The Chaotic Static Between Shadow and Substance, Handsome Karnivore’s second studio album, highlights this Los Angeles based four piece’s potential for being a major mover on the modern rock scene. It’s an obviously changed landscape for the genre when the Grammies choose to not air the rock portion of their television broadcast, but there’s opportunity to be found in these lulls for the right band. Handsome Karnivore fits the bill. They exude classic rock and roll attitude while presenting songs that are nothing less than a refreshing mix of jagged rock tropes with a splash of Latin and Caribbean influences tossed in for good measure. The potent brew is sure to compel a lot of people to listen and it genuinely pops on this recording in a way that will keep many listeners coming back for more.
Handsome Karnivore mixes things up in an unique way. There’s an abundance of rock on this album, spread out from beginning to end, but they never hesitate making use of numerous tools at their disposal to give familiar sounds a different zing than usual. The opening track “The Earthquake and the Swoon” sets a definite tone with its mix of spoken word poetry and tasteful, yet highly suggestive, musical atmospherics. The poetry is remarkably well handled, much better than you’d expect from a popular music band, and it segues quite effectively into the album’s second song “Fire Burning June”. This is definitely a hard hitting, mildly orchestrated tune with surprisingly strong vocal harmonies reflective of the band’s innate singing strengths. The second of the band’s two existing singles from the release, “Recurrent Dream”, has some nice electric guitar flourishes and enigmatic, yet occasionally bitingly specific, lyrical content. The second half of the tune features some especially effective changes.
There’s a solid sense of melody coming through with the song “Everything Will Be Alright” mixed with some more signature Handsome Karnivore harmonies and a bit of spoken word. Like some of the album’s other tunes, there’s a definite air of orchestration surrounding the tune and it has enough of an odd edge to make it different than average. “The Void” is an often pulverizing rocker with a surprising amount of swing while they explore the bluesier side of their influences with the tune “Can’t Be Satisfied”. The echoes with old blues numbers like the Muddy Waters classic are definitely intentional, but never belabored. “Hey You in the Mirror” has an acoustic jangle dominating much of the tune, but it shifts into a crushing guitar driven gear during the song’s second half and indulges in some more of the theatrics that make so many of these tunes stand apart from typical offerings. The quasi-electronic hum of “She Sings in Silver Linings” makes for one of the album’s best efforts and it’s difficult to forget. There’s a mournful bluesy shade defining the early part of “Flowers in the Attic” that grows increasingly powerful as the track goes on before finally settling into some bruising hard rock. “Unexpected”, the nearly ten minute closer, unveils some more surprises from the band’s bag of tricks and definitely works as the album’s emphatic final statement. Handsome Karnivore’s The Chaotic Static Between Shadow and Substance is one of 2018’s most formidable rock albums.