After you listen to metal for a while, you may occasionally find yourself thinking they’ve heard it all. Every odd time signature, every avant-garde, dissonant riff, every combination of unrelated genres, and every overlong genre handle (progressive blackened symphonic thrashcore, anyone?). Fortunately, these foolishly misguided thoughts don’t dwell for very long. Underground metal rewards those who dig deep enough, and it was on one of my weekly iTunes-crawls that I came across Kardashev. Knowing nothing about the band, I assumed from the artsy cover that I was in for either A), avant-garde black metal, or B), metalcore, or C), progressive metal. What I didn’t suspect however, was that the answer would be D), all of the above (and then some).
The Almanac is a unique blend of death metal, black metal, post rock, ambient and metalcore. That many different ingredients spells a recipe for disaster, but again, Kardashev surprised me. Not only is The Almanac a compelling, cohesive listen, it’s also one of the best musical endeavors to be released in 2017.
For those who find themselves turned off at the mention of “metalcore,” fear not. The musical landscape of The Almanac is an ever shifting one. While I would say that the backbone of Kardashev’s sound is solidly ‘core, the muscles, sinew and lifeblood are death metal, post rock, and black metal, respectively. After a brief and mysterious intro, “Between Sea and Sky” (take note that aside from the album’s intro and outro, all the songs are named this way: “Between Sea and Sky”, “Behind Leaves and Vines”, etc) kicks off with some otherworldy post rock ambiance before the distinctly metalcore riffs make their entrance. However, it doesn’t take long for the ghostly clean vocals to be overpowered by a nasty black metal shriek, which in turn fades away to Mark Garett’s aggressive death metal vocals. The riffs undergo a similar metamorphosis, growing heavier and heavier, until metalcore chugs have become modern, destructive death metal riffs.
“Beside Cliffs and Chasms” sees the band at their most blackened. After another brief ambient opening, clobbering blast beats and lightning fast tremolos make their presence known in savage fashion. They rip and tear their way through the track, leaving nothing but frostbitten wastes in their wake. Elsewhere, “Behind Leaves and Vines” is a beautiful balance between blasting brutal death metal and elegant, billowing post metal. The dichotomy between the two genres is almost completely forgotten while listening to this track, as Kardashev have seamlessly blended the two, without leaving any ugly stitch marks or awkward transitions. And they made it look easy.
The EP’s final proper song “Beyond Sun and Moon” acts as a recap of everything we’ve heard thus far on the album. The song starts big, and only gets bigger. Death, black, ‘core, thrash, post, it’s all here, and if that sounds like chaos to you, that’s because it is. But in true Kardashev fashion, there’s method to the madness. Every genre is given its place in the track, and after saying what it has to say, it’s replaced by the next, cycling the song through various moods and tempos before it finally bleeds into the ambient album closer “Epilogue.”
It’s around this time of year that year-end lists begin to creep into the collective consciousness of the metal blogosphere. With that in mind, it’s around this time that I try to get my top ten albums solidified and ranked, but Kardashev have thrown a wrench into the proceedings at the very last moment, delivering what I consider to be one of 2017’s best, beautiful and certainly unique releases. I don’t know where Kardashev will land on the finalized version of my list, but you can bet it’ll be a place of honour. If you’re someone who’s not afraid of some experimental ideas in their music, you need to hop onto The Almanac ASAP.
You can (and should) buy The Almanac from Kardashev’s Bandcamp page.