Liminal Rite, the sophomore album from Kardashev, is a wow moment in the metal genre that suffers in long stretches by its own rigid set of unwritten rules.
The album is a full buffet of genres blended together - death metal, shoegaze, progressive metal, and jazz wrapped up into a new genre they’re calling Deathgaze. While the band itself admitted coining their own genre name felt pompous, Deathgaze is an oddly accurate word to describe their sound.
While Liminal Rite is a smorgasbord, Kardashev is a full four-course meal - talent, execution, cohesion, and originality.
The result is a deliciously ambitious concoction, pushing the boundaries of a genre already so undefined.
Liminal Rite is as vicious and devastating as it is vulnerable, raw, and beautiful. It shines a light down a dark cave and rewards your journey on the other side.
The Old Man on the cover narrates his story, the album’s story, with spoken word - an essential and cohesive thread of consciousness that ties Liminal Rite together. He visits his childhood past and profoundly desires to cling to it.
To not let it go.
To live in his memories. To feast on nostalgia.
His memory is failing, and the process of remembering is no longer a source of joy but of pain.
What happens when our memory fails? What happens when we’re trapped in the prison of past regrets?
These are some of the big questions Liminal Rite poses - pointing its thematic gun directly at concepts of grief, remorse, nostalgia, memory, and dementia. These sonically coalesce with the instrumentation as the record drips with an air of sadness and tragedy.
After the opening tune of narration sets the stage, we enter the first arena of what we can expect on Liminal Rite with “Silvered Shadows.”
The track covers a vast amount of ground and squeezes everything out of the songwriting - dancing from blast beats, to freeform wide-open space/jazz, to a near pig squeal vocal breakdown, all within a minute. It has a purpose and intention that allows it to work and not feel unfocused.
This ground-covering is reflected throughout the album, beginning to end, highlighted later in the single “Glass Phantoms,” where the band finds 15-second pockets of space that feel like the exhale of a cigarette to its listener.
”Apparitions in Candlelight” follows, delivering another hefty helping of clever and efficient songwriting. The final two minutes of the tune hammer you with a flawlessly simple yet heavy riff, followed by a guitar solo. It’s one of the many solos on the album where guitarist Nico Mirolla balances the innate instinct to shred over metal drums with some Pink Floyd-ian note selection.
You'd think at times that there were nine band members with the sound and depth created; even more surprising is the vocal range of Mark Garrett, who delivers a powerhouse performance.
It's a precise range of vocal abilities from Garrett, who can offer the Hatebreed-esque screams on "Compost Grave-Song" and "Glass Phantoms," the guttural growls that never fall into the laughable cookie-monster realm, while also hitting all the high notes in between.
The songs are lengthy but never protracted, and the song order helps keep our drink cold and ice never melting.
Tunes like "Dissever" give us a minute-long mental stretch before morphing into "Lavender Calligraphy," which returns us to the spoken word narrative of our Old Man:
"Memories are obscured by regrets. These eyes are not my own. I do not see myself in the mirror."
These words hint at our Old Man beginning to struggle with dementia and signify a purposeful halfway point on Liminal Rite.
While the tone of regret lingers and trickles from the notes within Liminal Rite, the meaning behind the record can inspire all of us to observe our obsession with our own pasts.
Are we trapped torturing ourselves? Does regret serve any purpose if lessons are not learned?
As Garrett sings on "Cellar of Ghosts,"
"What does it mean to be standing here
To breathe in your ghosts again
I can't release this."
Admirably, Liminal Rite finishes as strong as it starts - like the writers of a 6 season Netflix series knowing exactly how they want it to end before they write the first episode.
As we trek towards the finale - "A Vagabond's Lament" first gives us an unexpected Opeth-style groove before we land on the final track, "Beyond the Passage of Embers."
If nothing else, it bookends an album immensely focused on emotion. The track starts with a serene floating sensation and ends with one of the most cathartic album finales heard in recent memory 11 minutes later. It smashes you.
This is a band completely unified in their sound and purpose, each pushing one another. While Garrett is stretching his capabilities on the mic - Drummer Sean Lang is penning the narrative thread, bassist Alex Reith is hopping on some piano, and guitarist Nico Mirolla balancing those mentioned above efficient and clever riffs with solo work.
Liminal Rite is the most dynamic and focused metal record of the year, offering a tour-de-force where concept meets execution. It has the meat on the bones to satisfy any hungry metal fan and the message behind it to keep the album on your mind for days.
Liminal Rite will stay with you.
As the final five words of Liminal Rite echo in your head - we can lean on a quote from Henry David Thoreau, "Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest."