Besides being the state boasting the most prodigious wonder in the U.S., the Grand Canyon, Arizona is home to a veritable who’s-who of Metal. From the über elite such as the Cavaleras and Halford of the world to more extreme acts like Abigail Williams and Gatecreeper, Arizona seems to be a literal hotbed of latent metallic fury. Enter Kardashev.
From Tempe, Arizona, the four members of Kardashev first convened as an entity in 2012. Three years later, they released their debut full-length Peripety. The band’s sound is what truly sets them apart – a mixture of Death Metal, Prog, and Shoegaze that has been termed Deathgaze. The band’s second full-length was just released by Metal Blade and is titled Liminal Rite. According to the website, the album is “lyrically deep and complex, focusing on emotion above all else”. Emotion is certainly a hallmark of Kardashev’s sound as will be evidenced below.
After an introduction by way of “The Approaching of Atonement,” the album properly kicks off with the second track, “Silvered Shadows”. Erupting like a fiery inferno of blasting, immediately thoughts turn to Black Metal. When the band reaches the verse section, the listener is greeted with the soothing calm of clean vocals as the aural spectrum widens tremendously. The first couple of minutes are packed with highlights much like a Hollywood summer blockbuster. Look out for the 1:24 mark when the band converges for a vociferously violent breakdown; yet, at the 1:40 mark, there is a choral feel as if the clean vocals descend from multiple angles lie missiles launched from ground zero. It is at the 4:00 mark where compelling and even cathartic become suitable adjectives to describe the lush melodies achieved.
Following close on its heels is the third track, “Apparitions in Candlelight”. The beginning is a frantic collision of maniacal riffs and by the 1:40 mark when clean vocals are introduced, a call and response effect is created between them and the vitriolic Death growls. The wealth of blast beats definitely is reminiscent of Black Metal yet again and while the song may be seemingly more of the same, it is a deeper dive into the Kardashev ether. The album thus becomes all the more intriguing.
Is Kardashev Death Metal’s Deafheaven? That seems to be the case if one were to subscribe to the wealth of hype propagated across the global Heavy Metal internet. Liminal Rite is a catalyzing album filled to the brim with sentiment, personal reflections set to a back and forth of brutality and melody that encompasses the yin and yang of Kardashev.
As the album plays on, it is easy to become consumed if not wholly lost. The eighth track, “Cellar of Ghosts,” is another highlight. What is interesting about this particular track is the role of the bass which, with its biting tenacity, carries the melody through a storm of violent riffs and frenetic blasting. The patter of clean/calm verse sections is maintained, but at the 2:00 mark, an explosion of vitriol via decimating riffs tangled in a web of bombastic percussion ensues. As the song progresses the listener is then buried, foot by foot, in the grave to rest nestled comfortably beside where the inspiration of Kardashev lies.
Between bludgeoning riffs and relentless blasts is the overarching melody. Thankfully Kardashev never neglects the importance of melody no matter the circumstance. While the production team clearly had their hands full with so much diversity contained within, a thoroughly professional job was achieved overall. The blasting is pulverizing and relentless while the bass guitar has the role of defining the veracity of uncompromising solid ground, the very foundation inherent in the band’s sound. A plethora of guitar tones, rhythms, and techniques are employed, yet it is the parts that travel into the “gaze” territory that are the most memorable: hanging notes blended with the aforementioned bedrock like a tribe of nimbus clouds passing gently overhead.
After digesting the material, it feels like a ray of light shining through that flock of clouds. Kardashev, like Jason and the Argonauts, invite the listener on a perilous journey for a metallic Golden Fleece of sorts, a meaningful realization of artistic intent. Such a feat is never easy. What was most remarkable about the album was the use of textured guitar for the more ethereal parts invoking formative figures such as Robert Smith of The Cure and Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction.
Is Kardashev the next big thing? Probably. The comparison of Rivers of Nihil meets Alcest leaves much to be desired, though. If Blackgaze is a thing, then shouldn’t Deathgaze be a thing too? Ultimately, the decision is up to the reader.