Kylesa – Spiral Shadow


Artist

Album

Spiral Shadow

Label

Season of Mist

Year

2010

For Fans Of

Mastodon – Baroness – Neurosis

Summary

Experimental rockers blossom on album number five

Rating

85 / 100

Music genres can sometimes be restrictive. When a band gains exposure for a certain sound or style, they can fall into a trap of forever being limited to writing music that coincides with the genre they’ve been slapped with. Likewise, the music industry and consumers often prefer to lump bands into easily definable little sub-groups and will coin new genres in an attempt to continuously do so (just look at how often the suffix `core’ is thrown around). Thus, it’s always refreshing when a band like Kylesa comes along to inject the burgeoning heavy music scene with some fresh ideas and a sound that defies easy genre classification.

Like any great band, Kylesa are a constantly evolving unit. Their fifth full-length album, Spiral Shadow, testifies to their desire to transcend the boundaries of contemporary metal and push their sound in new directions. An initial listen to this album will draw comparisons to forward thinking outfits like Mastodon and Baroness, and like these bands, Kylesa fuse different elements into their music including psychedelic and ambient moments right through to mammoth riffs that hurtle along under the band’s twin drum attack. Yet, unlike some of their peers, while their abrasive side is evident during the thunderous chug of "Tired Climb" and "Forsaken", they also take the bold step of injecting borderline pop-rock moments laced with infectious melody into their already complex mix.

"Don’t Look Back" is a case in point. It marks the sound of Kylesa extending their creative wings, straying away from their dark persona and exposing a lighter side to the band. It’s both heavy and memorable, with Phillip Cope and Laura Pleasants sharing vocal duties during its uplifting chorus. "Back And Forth" is another song digressing from their sludge metal roots in favour of a straightforward rock tune. The increased melody sounds like a natural progression that Kylesa is not forcing or doing half-heartedly. It’s still heavy enough to keep longtime fans happy while covering new ground to potentially extend their fan base.

At the other end of the scale are songs that delve into Spiral Shadow’s bleak, sludge riddled depths. "Cheating Synergy" begins slowly with fuzzy bass and swirling keyboards before launching into a flurry of chugging guitars complete with Laura Pleasants’ piercing growl. Elsewhere, the tribal rhythms of drummers Carl McGinley and Tyler Newberry up the intensity of "Drop Out" and "Crowded Road" as spacey effects and heaving riffs summon an ominous atmosphere. Two drummers may sound excessive on paper, but on record, the duo’s intertwined hammering results in a distinct primal sound that compliments the moments of experimentation and meandering psychedelia.

Conclusion

Drifting from psychedelic soundscapes one minute to thunderous progressive rock territory the next, Spiral Shadow is an enchanting aural journey to lose yourself in. Not content with settling into the groove of any particular scene, Kylesa have crafted their own blend of heavy rock by throwing a variety of influences into an already crowded melting pot of ideas. The result is an innovative mix that dips and weaves between their sludge metal roots and a newfound experimental and melodic edge.

Tracklisting

1. Tired Climb
2. Cheating Synergy
3. Drop Out
4. Crowded Road
5. Don’t Look Back
6. Distance Closing In
7. To Forget
8. Forsaken
9. Spiral Shadow
10. Back and Forth
11. Dust

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