Innovation is the lifeblood of any art form, without it we wither and die, but there are times when one wonders just how far originality can extend. Among the projects to come about in the past decade that has sought to answer this question about as brazenly as possible is the Temple, Arizona based extreme metal outfit Kardashev. Naming themselves for the Soviet astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev and identifying their peculiar stylistic blend as deathgaze (a hybrid of the atmospheric flavoring of shoegaze with a highly progressive and nuanced take on deathcore), it can be plainly stated that they have struck new ground within metal’s ever-growing paradigm. Yet despite what may come off as a gimmicky niche, this band has managed a sizable catalog of EPs, singles, and an LP in 2015 dubbed “Peripety” that present a highly functional and intricate sound, and their latest offering in the 2020 EP “The Baring Of Shadows” is no exception, so much so that Metal Blade Records opted to support a 2021 rerelease of the album.
Many disparate influences find themselves in an unusual state of cathartic synchronicity on each of these four songs, which can be best described as free-flowing compositions contained within varying lengths of time. The pristine atmospheric beauty and contemplative character of famed blackgaze icons Alcest intermingles with the quirky progressive character of something close to what Devin Townsend might dream up, and often digresses into a high-impact and technical brand of brutality ordinarily reserved to the likes of Rivers Of Nihil and The Faceless. This highly eclectic sonic template is matched by a multifaceted vocal performance out of front man Mark Garrett, who contorts his voice into a variety of guttural personas that match the most inhuman extremities of the death metal style, yet seamlessly shifts into a chanting croon like something off one of Midnight Odyssey’s more serene compositions, occasionally moving into a highly feminine falsetto to codify a veritable one-man choir.
Though each chapter of this musical novella to things intergalactic and introspective stands as a case study in how to defy convention, the actual scope of everyone is not beyond the grasp of accessibility. The opening convergence of serenity and rage that is “A Frame. A Light.” has a very clear formula of progression from a droning sea of reverb and consonant chords into a darker shade of blackened glaze that could almost pass for a direct nod to Alcest’s current sound, save the guitars being much heavier, the drums more abrasive, and there being a greater amount of harmonic interplay between the instrumentation. Its successor “Snow-Sleep” brings things closer to a tech death feel yet retains the dense atmospheric backdrop, while the slightly shorter “Torchpassing” ratchets up the rate of transition between ballad-like softness and bludgeoning fury. Ironically enough, the closing chapter “Heartache” proves to be the shortest of the pack and gets the closest to being a pure extreme metal offering.
Perhaps this EP’s lone Persian Flaw is that its stylistic demeanor is so unique, so out of the ordinary that it may have a difficult time appealing to the average consumer of extreme metal. Although it definitely employs a health amount of tech death and deathcore influences, the bulk of its sonic contents tilt closer to the atmospheric black metal and blackgaze side of the coin, appealing the most to the fans of Alcest, Agalloch, and the longwinded contemplative world occupied by the likes of Mare Cognitum and Lustre. Nevertheless, despite the similar atmospheric trappings and contemplative lyrical content to the aforementioned bands, Kardashev prove to be a very unique beast sporting a sound that would not be easily mistaken for anything else. One can only hope that the newfound partnership of this outfit with Metal Blade Records will see them honing their craft even more in the coming years, because this feels like it could be the beginning of something very interesting.
Released Date: May 7th, 2021
Released By: Metal Blade Records
- Mark Garret / Vocals
- Nico Mirolla / Guitars
- Alexander Adin Rieth / Bass
- Sean Lang / Drums
“The Baring of Shadows” tracklisting:
- A Frame. A Light.
The quest for an original sound can bring about some quirky curiosities, and the marriage of percussive, deathcore-like brutality with the spacey atmospheric timbre of shoegaze sought after by this Arizonan quartet might just take the cake.