Mark Garrett: Vocals
Nico Mirolla: Guitar
Alex Rieth: Bass
Sean Lang: Drums
Kardashev are arguably the leading proprietors when it comes to the niche deathgaze genre, since their inception creating a distinct combination of death metal, shoegaze and other flavors, evolving with every release. In 2022 they return with sophomore full-length, Liminal Rite, which further pushes the boundaries, delivering a release that is as ruthlessly heavy as it is delicate and fragile. "As far as we know, there aren't a lot of other bands leaning into the deathgaze tag as much as we are, and it seems to give us a unique sound that is hard to find," states guitarist Nico Mirolla. The album also asks some deep questions. "What does it mean to live in the past? When does nostalgia become obsession, and guilt, a prison? Liminal Rite explores how the past can both wound and seduce, leading us down a path of self-destruction."
Having dropped their debut full-length Peripety in 2015, since then they have focused on short form concept records, most recently 2021's stirring The Baring Of Shadows. Rarely approaching making a record with any preconceptions or plans as to what form it will take, they work until what they generally envisaged manifests itself. "Usually, we only plan to make music. As the songs develop they begin to inform us of what they need. This time, knowing we wanted to make a full-length after signing to Metal Blade, we knew a few things in advance including the track count minimum and runtime minimum, and that's all. Everything else was as usual. Emotional tone first, then everything else follows." The result is eleven deeply rousing, poignant and musically grandiose tracks that are compulsive, opening with the gorgeous drones of "The Approaching Of Atonement" before launching into the densely layered, surging "Silvered Shadows", and with an air of tragedy hanging over much of the record from there they cover a lot of musical ground that demands an emotional response. Mirolla aptly describes the songs as musically bearing a resemblance to freeform jazz or a progressive record, because "the story is the focus. There is an overtly important narrative taking place that is facilitated by the sonic textures and qualities intentionally designed for it." The members also stepped up and pushed themselves into new territory - vocalist Mark Garrett recorded his own vocal harmonies rather than relying on a vocoder as on previous releases, bassist Alex Rieth recorded some piano parts, and drummer Sean Lang penned and recorded the spoken word story that haunts the record.
As is always the case with Kardashev records, Liminal Rite is lyrically deep and complex, focusing on emotion above all else. Drawn to the concept of liminality, the transitional stage of a process, each song references a simple object that creates a visual framework for the overall story, and going into the record they were inspired in part by the reaction to The Baring Of Shadows, which connected powerfully with their fan base. "When we wrote The Baring of Shadows we had the goal of writing music that actively helped people," explains Mirolla. "So, we focused on offering catharsis. We wanted to break people's hearts in a helpful way, allowing them to expel pent up emotions that were holding them back and thus feeling thankful for the life that is around them. We found great success with this. People told us that after listening to that release, they dropped everything and hugged their kids, called the friend they hadn't spoken to in years, or picked up a hobby they had been putting off. That was so massively humbling for us. This album builds on that experience. Mark wrote these lyrics primarily because he often finds himself ruminating on the past, thinking about how much more sure and certain life was, and feeling overwhelmed by the chaos of the present. As a result, he sometimes gets stuck in a spiral of nostalgia that gets to be a bit obsessive. This lead us to gently hint at dementia through the album."
The record also follows a narrative laid out by Lang's spoken word parts. "It is an anecdotal tale from a fictional man's perspective late in life on how perception and reality do not always coalesce," explains Mirolla. "His experience tells a larger message of how our minds often create a false view of the past. Sean's narration is him expressing the man's perception and recollection of life. The failure of his memory, the nature of dementia, and how it plays into his experience are all encapsulated by the narrative sections." While Lang simply speaks his parts, Garrett possesses a phenomenal vocal range, branching from the heavenly and frail to multiple different extreme metal styles, and he follows his gut instincts when it comes to deciding which to employ. "I view myself in many ways as a support role to the songs. Nico, Alex, and Sean write music that is heavily focused on emotional storytelling. Because of this, and since I write vocals once the rest of the song is complete, I find myself both swept away in the emotion of the song and wanting to help further the cathartic experience of the listener even more. I lead in a very feeling-forward way. What emotions rise to the surface when listening to the music? Once I have that, how do I express those emotions in a way that brings me a sense of connection to what I'm feeling? That's how I write and decide what to do across the various songs."
With drums tracked in Lang's home studio, the band as always returned to Endless Gate Audio in Arizona to track guitar, bass and vocals. They then gathered at The Sound Lair in Tennessee - the first time this lineup has ever been in the same room together - to work with producer/mixer Miah Lajeunesse, the album mastered by Ryan Williams. The band also brought in Bohren & Der Club Of Gore's saxophonist Christoph Clöser - which was a life goal checked off for Mirolla - to add an extra flavor to haunting, epic closer "Beyond The Passage Of Embers", and Christopher Blaney added some piano parts alongside those of Rieth. Though the band have no intentions of touring the record they will continue to interact with their fans as they have long endeavored to, through kardashevband.com, and their 'Enlisted Traveler Program', which is similar to Patreon and "allows our supporters to be active viewers and listeners in our creative process. They get to hear early drafts, make suggestions on composition, and even give their thoughts on album concepts. It's quickly growing, and incredibly valuable to us as musicians to have outside motivation and encouragement. We want that connection to grow with the release of this album, and we're excited to meet and communicate with new people. Along with our unique sound, we're confident this release will resonate deeply with a wide audience."