “Prologue” are a mere taste of what’s to come. Once the song “Between Sea and Sky” begins to start, the band’s sonic universe opens up. The reverberating guitars and background vocals leftover from “Prologue” give way to a tremolo picked riff in the distance, followed by a distorted volume increase swells and crests, heralding drums that crush with the force of a wave. It strikes you, then surrounds and submerges you as it loses shape and becomes the water that it is composed of. They really never lose shape, though, so it seems more like you’re in a sphere of water that is constantly sending pulses to its center, where you reside. The biting, thick, monumental synth backed chugs that come as the song really cracks open act as excellent punctuation for sections of the vocalist’s emotional, near-vocoder clean vocals and their screams/growls. Each stroke of the strings sounds as though it’s being emitted from the heavens themselves. Not even a minute into the first full song of the EP and Kardashev has shown that they have a grip on atmosphere like few bands currently operating in death metal.
As dripping with beauty as The Almanac is, demonstrated throughout the tracks and given the opportunity to shine on it’s own through the opener “Prologue”, the dense, ambient instrumental “Beneath Dirt and Stone” and the closer “Epilogue”, there is also an aggressive side that actively sits alongside that beauty. It does not sit awkwardly, either. It feels as though it is an active participant in a natural and agreeable marriage of sound. In “Beside Cliffs and Chasms” and “Behind Leaves and Vines” there are blast beats that give way to high pitched screams over faster riffs that sound like they would belong on a Fallujah album. That band in particular could be an inspiration for the band’s take on how their music is not only composed, with synths backing guitars that are churning out riff after riff, but also how it is mixed as well. Honestly, it feels that at this point that Kardashev have hit on something that Fallujah haven’t, which is that key understanding of how to make your ears understand the spacial depth of the music.
The only thing about the band’s unique sound mix that can become a point of contention, as we pointed out in our review of Peripety, is that it puts some of the instruments just out of this listeners reach. It’s not always clean and it’s not something where you’ll hear everything on your first listen, but sample the music and see how it works for you. Initially, the mix wore on the ears a bit at louder volumes when using headphones, but with repeated listens it became less and less of an issue. It was also non-existent when listening on speakers, but listening to this album on headphones is definitely something you should do at least once.
Sometimes when bands attempt to blend beauty and severity in their music, it can feel cheap and cobbled together. The songs that appear on The Almanac fall victim to neither of these shortcomings. The genuine appreciation and care for each half of the musical whole is what lures you in and keeps you listening, but the way it sounds is what keeps you coming back. This is music that doesn’t sound huge in the way that someone like Devin Townsend makes music sound huge, but in a way that only Kardashev can seem to accomplish. It is an integral part of their identity that carries across not only the themes of their music, but the exploration theme of this EP as well. If you weren’t paying attention to the band before, now is the time to let them take you on a journey. Immerse yourself in their universe and bask in an experience only Kardashev can provide.
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Kardashev’s The Almanac is out now and can be purchased through the band’s Bandcamp.