As I May – Karu Review

In my 2019 review of As I May’s sophomore album called My Own Creation (MOC), I opened with the band’s one-sheet and their description as “modern metal.” I commented that this descriptor usually signifies metalcore, while deliberately avoiding the word “metalcore.” I was right, and apparently, As I May took this as a challenge. 2022’s Karu is instead described as “melodic metal,” an equally infuriating and vague combination of words. More than just ‘core, this sometimes demarcates a sojourn into hard rock and AOR. What’s the truth of the matter this time?

I wish I could say that Karu eschews the trappings of modern metalcore, but in reality it exhibits a number of hallmarks of the genre, including chewy grooves, snippets of electronic influences, snappy song-writing, a hybrid light/heavy vocal approach and chorus-centricity. In this way, it’s similar to MOC, especially with its focus on big, hooky choruses. Where it differs from MOC is that the songs’ opening leads now generally offer the strongest moments on the record. The opener called “Charged” exemplifies these qualities, with a meaty, powerful introductory riff and a supremely catchy vocal refrain. Equally, the tracks which offer weaker introductions and choruses fall down. Karu has a decidedly flabby mid-section, with cuts like “High Octane, “Under the Gun” and “Black Ink” failing to leave a mark.

It is also unfortunate that while the song openings tend to feature the best material, the quality there accentuates the lack thereof that typically follows. Most tracks transition from rocking introductions to limp verses which replace the solid riffs with guitars that merely accompany the central vocal melodies. Effectively, one of the record’s strongest aspects is curtailed for something worse: the vocals. While the death growls are robust, the moments of juxtaposition1 between these and the clean singing emphasize that the latter degrades my enjoyment. Adequate is as generous as I can be, and they hamstring the catchier melodies which may otherwise excel. And where the melodies are less memorable, my ambivalence becomes distaste. This is especially the case on the worse tracks I’ve already highlighted.

Nonetheless, that Karu runs for just 30 minutes across 9 tracks is an advantage. The song-writing is direct and brief, with songs running between 3:12 and 3:41. This leaves space for an introduction, a couple of rounds of verses and choruses, and a solo or other instrumental passage. It’s no more or less than it needs to be, and I’ll stand behind predictable, hook-oriented songs any day. However, the directness and brevity sometimes result in bad and/or non-existent transitions. Heavy and light passages often start and stop on a dime, with no blurring. The transitions from verse to bridge, or bridge to chorus, suffer particularly, including on “Charged” which I previously praised. “Charged” also features a heavy instrumental passage, which is then replaced with a quasi-spoken word passage, which is then replaced with its conclusion. It’s jarring and doesn’t fit the song which came before. And while the strength of the song’s chorus papers over the cracks on the first couple of listens, this is not the case for the songs with blander melodies.

As I May strike me as a band that I’ll never love, toiling away in relative mediocrity. There are things I admire on Karu, as there were on MOC, but these don’t overcome the flaws, including the unexciting verses, patchy inter-track quality and song-writing which lacks finesse. It’s a somewhat more consistent offering than MOC but also lacks its highs. I can’t hear a particular reason to recommend the release, even for fans of metalcore.


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: Uprising Records
Websites: asimay.com | facebook.com/asimay
Releases Worldwide: March 4th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. See me after class. – Steel
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