Kylesa – Ultraviolet


Artist

Album

Ultraviolet

Label

Season of Mist

Year

2013

Genre

For Fans Of

Baroness - Torche - Electric Wizard

Summary

A powerful, atmospheric record by the Georgian masters of psych-rock by way of sludge metal.

Rating

80 / 100

Since 2001, Georgian band Kylesa have drawn from a wide range of styles and influences to create album after album of innovative, unique metal. Breakthrough 2005 record ‘Spiral Shadow‘ saw the group comfortably navigating sludge and doom metal stylings, while drawing from stoner and psychedelic rock to deliver a work that saw the band impressively find themselves, balancing heavy, downtuned riffs and vast, at times ambient environments with bright, poppy undertones. With sixth studio album ‘Ultraviolet‘, the band take full advantage of these influences, pushing their experimental, diverse edge to its limits, also taking a decidedly more melancholic road in developing the overall vibe of the record.

Kylesa have never been pretentious, nor particularly big on superfluous theatrics. This is something thankfully made clear seconds into album opener ‘Exhale’, as pounding drums and distinctively Southern, sludgy riffs break in with a sense of forceful urgency. As we kick on into ‘Unspoken’ and ‘Grounded’, a decidedly ominous, foreboding presence takes shape. Sure, Kylesa have always kept a pretty vital sense of dread in their music, but there’s also always been a strong sense of hopeful optimism. Remember ‘Don’t Look Back’ from ‘Spiral Shadow‘, carrying the uplifting rallying cry of “keep moving, don’t look back”? You’re not going to find a whole lot of that scattered throughout the bleak, atmospheric moods featured on ‘Ultraviolet‘.

What you will find, however, is a band that, at their core, vehemently refuse to be pigeonholed. ‘Ultraviolet‘ finds Kylesa at their most ambitious and varied in scope, pulling off classic doom metal literally right next to nostalgic, dreamy post-punk (‘Steady Breakdown’ and ‘Low Tide’ respectively.) There’s something wonderfully refreshing about Kylesa‘s approach to boundary-free songwriting, and they are as competent at building vivid, layered soundscapes as they are at writing a powerful, sludgy and riff-filled heavy metal song. The band are at their zenith, mind, when one singular, distinctive element isn’t dwelled upon too heavily and instead, Kylesa do what they do best – combining their array of influences into something that feels altogether their own, powerful and independent.

Admittedly, there’s brief moments one can’t help but wonder if Kylesa are trying for too much, attempting too wide a mixture of styles and in doing so, drifting further away from something that feels organic in a few too many directions. Ultimately, though, there’s still a pretty defined feeling of coherency, both in the overall thematic aspect carried throughout the forty minute journey of ‘Ultraviolet‘, and the way the band function as a unit. For example, guitarist/vocalist Laura Pleasants is given more time in the spotlight to really demonstrate her versatility vocally, and the way her ethereal voice bounces off the forceful, commanding tone of the band’s other vocalist (and multi-instrumentalist) Phillip Cope is testament to their sheer chemistry together.

Conclusion

With ‘Ultraviolet’, Kylesa wear their reputation for genre-melding and spacious textures proudly on their sleeves. It’s an incredibly ambitious record (at times overly so) and emotionally pretty draining – in the end, it’s a cathartic release, and a damn impressive one at that.

Tracklisting

1. Exhale
2. Unspoken
3. Grounded
4. We’re Taking This
5. Long Gone
6. What Does It Take
7. Steady Breakdown
8. Low Tide
9. Vulture’s Landing
10. Quicksand 
11. Drifting

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