In this day and age, where we have every type of music imaginable within reach of our fingertips, you’ve likely heard a little bit of everything that exists by now. Every sound and genre combination that could exist already does in some way, shape, or form. Nothing is really new anymore – or so it seems. Well, I had one of those days where I doom-scrolled the day away on Reddit and was proven wrong. I struck gold; I came across a small group who go by Kardashev and their ‘trademark’ deathgaze sound. After keeping up with them over the past two years, I can confidently say that Kardashev is one name that you’re going to be hearing a lot of in the future when it comes to metal music.
My first time listening to Kardashev absolutely blew me away and most definitely left a long-lasting impression. This deathgaze sound was something that I’d never imagine would even exist, and I felt like I was really missing out on a lot not having heard of them before. Very few artists hit me in such a way right from the first listen – not even fully into any given song – as Kardashev did. Lantlôs’ Melting Sun and Holy Fawn’s Death Spells are the first two records that come to mind when thinking of super ethereal and emotionally captivating music that seamlessly blends that heavy sound I’ve grown to love. Kardashev’s The Almanac joins the two aforementioned albums to complete the holy trinity of heavy-gaze records.
As arrogant as it may seem, you see Kardashev labeling themselves as ‘beautiful metal’ across a variety of platforms. While metal music does have its beautiful qualities, that beauty usually comes from the contrast between the light, melodic, and the heavier passages – there are beautiful moments. Metal music itself isn’t inherently beautiful or particularly light on the ears, but we love the music regardless! I was skeptical of that self-proclaimed label at first, too, but Kardashev actually do make metal that is gorgeous in each and every single way, and yes, especially the super heavy moments. Their monstrously heavy nature and incredibly dreamy soundscapes never come at the expense of one another; they are one living, breathing entity that creates an unforgettable listening experience. No matter who you are, it is easy to appreciate the beauty and passion that Kardashev‘s music radiates so vibrantly.
I was curious if that deathgaze sound Kardashev have crafted was more of a happy accident or a calculated decision with the release of The Almanac. I spoke with Nico Mirolla, the guitarist and main composer of the band on the subject:
‘We’ve been 100% conscious of it since the beginning. The moniker ‘deathgaze’ was my design to be as accurate as possible to our influences when offering our album, The Almanac, to the world. I remember in the past getting a stern talking to by various subreddit communities telling me that we were neither death metal nor deathcore. This led me to believe we were somewhere in between. Considering our influences and sound, I decided that deathgaze was what we were, simply described as painfully beautiful death metal.’
Once you start The Almanac and get through the ambient introductory track, “Between Sea and Sky” is what follows and officially kicks off the record. The moment that song hits, it’s made damn clear you’re in for a magical journey into unexplored territory within the realm of death metal. Aside from the vocals on this particular track, the instrumentation is the real focal point. The way Kardashev craft chord progressions alone is sure to get the music stuck in your head, and that is only one part the music – tack on the airy, soaring vocals and ethereal guitar leads to elevate this dreamy journey to kingdom come. The way vocalist Mark Garrett ebbs and flows between animalistic shrieks and immensely tranquil singing only elevates this song to another level. Even with all these instrumental and vocal layers, there is so much clarity. You wouldn’t necessarily expect such a pristine sound from a small DIY band, but Kardashev know exactly what they’re doing and nail it on The Almanac.
Loosely, The Almanac can be explained as ‘your typical sci-fi prog metal’ type of record, but it feels like so much more than just another cookie-cutter ambi-djent conceptual record. The concept that makes up The Almanac spans several releases from Excipio onwards. I’d do a poor job at explaining it myself, so I suggest you go here if you want to read something more in-depth about it. One thing in particular that makes this record stand out from others is the inclusion of a unique language the band created themselves for the protagonist of the album’s storyline, who is referred to as The Traveler. This language, called Alunea, is how the Universe speaks to The Traveler. I myself cannot even fathom trying to create a language alone, and writing lyrics around a particular concept using said language is another challenge in and of itself. It makes this record and its story feel so much more tangible than the average sci-fi type of record that I forget the moment I’m done listening to it.
I was curious about the ‘logistics’ involved in creating a fictional language, so Nico had this to say about Mark’s creation, Alunea:
‘I remember Mark sort of made up the rules as he went, but he wanted to play with two main ideas: The first was removing, or at least attempting to remove, dipthongs; I promise thats a real word. A dipthong is when two vowel sounds combine to create their own syllable, like in the word ‘coin’. In Alunea, each of those vowels would be distinctly articulated. So in English, ‘coin’ is one syllable, but in Alunea it would be two. The second idea was that the length of the initial vowel sound in a word would give the word a concept of ‘more’.‘
When reading the Alunean lyrics, be it on the band’s website or through YouTube’s closed captions, take note of the words and how Mark enunciates them with these rules in mind. Hearing the inclusion of Alunean lyrics throughout some of the songs on The Almanac really makes me want to hear a whole album sung in that language. I will say that a little birdy (and by little birdy, I mean Nick from Kardashev) told me that there is a project unrelated to music that focuses heavily on the mysteries of Alunea. Who knows what that could possibly be, but I for one am beyond excited to dive down that rabbit hole when it becomes reality.
The songs on The Almanac carry so much power and raw beauty that I always become overwhelmed with feelings of catharsis. The way that both “Between Sea and Sky” and “Beyond Sun and Moon” close with a slow but immense wall of sound as those chords cascade over me is nothing short of breathtaking. The instrumentation is masterfully composed in such a way that it allows the music to grab you tighter than most other death metal bands ever could, with a perfect balance between technicality and musical reservation. Despite being unrelentingly heavy at times, I can always count on Kardashev‘s luscious soundscapes and atmosphere to completely wash over me and bring me a kind of peace that I didn’t know I could find. I don’t know how else to put it – The Almanac is pure bliss.
On their latest release, The Baring of Shadows, which was just re-released through Metal Blade Records, the band makes it clear that they have found their true calling with the sound they’ve crafted with The Almanac. Rather than continuing on telling the story about The Traveler, this release tries to portray the pain, suffering, anguish, and loss that is felt during various tragic events, with each song representing a particular event in this case. The lyrical content here was an experiment-of-sorts for the band, in which they sought to accurately portray those complex emotions through music despite not having experienced those feelings themselves. As much as I like to say this about The Almanac, The Baring of Shadows is Kardashev coming to true form, especially with Mark’s powerfully haunting vocals being much more of a driving force for the music. I can’t forget to mention that he sounds better than ever on this release as well.
Seriously, the outro to “Snow-Sleep” never fails to make me shiver with how melancholic and utterly alone that song makes me feel. This EP does a great job at allowing the listener to vicariously experience these tragic events. Since its inception, music was a way to tell stories effectively. Those stories teach us about things we haven’t experienced yet or perhaps won’t ever experience, for better or worse. Music that tells these tragic stories – as Kardashev does – is a perfect opportunity to learn more about the human experience and about ourselves. We will all go through loss at some point in our lives; it is unfortunate, but there is no way around it, and this music allows us to understand those life events a little better. It allows us to better process and understand all these complex feelings that more often than not overwhelm us in the worst of ways. Songs like this remind me what it’s like to feel human and alive, as we only realize how precious life really is during instances like the tragic events explained on The Baring of Shadows. Life is something we often take for granted, and music brings us back to reality and puts things in perspective.
As you can probably tell by now, Kardashev makes music that you can truly feel. The same goes for their earlier records (Peripety, IOTA, and Excipio), although this group really found their true calling with the sound they crafted and refined on The Almanac and The Baring of Shadows. They’ve been gaining so much more attention and spotlight with these last two releases, and it’s about time they receive the recognition that they deserve. Now that they just signed to Metal Blade Records, they’re only getting started…
Setting the music aside, the main thing that blows me away about Kardashev is their work ethic. They’ve been a small DIY band for basically their entire career, and their hard work finally paid off and they signed to Metal Blade several months ago. This band isn’t their only source of sustenance, financially and creatively, as all the members have their own projects/gigs to keep them busy. Mark Garrett has his growing youtube channel (Kardavox Academy) and offers vocal lessons as well. While Nico Mirolla heads Kardashev, he runs his own home studio for the band and also streams music-related goodness frequently on Twitch. Their bassist, Alex Rieth, is also part of Holy Fawn (what a coincidence that there is overlap between the heavy-gaze holy trinity). Finally, drummer Sean Lang owns his own marketing firm. On top of that, this group has their own black metal side-project called NeverBreath as well!
One thing I cannot forget to mention is how well-maintained their band website is – I’ve never seen a self-managed band site that has as much detail as Kardashev‘s site has. Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the band and their music is on there, from lyrics and inspiration for each album to conceptual breakdowns and gear rundowns for all the recordings. So if you’re interested in what you’re hearing about here, head over to their site and continue the exploration. With the effort they’ve put into the site, it is definitely worth your time to dive deeper down the Kardashev rabbit hole.
Nico Mirolla – guitar, songwriting
Mark Garrett – vocals
Alexander Rieth – bass
Sean Lang – drums
Now that they’ve finally made it to the big leagues by signing to Metal Blade, Kardashev are going get that much-deserved recognition. They can only go up from here, so I am beyond eager to hear what chapter is next in their career. Swing by their Facebook, Bandcamp, and label site if you want to stay in the loop of all things Kardashev. Even better is if you find yourself on their website and check out the Enlisted Traveler Program that provides a whole slew of exclusive behind the scenes content! If I had to wager what band I’d think would be the next hot thing, I’d confidently put all my money on this group right here.
What a well-written and humbling article! Thank you very much for the spotlight, JP!
Thank you for this thoughtful review.