Kardashev – The Baring of Shadows

Arizona’s Kardashev have long been at the cutting-edge of niche yet burgeoning metal subgenres. Their early sound took a unique approach to the progressive deathcore sound that the now arguably iconic album Exoplanet by The Contortionist popularized, with more emphasis on a Fallujah type atmosphere. This was accented with vocalist Mark Garrett’s mix of beastly low-growls and black metal-ish higher screams. This sound dates back to their debut demo Progression in 2012, which you can still hear elements of today. Over the next eight years they would release two lengthy EPs, Excipio (2013) and its thematic continuation The Almanac in 2017, as well as their debut full-length Peripety in 2015.  On their new release The Baring of Shadows, founding members Mark Garrett and guitarist Nico Mirolla are joined by newcomers Sean Lang (First Reign) on drums and Alexander Adin Rieth (Holy Fawn) on bass.

Over time their sound has had a fairly stark yet natural evolution. One of the biggest parts of that has been the growth of Mark as a vocalist, into what I would have to consider one of the most diversely talented vocalists in metal today. From his Aegaeon-like low-deathcore growls to the newer addition of angelic and operatic singing, new listeners will likely be surprised to find all these sounds are coming from the same person. The usage of those soaring clean vocals has grown exponentially over the course of their releases, to the point here where it’s almost a 50-50 split here. This is likely due to the growth and diversification of Mark as a vocalist, but it mirrors the growth of the band’s sound as a whole, and Nico’s songwriting.

On The Baring of Shadows that writing takes a further turn to a smokier post-metal and innovative “deathgaze” sound. You can definitely hear some of the Holy Fawn influence as well. Kardashev continue to innovate on each release and it’s been a pleasure to follow that growth over the years.

Their previous releases certainly contained a lot of introspection and emotion, especially their latest The Almanac. However, it was at times difficult to pinpoint the exact emotions they were trying to convey. With The Baring of Shadows, those are abundantly clear; pain and acceptance.  As the album opener “A frame. A light.” begins, we’re reminded of that maturation into a more inward looking perspective that their music has taken. With that comes more contemplative and carefully crafted writing, in the form of stretched out repeated post-rock/metal melodies and progressions that carry you on a slowly floating pace. The fantastic album artwork matches that imagery and feeling of the music beautifully. Stream a preview/teaser of the release below.

“Snow sleep” again begins in most post-rock fashion before they remind you of their more progressive deathcore leaning roots. As maybe an equal fan of atmospheric music as straight up riffs, these are a welcome sight that I could maybe have used more of. The heavy tremolo riffs themselves however keep that atmospheric current flowing with added heaviness and power. As Mark comes in he adds so much depth to that sound. The mix of impassioned blackened shrieks and heavenly soft cleans really hits to your inner senses. On top of that, some of the vocal lines on this track have a really strong earworm-like staying power in their melody and inflections. I caught myself singing “where have you gone…” hours after listening.

With all the praise I can give for some of the depth to this release, it’s arguably its best at it’s most reserved. There are several moments where the heaviness is alternated between these really subdued passages where strictly the drumming and soft vocalisations are at the forefront and the guitar and bass is pushed to the back. Something about hearing double-bass kicks and blast beats combined with non-distorted guitars and un-metal like vocals is oddly satisfying and refreshing. It captures that theme of acceptance of loss perfectly.  

The production on their releases in the past has gotten some criticism for having a bit too synthetic or processed feel to it. While there is some merit to that critique, it takes a more reverb-laced shoegaze approach here than before. It brings out the mix of airy, dark, and atmospheric post-rock and jazz influences, balancing to still retain a crunchy heaviness for their heavy chugged riffs. That contrast can be hard to pull off successfully, but done right its made for some of my favourite music in recent years.

It’s an impressive feat to create a truly unique sounding metal release with today’s ease of entry and the mass saturation of every subgenre. Many artists striving for this often sacrifice listen-ability and staying power. Yet here Kardashev have crafted a sonically fluid force of creativity and emotional outpouring built with genuine substance. The drawback of this compelling deathgaze blend running less than 30 minutes is it does really leave you wanting more. I will ever be looking forward to new material from this band, and they’re a pleasure to sit back, digest and think on.

Click here to pre-order The Baring of Shadows on CD or vinyl, and stream it on Bandcamp and elsewhere May 12.

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