Kylesa review reposted…
Originally ran last week @ dustedmagazine.com
Kylesa haven’t released a new full-length in a couple of years, yet they remain one of the very few perfect progenitors of heavy music/metal, and an example of how and why said genre has been saved from the stagnate death rattle uttered by practically every other style remaining in whatever constitutes a musical “underground” these days.
Kylesa’s second and third full-length releases, which first appeared in 2005 and 2006, are paramount in understanding the RIGHT way to mature and progress as a heavy band. This is important, seeing as how the entire world seems to be hearing the WRONG way to do the same via Baroness’s shift from the Blue album to the Yellow / Green fiasco. (Another right way to add melodic greatness to inherent intensity can be found on Torche’s Harmonicraft). But while Baroness’s Yellow / Green currently acts as a pathetic distraction from Harmonicraft, Kylesa’s To Walk a Middle Course and Time Will Fuse Its Worthare now available to provide some big-picture hope for true underground music fans who may have turned to the realm of heavy music/metal for salvation.
Heavy music/heavy metal is still saddled with one albatross that repels the majority of its potential fans: the vocals. The problem is not the fear, intensity, aggression, anger or general negativity of growled, shrieked, gurgled, bellowed or any other inhuman singing…the problem is that these approaches sound ridiculous, if not sadly hilarious, when they originate from an adult over the age of 25. Very few bands get it right. Early Burzum, for instance, is the sound of vocal perfection through overwhelming mood and a low mixing job. Of course, Kylesa isn’t, nor were they ever, a death or black metal band; like the also brilliant His Hero is Gone/Tragedy, Mastodon, Neurosis, Torche/Floor, Pig Destroyer, Brutal Truth and other bands existing in this upper echelon, Kylesa came to heavy from the crustier, more grind-savvy phenomenon of the 1990s that could be called “The Great Thickening of Hardcore.” And Kylesa, as is apparent on these two records, were restless when it came to the vehicle used to deliver their lyrics. Everything else is put together so nicely that the vocal acrobatics couldn’t lessen the impact, even if they were executed in a more unfortunate manner.
To Walk a Middle Course was recorded in October 2004 as the band’s first for Prosthetic Records, two years after their self-titled debut came out on Prank Records (home to His Hero is Gone and a gazillion other crust/sludge/fastcore notables). That debut had little of the urban psychedelic elements that made To Walk… such an engaging, dynamic step forward, especially in relation to the Southern heavy music scene circa 2005. Paying minimal attention to To Walk a Middle Coursewill reveal a band that knows how to make a massive footprint while hitting points all over the map, and not just the heavy music / heavy metal map, either.
Contrary to the rest of the album, opener “In Memory” unleashes a blunt force heaviness defined by an off-kilter gallop that could be forward-thinking death metal (multiple forms of vocal nastiness are applied, as well) until the surprise detours into pitch-shifted intermissions, slowed to a wobbly seasickness within the context of massive sludge. While “In Memory” will never be confused with anything off of Static Tensions or Spiral Shadow (2010), the signature Kylesa sound can be detected, albeit in a developmental incarnation, on To Walk A Middle Course. “Bottom Line” features Philip Cope’s melodic yell-sing and Laura Pleasant’s screams of “I Owe You Nothing!”from deep in the mix…all on top of a barn-burner that surpasses even the best Tragedy has to offer (and be sure, Tragedy is no weak link in this realm). Then there’s the one-two punch to the heart that ends the album, “Phantoms” and “Crashing Slow.” The former starts out as a nod to Neurosis’ beautiful “Away,” then shape-shifts into crust-core with appropriately adjusted vocals. Before the instrumental beauty of “Crashing Slow,” its preceding tour of utter despair has stared into an awful reality (both via the lyrics and the brutally-melancholic sections of the song).
Time Will Fuse Its Worth was the first Kylesa album to feature the not-so-secret weapon of two drummers. Immediately a mind-blowing addition in the live setting by way of its obvious visual attributes, pluralizing the drum kit is a notoriously tough one to communicate on record without slipping into the troubling waters of tribal nonsense, and very few bands have mastered this for both live and studio avenues. Kylesa would get about halfway there with Time Will Fuse…, and the change fit like a glove by the time Static Tensions (2009) rolled around after three years of road-dogging it. But halfway there is to be commended, especially considering the pre-packed denseness of mid-decade Kylesa. And because the quartet was learning how to trim back the blunt-force trauma inherent to their crust-metal template, Time Will Fuse Its Worth’s intensity level matches that of its predecessor.
Let’s thank Alternative Tentacles for allowing writers, listeners and newer fans the chance to hear and process where it all started to fall into place for Kylesa. Each of these vinyl-only reissues are pressed in editions of 1,000, so get while the getting is….well, still possible.
By Andrew Earles