Silent Bodies by Kodiak Empire

Release date: August 5, 2016
Label: Self-Released

Australia’s Kodiak Empire is a band that intrigues me right away.  Why, you may ask?  Well to put it simply, they have that unique ability to at first make me question if I’ve ever heard anything like them before, or if they closely relate to another band.  Let’s admit that not just music reviewers like myself, but music fans alike can tend to do this when hearing a new band.  So I’ve got to say that’s it’s refreshing (and somewhat rare in today’s jumbled musical climate) to experience this.

The five-piece takes a prog-rock backdrop, adds some post-rock/metal, gives us some technical outbursts, and serves up a concoction of instrumentally sound music with mature and dignified vocals to round out the package served to the music world.  And on their debut album Silent Bodies, the band lives up to those definitions.

Ocean And Sky’ starts us off with lots of melody in the instruments with accomplished arrangements and emotive vocals.  There are very forceful riffs and just well played guitar in general, and the bass compliments the guitar in a major way with giving the sound a rich bottom-end.  This song can best be described as slow and emotive prog-rock with some post-metal leanings.  It’s a great introduction to the band.  ‘Sun’ follows with nice use of keyboards when the music ramps up from the slow and peaceful movements of the beginning of the song.  The keys accent the guitar sound in a great and non-domineering way. It’s also used nicely throughout the slow bits as well.  ‘Paso Doble’ takes us to the midway point of the album with a slow song that generates to a decent build but stays at a medium groove for the whole song.

‘Connochaetes’ may very well be my favourite track, with it’s wonderfully disjointed opening with off-key time signatures that just works in the best way possible.  The band gets heavier on this track, with some growling vocals and a heavier push and emphasis of the instruments.  It’s almost reminiscent of a lighter version of The Dillinger Escape Plan.  I wasn’t expecting this sound based on the previous songs, but it works well to show that the band can move outside their parameters with ease.  With ‘Wild Swans’, the band turn down the heaviness on this song when compared to the last track, but show how different and varied the instrumentation can be from song to song with the group.  This track focuses more on guitar groove and theatrics, which mesh well with the keyboards, all while holding down some solid bass lines to keep everything in check.

‘Hakbah’ closes out the album with amazing instrumental theatrics with the cohesion of all members working together perfectly that I’ve enjoyed on this whole release thus far.  Bryce Carleton’s vocals don’t take away from any of this, but offer a great icing on the cake.  The song ends with a slow down approach until all that’s left is a beautiful piano outro.

This band is original in the best sense. Kodiak Empire sound like they do a form of controlled improv in a way with their arrangements, basically in the sense that they make the music sound like a jam but within a controlled atmosphere where they know where the sound is going.  It’s hard to achieve that in general for a lot of bands, so I can appreciate their approach in this atmosphere.

The main theme of the band’s sound is laid-back for the most part, which makes it that more special when they go through brief moments of spasticness.  And there’s a great production on this release as all the instruments are given an up-front prominence without sounding muddled.

I’m wonderfully surprised by this band as they show many different takes on technical and progressive rock, and throw in some surprises along the way, with a sound that can be built on for many releases to come.

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