Astute readers of this site might recognize that I have already written some words about Kardashev and their monumental EP The Baring of Shadows. When I think about the releases that I missed in 2020, The Baring of Shadows was one that made me feel like I needed to actually write something about it, simply because of how hard I was kicking myself for foregoing the chance to talk about music that touched me so deeply. Naturally, then, when the EP got a major label reissue, I knew I couldn’t let this chance slip through my fingers a second time.
Tempe, AZ’s Kardashev have a long history prior to now, but it is certainly with the initial release of The Baring of Shadows that they have skyrocketed, pun intended, from their humble beginnings. The band’s music is self-described as “deathgaze,” incorporating post-metal and post-rock, death metal, deathcore, and on this release, jazz and ambient elements into one cohesive mass that is quite difficult to nail down with any other descriptor and one that is wholly unique amongst their peers. Even their lyrical content, touching on themes of love, altruism and loss through the lens of space, science and the human condition, is far and away unlike anything else that even remotely comes close to their competition. Their music has steadily been evolving, especially since 2018’s The Almanac, but on The Baring of Shadows, they have truly stumbled upon something unparalleled. Immediately noticeable are the gorgeous, haunting vocals of Mark Garrett, whose presence on this album makes me question everything I ever said about not liking clean vocals in death metal. The man is inhuman with his ability to seamlessly go from guttural growls to soaring melodies in an instant, carrying the brunt of the emotional weight of the album. The core duo of the band is rounded out by guitarist Nico Mirrola, who also recorded and edited the music, and whose crushing riffs and airy post-rock lines help take the music to a whole other level. On this release, the band is joined by bassist Alexander Adin Rieth and drummer Sean Lang, who round out the recording and hopefully future live lineup.
The Baring of Shadows hooked me from the first minute I took a chance on it. “A Frame. A Light.” opens the album with gorgeous melodies, airy, hypnotic arpeggios and a subtle rhythm section that builds into huge walls of sound that crush and reverberate, all while layers and layers of cleans and growls from Garrett loop and intertwine. The song also features a lot of the relatively new jazzier influences that the band has taken on. The quieter passages really do wonders to open up what has the potential to be very sonically and emotionally dense songs, but the band have never been sharper and more appropriate with their use of textures. The four tracks flow in movements instead of being cranked up to eleven the whole time, and the use of clean guitars and clean vocals intermingled helps break the songs up into pieces that are easily digestible, and more importantly, incredibly memorable. The myriad of melodic ideas that serves as the intro and main theme to “Snow-Sleep” are constantly in my head, and even when the band brings out some of their deathcore influences, there is always a touch or twist on it that Mirrola’s guitars bring that make the songs something greater than the sum of their influences. The songs are truly hypnotic, and the EP is short enough that I have often found myself listening to it two or three times in a loop, because I truly don’t want it to end.
If you’re a fan of Kardashev, or if you’re thinking of becoming one based on this review, you should know that there’s almost no band out there who is working harder at getting their name out there. As such, there are a ton of ways you can support the band. They have a YouTube channel that has become much more active recently, a Twitch channel, and a Patreon in addition to the other usual outlets. Times are still tough for musicians, and while The Baring of Shadows seems almost guaranteed to make Kardashev household names, it’s important to keep supporting the bands we love so they can keep making music that has the potential to change the world.