I went to see Karnivool at The Roundhouse a couple of weeks ago. There I was, minding my own business, when I saw a man holding some CDs and flyers. I was immediately gripped by that feeling every person feels whenever they see some lecherous creature like this; a mixture of horror and inevitability. Ordinarily, I would merely pretend to not understand English and yell in harsh German (you’d be amazed by how quickly spruikers will back off if you shriek “SPRECHEN SIE DEUTSCH??????” at them and then walk on with a dismissive wave), but for whatever reason, I stopped and spoke to this young man. A damn good thing I did, too, because it turned out that he was in a Melbourne-based experimental rock band called Copia, and what he showed me was good.
The album is Eleven: Eleven. I’m not going to judge this album in the traditional way, because it’s a true album. All these songs only truly work in a full play through. That’s not to say that they don’t work on an individual level, either. It’s just that they work so well collectively that it almost seems unfair to draw the comparison. You can listen to one song, another song, and it’s kind of okay. You listen to the whole record, and suddenly you say “Yes. YES. THIS is what they were going for.”
Australian progressive rock has a strong pedigree. Karnivool and Dead Letter Circus are the two best examples of this, and they share certain elements. The album art, for instance, is generally a ‘progressive’ kind, with a common theme of mind expansion. It’s a concept that Tool explored heavily on Aenima, Lateralus and 10,000 Days, and it has to do with humanity attaining a higher plane of evolution. In particular, the idea of the human brain coming to a point where we are all interconnected by a telepathic bond and the endless possibilities that come with that. Copia have appropriated this and added their own bizarre spin, with the cover art featuring a human head and what appear to be screaming sperm cells fleeing from the scalp.
Musically, these three bands also share several stylistic features. Polyrhythms, mathy tempos, ludicrous bass, inspired composition and brilliant musicianship are all the hallmarks of a great band. However, the beauty of Karnivool and Dead Letter Circus is that they play their guitars, bass and drums and that’s it. They don’t need to add anything else. Their effects pedals are all they need. Copia, however, utilise colossal symphonic elements to brilliant effect. I have no doubt that they could create a flawless listening experience if they were forced to eschew these symphonic elements, but they would be fools to do so.
There are issues (the run-time, in particular, is daunting), but damn it, I don’t want to waste your time complaining because that time would be better spent listening to Copia. Go buy Eleven: Eleven and listen to it, and remember, the next time you get stopped on the street by a random person trying to flog some worthless crap, yell at them in German. Works every time.