This Kylesa article was written by Joe Turner, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse
Over their fourteen year career, Kylesa have developed a reputation as one of metal’s most progressive and original bands. ‘Exhausting Fire’, their seventh album, continues their venture into more experimental territory, without sacrificing their heaviness.
The album opener – the suitably titled ‘Crusher’ – is a microcosm of the band’s sound. It alternates heavier-than-heavy sludge riffage, accompanied by Laura Pleasants‘s melodic vocals, with a quieter section of effects-laden guitars and reverb-drenched, ethereal vocals. Kylesa blend heaviness and melody better than anyone outside of sludge-pop titans Torche, with Pleasants sounding completely comfortable with her voice, never resorting to the screamed vocals of previous albums.
‘Inward Debate’, might be the most straightforward rocker on the album, being based on a series of mammoth down-tuned riffs that show Kylesa have not forgotten their metal roots. The track demonstrates the band’s dual vocals with Pleasants joined by bandmate Phillip Cope; Cope is neither a great singer nor an outstanding screamer, but his shouted vocals provide an pleasing contrast with Pleasants‘ melodic voice. The chorus also provides a excellent example of the pair’s complimentary guitar work, with two simultaneous riffs in the lower and higher registers providing the hooks behind Cope‘s voice.
‘Shaping the Southern Sky’, shows the band at its most trippy. It starts out as a fairly standard swing-beat rocker, but about a third of the way through this gives way to an extended quieter section built on a rumbling bass riff with psychedelic sound effects, producing an eerily spaced out atmosphere. When the opening riff returns to close out the song, the guitars are phased to create a disorienting effect.
If there is one criticism to be made of Kylesa, it is that they do not make the most of their dual drummer line-up. Although Cope‘s production separates the drums in the mix to create a fuller, more powerful, sound, they never really make the most of the exciting rhythmic possibilities that are available with two drummers.
With this effort, Kylesa prove themselves to be up there with fellow Georgian’s Mastodon as one of heavy rock and metal’s most forward-thinking yet accessible artists. ‘Exhausting Fire’ is the culmination of their increasing experimentation with psychedelia and melody, while still delivering the crushing heaviness that their fans expect, showing a band that is truly at ease with the contrasting elements of its identity.
(The CD version of the album includes a bonus track, a delightfully wigged-out cover of Black Sabbath‘s ‘Paranoid’).