Karpenter – Sleepless Review

You’d be forgiven for thinking Karpenter is a woodworker in the Mortal Kombat universe, likely employed on perpetual retainer for the constant replacing of broken and bloodstained planks in Shang Tsung’s courtyard and throne room. Turns out it’s a reference to director/composer extraordinaire John Carpenter, whom you may be familiar with if you like synths and horror films whatsoever. Despite the name, the first thing that crossed my mind when Sleepless began wasn’t horror but rather how strange it is that I, along with some others, still immediately think of the 90s when the phrase “ten years ago” is uttered instead of 2011. Karpenter plays an Americanized version of the Swedish sound which was foundational to bands like As I Lay Dying, along with the Swedish take on that Americanized Swedish sound which was done by Soilwork and In Flames on Stabbing the Drama, Sworn to a Great Divide, A Sense of Purpose, and Come Clarity. The newest of the above is thirteen years old, the oldest sixteen – Karpenter is an unintentionally hard-hitting commentary on the passage of time. Anyway, since you can’t call your band Karpenter and not have any keyboards, there’s a Children of Bodom influence as well, specifically from Are You Dead Yet? and Blooddrunk. There’s also some Dark Tranquillity via We Are the Void and vocally I hear both Machine Head and the perpetually underrated Sanctity. The combination of the above results in what I suppose can be termed “modern metal.”

Like Feed Her to the Sharks, Karpenter will appeal largely to people who grew up during that period mentioned above and were steeped in the type of music that influenced what’s on display here. Every song, save a decent introductory synth and guitar piece, is structured as a typical rock song, ending before the four-minute mark eight out of ten times and virtually always before five. For better or for worse, this is musical candy – it doesn’t exactly have a ton of substance, gets sugary and predictable fairly quickly, but in the right circumstances is nonetheless enjoyable. Whether one has the will or patience to give the modest thirty-five minutes of Sleepless their attention depends entirely on how hungry they are for Karpenter’s brand of musical candy. For what it’s worth, the shell is crunchy and modern, courtesy of a quintessential Jacob Hansen production.

As mentioned, the songs here follow a pattern quickly established. The fun and simple “Shark” has a little intro with a Jaws sample, but in reality that doesn’t do much save fill space – it’s too short to have any legitimate impact and you know exactly what’s coming afterwards because by this point you’re nearly halfway through Sleepless. What’s coming is a chorus with a lead melody that’ll remind you of In Flames and/or Soilwork in the mid-late aughts, with the vocals performing a subservient melody which doesn’t distract from the guitars. I like “The Hardest Party,” but it only stands out from the other songs because the melody in its requisite spot appeals to me slightly more than others. Once the happy nostalgia is put aside, what’s left is predictable, decent songs that don’t elevate themselves into big, popular metal hits like their influences did, but not for lack of trying. On the strength of Sleepless, I could see Karpenter on a bill with Ice Nine Kills or some similar band. What I can’t see is a record of lasting impact and import.

As someone in the particular niche Sleepless sounds like it caters to, I can see myself returning to it now and again. It’s fun for what it is, but even at thirty-five minutes it can begin to grow a bit stale before it concludes. While thirty-five minutes is a properly concise length for a record, there’s a difference between eating a ten-ounce steak and eating ten ounces of gummy worms, and Karpenter represents the latter. Nevertheless, I still like Sleepless. If I wasn’t reviewing this, I wouldn’t have thought nearly so hard about it. Instead, I would’ve just enjoyed the little nostalgia trip for what it was, moved on, and maybe returned later. This isn’t a record which lends itself to thinking anyway – you put it on, turn it up, and let the agreeable, consonant, and fun sounds wash over you when the mood strikes. Perhaps that’s why this review proved difficult to write – instead of just enjoying the musical candy, I had to go and try to explain what a “blue raspberry” tastes like and why I occasionally like it.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: Rockshots Records
Websites: karpenter-band.it | facebook.com/karpenterband
Releases Worldwide: May 28th, 2021

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