Written by Ellis Heasley
>Kardashev – Liminal Rite
>Released June 10th
>Metal Blade Records
“I am a pilgrim and oh, I am lost
The past that I loved has been molded and mossed
A ghost in the window, a ghost on the lawn
And oh, how I miss it when certainty won”
Do you ever get overwhelmed by the amount of content that’s out there? On any given Friday it feels like there are about 50 new records that everyone’s telling you you need to check out – not to mention whatever else has been added to Netflix, whatever film studio has decided we need another reboot of a franchise that’s already been flogged to death, whatever ‘classic’ records your friends can’t believe you haven’t heard… Honestly, it can be a nightmare sometimes just choosing the right thing to devote your attention to.
All this is to say that when Kardashev ask for a full hour of your time on their new album Liminal Rite, that doesn’t always come cheap. You should absolutely oblige them though; in fact, you’ll soon realise that a single hour is nowhere near enough, as here the self-proclaimed progenitors of ‘deathgaze’ have produced a work of such power and detail that even months of listening might not cover all of its musical and thematic intricacies. At the risk of blowing this whole thing right from the start, it’s one of the best ways you could spend an hour (59 minutes, 59 seconds if we’re being pedantic) all year, with the entire runtime practically evaporating before your ears and eyes.
If the aforementioned deathgaze tag isn’t helpful, then it’s probably easiest to think of this as a kind of melodic progressive death metal. Imagine the emotional thrust and technical proficiency of Rivers Of Nihil‘s Where Owls Know My Name meets the more dynamic, free-flowing theatrics of a record like Blackwater Park by Opeth, plus a bit more shoegaze (obviously), and you’re at least somewhere on your way. No doubt a death metal expert – like our very own Kep – would be able to place it a lot better than that, but we have to work with the tools we’re given…
One of the first things that’s likely to jump out at you on early listens to Liminal Rite is the performance of vocalist Mark Garrett. His range across the record is frankly staggering, covering everything from filthy low death metal gutturals, vicious blackened fry stuff, those more mid-pitched screams, and, perhaps most strikingly of all, some massive operatic cleans that really bring an element of soar into Kardashev’s music. Usually he manages to squeeze variations on all of these into a single song, often layering multiple different styles to strike that well-established but still deeply effective juxtaposition between beauty and brutality.
It’s also not like Garrett’s just singing and screaming about your run of the mill metallic nonsense either. Liminal Rite comes with a rich and intensely moving concept centered around the story of an old man – known only as The Lost Man – revisiting his childhood home as he struggles with dementia and his reality crumbles around him. Obviously, some parts are easier to pick out than others, particularly from Garrett’s cleans and the additional spoken word sections from drummer Sean Lang, but even then it’s definitely worth sitting down with the lyrics – and the band’s own thorough track-by–track breakdowns – and following along in detail. They’re emotional but not always overly prescriptive, and between the expected poetic license and the protagonist’s own unreliable memory, the listener is kind of free to fill in a few blanks and draw some of their own meaning from proceedings too.
Getting into the meat of it, it’s likely that different elements will grab the attention of each individual listener, probably on each individual listen too, but it is particularly hard to miss the significance of the Lost Man’s deceased brother as detailed in the stunning seventh track highlight “Compost Grave-Song”. This one hits like a punch to the gut, even among many others, with the band themselves commenting: “The slow unravelling of the mind is terror, but the curse of remembering is often more painful still.” Here we learn of a shocking accident, and a lifetime of grief and guilt to follow, with our protagonist declaring (“I left you in the dirt that day / How can I stand by your bed?”)
Elsewhere, tracks like “Apparitions In Candlelight” and “Lavender Calligraphy” explore fragments and fractures of the Lost Man’s relationships with his father and mother, while the later highlight of “Glass Phantoms” pours forth a frustrated sense of self-loathing in lines like (“Eat your words, you dying coward! / I don’t deserve this / Let me come home”). It’s evocative, gripping, and often quite tear-jerking stuff, as indeed you might expect from a band whose last record explored grief, mourning and the loss of loved ones in similarly unflinching detail.
It all comes to something of a head in closer “Beyond The Passage Of Embers”, in which our main character embraces a fiery fate (“Take me home, flame on the floor”). As with the whole record, the music provides the perfect vehicle for all this, with the band conjuring a glacial doom that’s exquisitely embellished by guest musician Christoph Clöser’s saxophone to the point that you can almost see the embers of the Lost Man’s childhood home as they come crashing down around him.
Of course, the performances are exceptional throughout the entire record to be honest though, especially from Lang who often manages to blast away with machine-like precision while also avoiding the overly polished and quantised feel you can sometimes get with music of this nature. Guitarist Nico Mirolla is the mastermind however – the principal songwriter and deliverer of a similar variety of sonic tapestries to Garrett’s vocals, all while ably accompanied and supported by bassist Alex Rieth.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If this is all getting a bit too gushy, that’s only because you really won’t hear many records quite like Liminal Rite this year, or indeed for some time after that even. This is a must-listen, must-purchase masterpiece that could quite conceivably stand the test of time as well as the records mentioned above. We’ll have to see about that, but either way if you haven’t already you should absolutely carve out some time to give this record the attention it deserves because it really is worth every second.