Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Kylesa: Spiral Shadow (2010)


Georgia sludge metal stars Kylesa are likely the second- or third-best known band from a scene that's been getting a lot of attention lately (after Mastodon, and possibly tied with Baroness). And their latest, Spiral Shadow, has been getting a lot of attention lately.

Kylesa initially stood out from their sludge metal scene because of an unusual dual-drummer arrangement. (My guess is they saw Mastodon's Brann Dailor, and decided having two drummers was almost as good as having him.) They also stood out for having a female vocalist/guitarist in addition to the male vocalist/guitarist. With Spiral Shadow they've found a unique and mature sound, so they'll stand out even more.

While turning up the psychedelic flavor (check "Cheating Synergy"), they've also added new wrinkles. People have made a lot of comparisons to 90's indie rock, and Pixies gets mentioned often. Since the only time I've heard them was at the end of Fight Club, I'm no expert on that. But around "Don't Look Back", the indie rock influence is unmistakable, even for someone unfamiliar with it. That one takes those influences too far (as does "Back and Forth"), but on the rest of the album it seems to work very well. The title track is a perfect example.

They haven't always made very good use of the two-drummer/male-female-vocalist set-up, but since last year's excellent Static Tensions they've been better at it. Album highlight "Drop Out" showcases both features magnificently, and has one hell of a riff to hold it together. "Crowded Road" and head-bobbing opener "Tired Climb" showcase the drums and vocals (respectively) to stunning effect.

(Side note: I have a hard time getting past how much the album cover looks like Watain's new album, but I'm guessing that's just an accident, because the two bands have almost nothing in common--aside from being at the forefront of their respective genres.)

The Verdict: Kylesa have finally staked out their own sound. While it will probably have a lot of people screaming "sell-out", I don't think indie rock is exactly the kind of influence that's going to move a lot of records off the shelf. I'm not crazy about the new influences, but the album is still quite good, and has a mellow sludge tone that's very enjoyable. I give it 4 out of 5 stars. Expect their next album to be even better.

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