Karnivool’s most recent release to arrive on American soil doesn’t contain much new music, but for a band that has amassed an enormous following in their native Australia, their entire catalog is still relatively new here in the states. Well aware of that fact, the band and their new US label home Sony/SIN released the digital only Set Fire to the Hive EP, a collection of songs from each of the bands full length albums as well as live tracks and alternate versions. With just four songs, the EP is just enough to whet the appetite for the American release of their sophomore masterpiece Sound Awake, arriving in stores across this country February 16th 2010. The quintet create a fusion of alternative metal, provocative prog, elements of post-rock, and grunge for a sound appealing to fans of Tool, A Perfect Circle, Cog, and Oceansize. Hailed as one of Australia’s most respected rock bands, Karnivool are poised to swarm American audiences, with their EP serving as appetizer for the feast that waits ahead.
The title track “Set Fire to the Hive,” was the first single released from Sound Awake, an album that has received absolutely nothing but critical praise. The track’s guitars buzz like a swarm of pissed off hornets, being shaken to a furious rhythm. The band slams and grooves with expert timing and precision, a shorter songs for Karnivool but there’s no shortage of creativity or absorbing riffs. The song is catchy, heavy, and complex, leaving you discovering new elements with each listen. “Themata” is the title track from their debut album, released in 2005. Showcasing the band’s earlier sound, a time when they were teetering on the border of prog rock and nu-metal, yet still representative of their signature sound. While the term “nu-metal” is dreaded by most, Karnivool help envision what it would have been like done properly and with genuine talent. The distorted vocal line is as catchy as can be, playing off the layered guitars and booming bass line. The band jumps time signatures without warning, always leaving you wondering what’s next from their ever evolving sonic grooves.
“Roquefort,” a track that first appeared on Themata is redone for the EP, with a stunning version containing a brass section intended for the original song, performed by Australia’s Empire Horns duo. The horns accentuate the unbelievable stop start rhythm pounded out by Karnivool’s drummer extraordinaire Steve Judd. The rhythms knockout punch attack is colored with the guitars and horns paving the way for the delicate structure of vocalist Ian Kenny’s melody. Rumbling bass, exploding trumpets, and anthemic vocals drive the song into its stunning crescendo. Just in case anyone was hesitant about the band, they have included a live version of the epic “Deadman,” a highlight from Sound Awake. Judd opens the song with a hypnotic syncopated beat that will immediately bring to mind Danny Carey. While comparisons to Carey’s drumming generally fall flat, Judd, and the rest of the band, proves they can hang in the strange time signatures with the same haunting grace. Drew Goddard and Mark Hosking’s guitar work soars in the wide open spaces, roaring over the shifting rhythm creating an enormous textural landscape that’d make David Gilmour or Adam Jones proud. “Deadman” is a massive song that demands to be heard, highlighting Karnivool at their proggiest, with the live performance taking the band to a new level both musically and spiritually.
With just twenty-six minutes, the EP comes to a close, leaving fans with an itch for more. Take notice America, this is what we are missing. Mighty, thought-provoking, mesmerizing, and intelligent, Karnivool have created heavy prog rock to truly be proud of, demanding multiple listens for greater understanding. They have delivered two phenomenal albums and are ready to bring them our way, so allow Set Fire to the Hive to acclimate yourselves for the impending invasion.