Deathgaze quartet Kardashev are perfect candidates for a track-by-track breakdown of their new Metal Blade release, Liminal Rite, as it’s a concept album with a rather thoughtful and layered theme that bears closer examination to appreciate its nuances. The Tempe, Arizona-based foursome—Nico Mirolla (guitars), Mark Garrett (vocals), Alex Rieth (bass), Sean Lang (drums)—released their second full-length recently on June 10, and provide us here with all the details of how the story unfolds as the album progresses.
Before we get into the songs, though, let’s hear from Mirolla about the concept itself:
“Liminal Rite explores how the past can both wound and seduce, leading us down a path of self-destruction. It’s an anecdotal tale from a fictional man’s perspective late in life on how perception and reality do not always coalesce. His experience tells a larger message of how our minds often create a false view of the past. [Drummer] Sean Lang provides the narration expressing the man’s perception and recollection of life. The failure of his memory, the nature of dementia, and how it plays into his experience are all encapsulated by the narrative sections.”
Liminal Rite is available on CD, LP and digitally, and can be purchased here.
1. The Approaching of Atonement
“The further from you I get,
The more your face is clouded.”
The album opens with the Lost Man arriving at his childhood home. At first, he is flooded with joy, comfort and even a sense of completion. The cornfield near his home sways beautifully, albeit unkempt and rife with weeds. A wind chime, somehow still hanging from a wooden beam on the front porch, gently rings out across the breeze. However, his joy seems to be deeply intertwined with sadness, which quickly turns into regret. The sweet taste of returning quickly makes him feel even farther away. But he is resolute. He will remember those he has forgotten. He will reclaim the certainty of life he had as a child. He presses the sorrow down, summons forth a hollow determination, and steps forward into the cornfield.
2. Silvered Shadows
“I pulled the golden cornsilk from my hair.
Hand made curtains drew me home.
I am a silvered shadow of old air.
Where I lived now overgrown.”
The Lost Man walks through the cornfield and finds an old willow tree he used to play near as a child. He remembers hiding a small tin box of keepsakes he buried near the base, and painstakingly digs it up. Slumped by the trunk and submerged in the swaying green field, he holds up a small coin that he was once so proud of. It reflects the sun and, for a moment, he remembers why he kept it. He removes another small item—a secret note he wrote and tucked away. Unraveling the decaying page, he suddenly remembers the cloth that he used to tie the small scroll shut. He tore it from his mother’s apron . . . the apron that she made. Wracked with a sudden sense of longing, he stands and looks across the field to his home. A ripped and stained curtain hangs in the window. Something sewn by hand. Back when things were made with care. Back when things mattered. Looking down at his wizened hands he feels the distance as an aching reality. A quick breath—he steels himself with a clenched fist and a sharp breath and makes his way toward the sagging house.
3. Apparitions in Candlelight
“Light the candle in the middle of the room.
Burn your bridges to a past that has been lost.”
The Lost Man stands in what was once the living room of his home. It has been ransacked, squatted, degraded by animals and blasphemed by the sacrilege of time. He sees a chair toppled over, splintered and cracked. Looking closer there are words carved underneath, “I am invisible”. He squeezes his eyes shut and tries to remember. What was he hiding from when he wrote those words? What caused him so much fear? A dull flash of recollection glides across his mind. He was young. He had been playing with fire . . . he dropped a match. His father was angry and he, the Lost Child, was scared. Opening his eyes he remembers trying to be invisible and often attempting to be unseen. A cold hole in his stomach begins to grow as he realizes how much of his life is absent from his mind. His fingers turn and rotate a box of matches in the pocket of his jacket. He can’t regain the memories he once had. He has no life to return to. A cool breeze brushes his cheek and he looks up. His mother’s sewing room brings light into the room, catching the dust, and beckons him to come in.
4. Dissever (instrumental)
5. Lavender Calligraphy
“Inside the dresser
That was there far before I could stand,
Your molded letter
Folded there in a drawer left unsent.”
The sewing cabinet, his mother’s favorite possession, weakly leans against the wall. A leg is broken and the doors have been ripped off. The white paint has peeled and betrays the splintered, buckled wood beneath. Stepping inside, the Lost Man sees the trappings of nature’s reclamation: spiderwebs in the rafters, illuminated by light pouring in through a hole in the ceiling, Vines and termite trails trace a filigree along the walls, and the floor wears a carpet of mold, moss and animal beds. He pulls open a drawer, forcing it against its will. Flooded with memory, his mother’s old prayer book sits torn and warped. The pages crack open to reveal a pressed lavender flower and the written whisperings of a woman struggling against love and fear.
The Lost Man closes the prayer book. How did he not see how much pain he had caused his mother? How did he not know that his regret would bleed him dry, and spread to his family for the disease that it was? Placing the book back inside, he notices a folded piece of paper, yellowed by time and damp. Opening it, he reads her apology. The letter was written years after he left. Reading the plea for him to come back causes his knees to buckle and his hands to grip his chest. He had come back, but far too late.
6. The Blinding Threshold
“There are fragments in my mind of who I once was,
But the memories are obscured by regrets….
By apologies I’ll never have the chance to make”
Regret compounds upon regret, and the Lost Man sinks into the oubliette that is the ramshackle building he has found himself in. His mind lapses as he stumbles from room to room. The walls seem to have moved. The architecture seems to have shifted. The faces in his mind blur and become dithered icons of confusion. Blurred eyes deceive his steps as he lurches through the kitchen and toward the back door. The screen door crashes open and the sun strikes his face. He wipes his eyes, and the yard takes form. His breath catches in his chest as he remembers. A mound in the dirt and a weathered headstone mock him as he steps down from the porch.
7. Compost Grave-Song
“Show me your face, my brother forgotten.
Let me go.
Let me recall.”
The slow unraveling of the mind is terror, but the curse of remembering is often more painful still. The Lost Man stands by the grave of his brother. The headstone has fallen and the ground is covered in weeds and decaying leaves. The Lost Man lets out a sound of disgust at how close his brother had been buried to their compost pile. Laying a child to rest so close to rotting food and unwanted plants brings up old ghosts of fury that he thought he had locked deeply away. The autumn air has chilled the stone and pressing his forehead against the cold surface seems to close the distance between him and his brother. Tears feed the thistles and ivy as the past reaches up and pulls him toward the dirt. He threw the stone that killed his brother. He had only meant to scare him, but there was no way to rewrite the story. Death was on his hands. Death has stained his palms for over fifty years, and it continued to haunt him under the skeletal shade of his memory.
8. Cellar of Ghosts
“This is all I knew . . . I ran.
Dead men don’t come home . . . I’ll rest.”
The air is damp and heady, carrying the aroma of moss and wet drywall. The Lost Man smiles weakly as he remembers stealing sips of his parents’ wine. They must have known, of course, and yet he and his brother felt so proud of their mischief. But whatever remnants there are of the wine collection are now unrecognizable and shattered in the corner. The Lost Man closes his eyes and leans his head against the decaying frame. He hears the deep groan of overgrown trees swaying in the wind and pressing into the eaves of the house. But here, below the earth, he is almost able to pretend that his childhood is back. He can imagine that to descend the stairs would be to step back to a time when his brother was alive, when his mother didn’t cry and when his father loved him. Whereas only moments ago he wished to sleep and never wake again, things were different now. He would stay awake as long as possible, wrestling this small shimmer of peace into submission.
9. Glass Phantoms
“Shattered glass in the light!
Apparition of thought in my mind!
Clarity caught in my throat!
Oh, It hurts to know!”
The Lost Man’s addiction to control fails him. He ascends the stairs, exits the house and finds himself standing in the spot where his father knelt so many years ago. Guilt masked by anger grabs him by the chest and he curses the earth beneath him. The death of his brother rises to the surface of his mind like a cloud of locusts swarms a field, ripping and tearing until hunger is satiated. He clutches a stone and sees the ghostly effigy of his father’s hand doing the same. Images of the tragedy that took his brother away flood the Lost Man, and he remembers the fury of his father as the truth was laid bare. But . . . what was it, that grave mistake that manifested by his own actions? The memory is too far in the ground, buried under broken glass and isolation. But this time will be different. This time he will not be cast aside. He is home, and he would rather die than suffer the loss of his past for a second time.
10. A Vagabond’s Lament
“For a shadow to be cast,
There a man must stand.
But on the pulled up floors
Of my childhood
Below me –
A sunbleached love of the past!”
Minutes or hours have passed, but it doesn’t matter anymore. All doors to the trap of the Lost Man’s mind have been sealed and the windows have been shut. The sun no longer peeks through the windows. There is no shadow where he stands. In the squall of regret and longing, the Lost Man has ceased to be. He finds himself back in the living room, but it means nothing. None of these walls are the same that guarded him as he grew. The floors are not the same as those that carried him when he was young. There is nothing but unattached objects of no relationship, and he is nothing more than a coincidence. A fleeting formation of matter. A sharp and stinging smell fills all empty spaces. A small spark roars its dominance. The Lost Man falls backwards onto the floor and gives himself completely to the closure of flame.
11. Beyond The Passage of Ember
“As a curling silhouette
I can finally let go.”
Fire climbs the walls and licks the ceiling. The Lost Man watches as the flames feed on the last remnants of his memory. The paint bubbles and pulls from the walls and the bones of the home creak and groan. Laying back, he sees black smoke crawling from room to room, and he smiles softly. A tall flame grows in the doorway and he laughs softly. As though the pillar of light is the spirit of someone he once knew, he asks it to take him home. To tell his family that he is coming to them. His shadow flutters on the wall behind him, but the old structure gives way under the heat and hunger of the now blazing inferno. The roof caves in, as does the ground below him. He is swallowed into the depths of his home, and into the crater of his dying mind.
The night passes and the sun rises. There is no man. There is no home. There is only the dirge of insects who do not mourn a human’s passing, and the earth continues to be as it was.