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Kodiak Empire — Urashima
(Bandcamp no#, 2015, DL)

Kodiak Empire — Silent Bodies
(Bird's Robe no#, 2016/2022, CD / DL)

Kodiak Empire — The Great Acceleration
(Bird's Robe no#, 2022, CD / LP / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2023-06-03

Urashima Cover artSilent Bodies Cover artThe Great Acceleration Cover art

While I can’t say what a band from Brisbane, Australia has to do with an island off the coast of Alaska, I can say that Kodiak Empire makes some pretty interesting music. Looking back to their debut EP in 2015, we find something like a post-rock band infused with a bit of The Mars Volta’s hyperactive progressive rock. Urashima contains five tracks, four of which have Japanese titles — there are two substantial songs with shorter mood-setting pieces before, after, and between them. The music ranges from atmospheric washes of sound to melodic vocal tracks with busy drumming. “Indus” is the highlight of the set, with its varying sections of super-aggressive bass and heavy drums contrasting with clean guitars and tightly-arranged accents. Keyboards are mostly in a supportive role, but are integral to the sound. Aside from the annoying electronic glitches in “Otohime,” it’s a very promising debut, and definitely pointed the way for their first album, Silent Bodies, which was originally released in 2016 and then picked up for wider distribution by Bird’s Robe in early 2022. “Ocean and Sky” is a declaration of intent, with Joseph Rabjohns’ varied guitar parts, Benjamin Shannon’s powerful drumming, Bryce Carleton’s strong vocals, and the shimmering keyboards of Josh Engel. Through the course of the song, they touch on a number of different sounds, with some sections built on heavy riffing and others with ringing chords. The way Carleton belts out the lyrics over the complex background definitely hints at The Mars Volta, though the result is generally less frantic. “Paso Doble” and “Wild Swans” are also great songs, resulting in a very strong album. “Connachaetes,” named for the genus containing wildebeest, is a relatively short, punkish blast of intensity featuring some wild saxophone by guest John Stefulj. “Wild Swans” ups the math-rock factor with some intricate rhythmic interplay.

2022 brought the release of The Great Acceleration, Kodiak Empire’s second “full-length” album. With only minor developments, it continues the band’s established style. At times it seems that keyboards have stepped up a bit in prominence, and there is perhaps more of the anthemic side of the band and less of the hyperactive side. That being said, “The Difference” and “Animist” are especially good tracks, catchy and energetic. At less than 30 minutes in length, The Great Acceleration is on the short side, which maybe means that the band doesn’t want to rush things — six years to produce 29 minutes of music seems excessive, but we did have a global pandemic in there, and that no doubt threw all plans out the window. It is a really solid 29 minutes, well worth checking out for fans of modern progressive rock.

Filed under: New releases, 2015 releases, 2022 releases, 2016 recordings

Related artist(s): Kodiak Empire

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