Fans of instrumental rock and old school rock need to be on the lookout near the end of July for Handsome Karnivore’s debut album “Characteristics of Instrumental Silence.” Even though it’s their first recording together the trio from New Jersey sounds as if they’ve been playing together forever and they’re bringing some serious heat at you.
The album kicks off with a short lead in discussing the challenges of love. Handsome Karnivore uses some spoken word passages to open up and close out a number of the songs on the album. It’s a bit of a Def Poetry Jam but hosted by Dio instead of Mos Def. Typically with instrumental albums you are left to entirely develop your own understanding and emotional connection to a song or album. With these spoken word portions Handsome Karnivore pulls the curtain back enough to give you a glimpse and pull you in closer only to force you to develop the rest of the picture yourself. The album moves from this spoken word intro to “Love is Blind” which is a good opening track as it gives you a clue of what you’re in store for. “Love is Blind” begins with a bit of a surfer rock sound reminiscent of Dick Dale’s cover of “Misirlou” and eventually transforms itself into a dark metal sound (complete with Maniacal Laughter).
You can really feel the cohesiveness Handsome Karnivore has as the album progresses. “Shroud (for the Heart)” has some really fat Primus like bass lines that standout but are complimented perfectly by driving drums and understated riffs. The band’s range is unquestionable as they can transition from the jazzy feel of “Temporary Change” right into the fist pumping, head banging “Breakaway.” The most impressive feat that Handsome Karnivore is able to pull off with this album is their ability to transition through sounds of old school metal, surfer rock, prog rock, jazzy sounds, spoken word, and even some latin sounds seamlessly without taken 15 minutes per track to do it.
My favorite tracks of the album would have to be “Through the Looking Glass” and “Reflections.” “Through the Looking Glass” begins with a cryptic spoken word passage and then slays for a short period of time. The song transitions back and forth between heavier and mellow moments for the first half of the song. The last half of the song is pretty progressive however and gives that old school hard rock sound. “Reflections” has a lot of the same elements in it (opens with spoken word passages and displays more of a progressive vibe than some of the other songs) and even adds a bit of a Latin vibe. There is a very noticeable build up that pays off very nicely with a famous (fake) Sean Connery quote.
Handsome Karnivore’s “Characteristics of Instrumental Silence” in an impressive group of songs that are able to stand on their own but also create a story when combined together. Their ability to succinctly wrap many different sounds without forcing the listener to wait a long period of time before getting the payoff is beyond impressive. If Jeff Beck joined The Sword to release an instrumental album "Characteristics of Instrumental Silence" might be it.
Buy this Album if you like: Old School metal, This Will Destroy You, Jeff Beck, The Sword