Kylesa - Static Tensions (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Static Tensions (2009)


I'm continuing my tour through Savannah, Ga.'s metal scene with Kylesa. Formed in 2001, the band has dropped four full-lengths, as well as a bunch of EPs ‘n' splits. Their latest release, 2009's Static Tensions, succeeds in being sludgy, powerful and pretty gosh dang great. Their heritage automatically brings up comparisons to their friends in Mastodon and Baroness, but close listening reveals important differences.

Static Tensions sounds downright obliterating. The low end is powerful, recalling sludgy acts like Big Business or the Melvins with a dash of Megadeth and even Queens of the Stone Age. Just, ya know, with more solos. Album opener "Scapegoat" weaves a double-tracked drum solo throughout the tune, tempering all the bile with something a little more tribal. "Perception" opens with some backwards dialogue (subliminal messages! Metal!) before hitting the band's trademark grinding style only to then segue into an ethereal section. Guitarist Laura Pleasants adds some otherworldly vocals to the mix, combining with drummer Eric Hernandez's beats to create a sort of druidic experience. Of course, the spotlight generally belongs to guitarist/vocalist Phillip Cope, whose bark decimates. The album is pretty steadfast in its rocking--40 minutes of butt-whoopin'--but Kylesa slips in these little moments that (A) let the listener know the musicians are accomplished and (B) differentiate Kylesa just enough from the pack to reveal their songs as revolutionary.

It's these subtle touches that make Static Tensions one of the best metal albums of last year...last decade...last whatever. The band avoids metal's clichés--Satanism, drankin', any metal song in the '80s that wasn't written by Metallica or Dio with or without Black Sabbath--in favor of something way less easy to pigeonhole. The tunes thrash and decimate, for sure, but there's nothing, shall we say, easy to parody. Stoners can dig the thick riffs, punk rockers can thrash to the rocking and indie hipsters should be able to tolerate the band enough to namecheck them in a desperate bid for credibility (I'm doing it right now!). So throw on "Said and Done" or "Nature's Predators" and enjoy Georgia's finest.