Back in May, when the world was in the middle of dealing with a full-blown global pandemic, Kardashev’s fourth studio EP The Baring Of Shadows saw the light of day. A few turbulent months have passed since the Tempe, AZ-based deathcore outfit released this four song, 26 minute-long EP to the world, but in spite of the constant turmoil, it has yet to lose its impact. The Baring of Shadows serves its solemn subject matter with such urgency that it takes the listener away from the meddles of the world and into a state of mind that allows them to feel a despair that pierces right through the heart.
Kardashev combine the many facets of non-traditional death metal—progressive death metal, atmospheric death metal, deathcore—with post-rock and blackgaze, calling it “deathgaze” or even “post-deathgaze” in their communications. Both terms seem to be only pointless designations in the contemporary abundance of genre descriptors. Given the fact that said genre descriptors have primary relevance in creating pools of similar sounding artists for fans to explore, “atmospheric death metal” would probably do the trick, and “deathgaze” would be nothing but a gimmick.
Do Kardashev need this gimmick? Definitely not. On this record, the band forego their usual lyrics about science fiction and explore the pain of losing a loved one, creating an emotional listening experience that has lasting power. As vocalist Mark Garrett and guitarist Nico Mirolla explain in an interview on the Steel Legion podcast, this EP employs the theme of loss in order to create a narrative that could be considered as universal and fundamentally human—the avoidance of, and dealing with loss. In order to conjure up this void, Garrett wrote four fictional accounts of characters losing someone they loved, or dealing with the pain of the emptiness that is felt in the wake of such a tragic event.
The first person perspective of these lyrics make the feeling of this loss gut-wrenchingly direct, but it also lends the album some gothic metal melodrama that might be off-putting to some listeners. Objectively speaking, one might argue that this overly emotional approach clashes with the feeling of power and being untouchable that metal music is often associated with. It creates an incongruence that makes this album a challenging, but ultimately convincing experience. On this record, Kardashev build you up before breaking you down in such a way that their subject matter becomes all the more pressing and unnerving. The Baring of Shadows opens up the void inside in order to make room for this tremendous feeling of loss and loneliness.
“The Baring of Shadows has the power to reach beyond the specific, speaking to all humanity in the most profound of ways.“
This EP not only marks a shift in lyrical content for the band, but also a movement away from the traditional song structures of their previous records. The songs on The Baring of Shadows flow organically from one riff to the next, employing multiple vocal hooks per song, only to repeat them sparsely and to the utmost effect. For this album Garrett and Mirolla have employed a session drummer (Shawn Lang) as well as letting bassist Alexander Adin Rieth (who also plays in AZ post-rock/shoegaze act Holy Fawn) join the band. Both musicians have made perceivable contributions to the songs, further differentiating them from the band’s previous material.
Most notably, Rieth’s bass parts cleverly mirror the other instruments and vocals throughout the record, gently recreating the reverberation of the void, while also generating a reflection that hearkens to the universal quality of the EP’s theme. These reflections happen in unison, but also in call-and-answer fashion (notably on “A Frame. A Light” and “Torchpassing”), almost sounding like a conversation between two separate entities, saying, “Here I am, there you are. We have experienced the same thing.”
As such, The Baring of Shadows is a record that successfully expresses the band’s intentions both lyrically and musically. Together with the beautiful illustrations created for each song by existential.yoghurt, Kardashev have created a true work of art compelling to the highest degree. Within the tradition of art and poetry, The Baring of Shadows could be characterised as a lamentation—“a passionate expression of grief or sorrow”—and as with the greatest examples in this genre, whether it be the book of Lamentations in the Bible or the Lamentation of Christ, The Baring of Shadows has the power to reach beyond the specific, speaking to all humanity in the most profound of ways.
This album is… ***captivating.
The Baring of Shadows was released independently on May 12. The album is sold out in vinyl format but still available on CD and as digital download from the Kardashev webshop.