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Kylesa - Spiral Shadow (Cover Artwork)

Kylesa

Kylesa: Spiral ShadowSpiral Shadow (2010)
Season of Mist

Reviewer Rating: 4
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Contributed by: JeloneJelone
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In 2009, Savannah, Ga., act Kylesa perfected its sludge metal style with Static Tensions. Just a year later, the band has already progressed beyond that sound with Spiral Shadow. It's the kind of record that should easily win over converts. It's the group's most accessible release to date, as it ske.
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In 2009, Savannah, Ga., act Kylesa perfected its sludge metal style with Static Tensions. Just a year later, the band has already progressed beyond that sound with Spiral Shadow. It's the kind of record that should easily win over converts. It's the group's most accessible release to date, as it skews closer to '90s alternative à la Alice in Chains while still adding more psychedelic elements and even, on occasion, revisiting Static Tensions' assault. Yet it's these very same characteristics that might alienate fans, especially during the record's second half. Given time, though, Spiral Shadow reveals itself to be every bit as good as Static Tensions, just for different reasons.

When listening to opener "Tired Climb" for the first time, however, any differences between the two albums will seem negligible. Everything Kylesa does well is on display--twin drum kits bash and crash through dissonant guitars and vocals that can jump from dreamlike (Laura Pleasants) to gruff (Philip Cope) in an instant. It's obvious why this is the first track--the song rocks. But stylistically, it's a key move, an opening salvo that will satisfy metalheads before gradually feeding them new ideas.

Bassist Corey Barhorst lays down a thick, fuzzy bassline on "Cheating Synergy" before adding a haunting keyboard line that perfectly complements the song's guitar harmonics. "Drop Out" retreats a little, just in case people can't handle the group's newfound sense of atmosphere, by blowing through another percussive punch. "Crowded Road" brings back a nice sludgy riff. Then the record tries something else to hook in listeners--a legitimately catchy song. "Don't Look Back" sounds like Kylesa alright, but it features an infectious hook so simplistic in design it's a wonder no one else thought it up first. The chorus is "Keep moving / Don't look back," which is right up there with such obvious punk statements as "don't trust the government" and "I am a rude person," but it works. The guitars are still sludgy, but the solo that cuts through the haze is triumphant. Fifteen years ago, this song would have dominated 120 Minutes.

The back half gives itself over to psychedelia. "Distance Closing In" is hazy, even for sludge metal, with the vox buried deeper in the mix and the guitars creating a cloud over the rest of the instruments. "To Forget" is just trippy. It all culminates in the five-minute title track, a retro-leaning piece of noodling guitars and tribal drums. There are still two more songs after it, but they're just victory laps. "Spiral Shadow" is too epic.

Depending on what track is playing, Spiral Shadow manages to be both Kylesa's most mainstream and experimental record, and a reward and a challenge to fans. Either way, Kylesa is in charge.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
wallofyouth (January 13, 2011)

love it

danperrone (November 13, 2010)

a lot worse than static tensions. the vocals on this one aren't very good.

but goddamn, static tensions really was awesome.

Misanthropee (November 12, 2010)

I was just about to review this. Glad I didn't now because I'm sure it would've been excessively long.

I love this band, and I can't stop listening to this record, but I really hope they don't continue in this musical direction. Excluding a couple songs, it feels like the beginning of a major departure. I mean, one of the main reasons I prefer them to Baroness and Mastodon is their general lack of guitar noodling. Those bands' wankery usually sounds forced to me because NONE of them are great guitarists (save perhaps Baroness' current lead) and even on record the solos always have this air of having been laboriously played a hundred times in the studio before FINALLY nailing it, barely. And now Kylesa is apparently doing the same, e.g. in the title track, which has no less than two distractingly leaden and awkward solos. And man do I hate "Don't Look Back." Definitely my least-favorite Kylesa track ever.

So yeah, I'd like a bit more sludge in my sludge metal next time, but what do I know. I really dig the album and I'll be eagerly awaiting the next one. And I'll be buying the double-LP if goddamn Relapse ever puts it back in print...

spoon_of_grimbo (November 12, 2010)

amazing album, up there with the best this year, although i can't quite decide if i like it more than static tensions or not.

i like how they cheekily other metal band's riffs here and there though. there's the riff from black sabbath's iron man in "running red" (i think) off static tensions, and the opening riff to dream theater's "a rite of passage" is hidden among "to forget" somewhere...

xbat-mitex (November 12, 2010)

This album fucking rules, it's definitely in my top 5 of the year, and they killed it at the Fest, this band is sooooooooo fucking good live!

preston (November 12, 2010)

I think this is better than their last. Dig the Flower Travelin' Band (I assume) homage in "Crowded Road."

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