A SCENE IN RETROSPECT: Karnivool – “Sound Awake”

Ahoy, my dear ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the final episode of A Scene In Retrospect in 2017! As I’ve alluded to a fortnight ago, we’ve set aside a very, very special record to send off the year in this feature. Our Editor-in-Chief Landon, PR/social media managers Inter and Valentin, and senior writer Rodney will be talking about one of the defining masterpieces of the modern progressive music scene: Sound Awake by the allmighty Karnivool! Please enjoy as they indulge in this important record.


Landon Turlock

My first introduction to Karnivool came ashamedly recently in 2014 when a friend recommended Themata to me, saying ‘Imagine a mix of Meshuggah and Tool.’ The comparison was enough to catch my attention immediately. Although the aforementioned description is not particularly apt in my opinion, I was nonetheless captivated by Themata’s progressive interpretation of mid-2000s alternative hard rock and nu metal. The five years that followed Themata were used incredibly effectively by the Australian group, as they developed Sound Awake.

Sound Awake is comparatively more nuanced, experimental and confident, capturing Karnivool coming into their own as ever more ambitious musicians and songwriters. On the album, Ian Kenny’s powerful and melodic vocal performance is a guiding light amidst waves of atmospheric guitars and storms of pounding percussion. The group demonstrate their obvious capacity for somewhat straightforward, gritty hard rock tracks (“Set Fire To The Hive”) that rival their more well-known mid-to-late 2000s contemporaries. However, even on lengthier, more progressive songs (“New Day”; “Deadman”; “Change”), Karnivool use their command of dynamics and hooks to maintain interest and excitement. Complemented by the legendary Forrester Savell’s compelling production, Karnivool’s uncompromising dedication to solid songcraft amidst sonic exploration set a precedent for many acts to follow. Sound Awake is clearly a benchmark for 21st century progressive rock, and its influence can still be heard in music today.


We are talking about a lot of music at It Djents, recommending stuff and trying to put the spotlight on bands which deserve it. Today, I have the pleasure to talk about Sound Awake, the second album by Australian prog phenomenon Karnivool. And folks, what a pleasure that is!

Sound Awake is nothing less than one of the most important records of the modern prog scene, praised by many, but not praised enough. The work of art Karnivool achieved on Sound Awake is unmatched, incomparable, and will set the bar for many years to come. I can’t thing of any other bands which blend progressive structures, complicated grooves, post rock-esque sonic textures, heaviness, and an angelic but powerful and nuanced voice with an accessible pop appeal in such a smooth and impressive way. Listening to this record while I’m writing this proves again that words can’t come close to the sheer beauty of the experience of Sound Awake. You might think that I’m exaggerating, but trust me, I’m not freshly overwhelmed by this record. I’ve been listening to it for many, many years, and it’s still growing on me.

There is no flaw or negative element. It’s a masterpiece of modern music, the epitome of how modern progressive music can sound in the new century. If you never checked it, you’re missing something important in your life. Stop reading and start listening. Don’t care about the words. Listen. Go.

Valentin Bock

I’m kind of a new member of the ‘Karnivool-appreciation-party’, as it took me about seven years to finally give Sound Awake the attention it deserves after havin been released way back in 2009, but I’ve been hooked on it ever since. Over the course of the last two years, I’ve been listening to this masterpiece at least once a month. Almost every spin of the opening track “Simple Boy” is followed by a 72-minute listening-session of the whole album.

I’m usually not a huge fan of albums with a duration of more than an hour (much less of songs that exceed the five-minute-mark), but it’s something different with this album. There are so many  things going on in each track that I got bored not once during the 72 minutes of epicness that Sound Awake has to offer. Songs like “Umbra”, “New Day” or “All I Know” are probably some of the best the world of modern progressive rock has seen to this day (which doesn’t make the other tracks any less good). The instrumentation throughout the whole album is on point, Ian Kenny’s vocal performance is outstanding, and the rather rough production (you can actually hear that it’s ‘hand made’ music) fits the overall mood very well.

Karnivool simply managed to create one of the best modern metal/rock albums of this century. Please don’t be foolish like I was and IMMEDIATELY go check it out if you haven’t yet. Even if you are familiar with this album, listen to it again IMMEDIATELY; Sound Awake just deserves all of our love and appreciation.

Rodney Fuchs

I have to admit that it was Asymmetry that got me into Karnivool. Once I’ve seen them live on stage, knowing almost only songs off said album, which I really enjoyed, the songs off Sound Awake totally clicked for me. After my first proper spin I was truly blown away by the amount of musical spectra that is to be found on it. Also, the more I was listening to those songs, the more I realized that this record is full of true hits. There is no single song that stands out in a negative way, but also none that are hightlights, as they all literally are highlights for me! Songs like “All I Know“ and “New Day“ have the special kind of emotionality that I love about Karnivool.

When the record starts with “Simple Boy” I have no chance but to listen to it in full. Despite having 22 minutes in full runtime, the last tracks (“Deadman“ & “Changes (Part 2)“) don’t feel long winded at all. Combining experimental aspects with their slight touch of nu metal influences, Karnivool created one of the most trailblazing records of modern progressive rock. I’m sure that in 20 years, a lot of people still will listen to this record and call it a classic, if it isn’t one yet. There’s only a handful of records that I would consider saying that every single note fits perfectly about, but in all honesty, Sound Awake is one of those for me.

Alas, that’s all for now, folks; the last episode of A Scene In Retrospect of the year is officially over! Hopefully this feature has given you the same sense of nostalgia and enjoyment we got from it so far. Be prepared for next year’s run; we’ve got a whole barrage of amazing, influential records already lined up for you, starting, you guessed it, in exactly fourteen days!

See you then, everybody! Get into the new year safe, it’s a crazy world out there. Let’s hope 2018 can make a positive change – by, for and with help from us all! Until then, as always…

…thanks for reading!

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