18 11 2010

Spiral Shadow
8 out of 10

The pysch/stoner/sludge metal hybrid genre has found it’s new saviors

by Jericho Cerrona
November 18, 2010

Kylesa’s newest aural assault on the senses Spiral Shadow makes even attempting to label music this genre-defying at least partially irrelevant. Throughout eleven persuasive tracks, one hears the influence of Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd and Black Flag while at the same time being reminded of more recent acts such as Baroness, Mastodon, and High On Fire. Instead of simply aping such influences, the Georgia pysch/metal outfit have successfully carved out their own unique sound.

Taking note of the thunderous riffing and doomy vocal shouting on opener “Tired Climb”, one might assume this is a bunch of young shredders trying their hand at the game but the band has actually been around since 2001 and Spiral Shadow is their fifth full-length. It is also their most focused and expansive record yet, surpassing even 2009’s blistering Static Tensions. Listening to that album’s sludge-punk greatness, it was hard to believe that Kylesa could produce another record so quickly, and beyond that, actually improve upon it. But Spiral Shadow, while not a huge departure for the band, stands out because there are subtle influences of not only prog and psychedelia here but also 90’s angular indie-rock throughout. As aggressive as the record can be at times, one is often reminded of bands like Built to Spill or Sonic Youth in some of the more punkish and shoe-gazy moments. In this musical age of shape-shifting genre blurring, this kind of open-mindedness is more appropriate than ever. Few bands however, can combine so many elements without coming off sounding pretentious, and here is where Kylesa soar.

From the propulsive dual drumming and choppy rhythms of “Drop Out” to the distorted 90’s art-rock grandeur of “Don’t Look Back”, this is a band in full command of their technique. Check out the way “Distance Closing In” begins, with slow melodic guitar strumming and eerie vocals by singer Phillip Cope drowned in layers of feedback, later exploding into a bona-fide stoner jam with fellow vocalist Laura Pleasants voice reaching upper registers while still sounding positively laconic. The album’s most accessible track, “Back and Forth” is probably as close to pop as the band will get, sounding very much like a more fuzzed-out and atmospheric Torche, with a hooky chorus that is still surrounded by walls of churning guitars.

Surely some of the more diehard metal-heads will likely scoff at Kylesa’s willingness to bend genre rules, but there still plenty of chugging riffs and uncompromised heaviness here that it would seem disingenuous for anyone to dismiss the band as not being “metal” or “hardcore” enough. Kylesa do not care about being pigeonholed or labeled, instead they simply allow the music to do all the talking for them. Spiral Shadow rides the line between the old and new with conviction and sincerity, producing not only one of the strongest metal hybrids in quite some time, but also simply one of the best albums of 2010, period.

“Don’t Look Back” by Kylesa

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