Handsome Karnivore seemed loaded for bear at making a big national splash with their second studio album The Chaotic Static Between Shadow and Substance. They’ve made some waves and played important venues since their 2012 formation, but this latest thirteen song collection seems designed as a deliberate lunge for increased prominence in a contracting musical scene.
Risking hyperbole, I think it’s safe to say that it’s bands like Handsome Karnivore who have the best chances of arresting the commercial decline of rock music and expanding its audience thanks to their unique confluence of sound and stylistic approaches. There are some classic poses anyone who has listened to a lot of rock will recognize on The Chaotic Static Between Shadow and Substance, but there’s a lot of truly individualistic songwriting perspectives and turns rising to the surface that make this band and their material stand out from the pack.
“The Earthquake and The Swoon” begins the album with some high ambition. This is a brief number and largely dependent, musically, on ambient sounds and understated instrumentation, but the spoken word addition to the track is its most notable feature. Hazarding a guess that lead guitarist Franco Zizza is responsible for the delivery, it accentuates the band’s writing skills without ever becoming too theatrical.
It immediately transitions into the album’s second track and one of its marquee singles, “Fire Burning June”. The evocative power of the band’s poetry finds an excellent vehicle in this nearly exhortative form – the guitars has great flair without ever lapsing into overplaying and the song is arranged with an ear towards dynamics. “In the Lands We Used To Run”, a more elegiac side of the band’s songwriting point of view emerges than what we’ve heard with the opening cuts and their melodic and vocal strengths are given, once again, a particularly effective illustration. The second of the album’s first two singles, “Recurrent Dream”, exhibits the same penchant for putting a lot on their musical plate while still never overwhelming listeners with an exorbitant amount of sonic clutter.
“Silhouette of Rouge” is one of the album’s more delicately rendered numbers and, arguably, the band’s melodic talents are never better displayed than they are here. It sharply contrasts with the spirited rocker “The Void”, but the audience is treated to one of the album’s better lyrics with this cut. “Can’t Be Satisfied” is a pleasant excursion into much more outright bluesy territory than what we might have assumed possible from the band based on the earlier tracks, but they provide listeners with a truly distinctive spin on this traditional form and it reeks of authenticity.
“She Sings in Silver Linings” is another wildly inventive number, almost pure electronica, but there’s still an ample rock and roll heart beating beneath its surface. The Chaotic Static Between Shadow and Substance ends with “Unexpected”, a guitar showcase with a decidedly epic bent to it and definitely an unexpected ending. This thirteen song release boasts unique power that doesn’t readily leave listener’s imagination following the final song’s conclusion. Instead, this is a studio platter that demands multiple revisits.
Hear more Handsome Karnivore on SPOTIFY: https://open.spotify.com/artist/7iAmIC0J779k9JMendF8eg
-review by Lance Wright