21 November 2015

Kylesa - Exhausting Fire

I almost left this album to the side, it almost missed the cut when I was doing my review – you might wonder why I am starting this review using that statement, but I think it is needed and I will answer why at the end of the review.  However as this is the first time we have reviewed anything by Kylesa, it is time for a brief history lesson.  Kylesa are a sludge metal band from Savannah, Georgia, USA who formed in 2001.  They have gone through many line-up changes and at present consist of Phillip Cope and Laura Pleasants on vocals/guitars (Mr Cope also plays bass and keyboard on this album) and Carl McGinley on drums/percussion.  This is the seventh album which was released on Season of Mist this year, it features session musicians Jay Matheson on bass and Andrew J. Ripley on oboe.  Now I have not really got into this band before (time, so many bands, etc, etc), but as I said I would get into that after the

“Crusher” being this album with a sonic sludge that washes over you with ease and it has a riff that you can easily get lost in.  It has massive riffs, huge bass rumbles, slow but methodical drumming and some dream state sections to give the audience a break every now and then with a shoegazing element to the music.  Laura Pleasants bring a different dimension to the usual sludge/stoner song and as someone who has not really heard much of Kylesa before, it is fantastic to hear something new coming out of the genre which has been accused of being very closed off.  “Inward Debate” starts off like any other sludge song, loud guitars with an air of menace, massive drums, etc, etc; but somewhere along the way it starts to pick up steam and it gets faster and faster (comparatively – we are talking about a stoner/sludge song) till it sounds like juggernaut about to hit you – it is another good song which will have older fans and newbies (such as myself) banging their heads in unison.  “Moving Day” is a mixture of shoegazer, sludge and stoner tune that feels as if it is swirling around you.  Phillip Cope takes the lead as we are subjected to one of the finer moments of this album; it is simple in design and complex in delivery which is not an easy act to complete and the first three tracks have all spot on.  “Lost and confused” is mixes their styles once more and it has a fantastic bridge riff between the verses and chorus that grabs your attention straight away.  You are not hearing anything that has never been done before, but it is played so well that you do not focus on that and you just get lost in a progressively stunning album that is improving track by track.

“Shaping The Southern Sky” has a Southern American classic rock streak a mile long right at the heart of this album.  It is unmistakable in the middle of that loud riff that could only have been moulded with influences drawn from that area of the world, it is a strong and solid sound that will be warmly received and have many people moving in unison to that sound, especially at the drone/stoner middle section where it is easy to be lost in another world.  It is not my favourite song on the album by a long shot, but it is also not a song I would rush to avoid – it is just a well-played, filler number for me.  “Falling” is a slow, fragile number for the beginning few bars, it has some beautiful effects on the guitars which are beautiful to hear and when Laura Pleasants comes in, it just adds to this song and does the performance from Phillip Cope and Carl McGinley.  It also teases you as you are expecting a release in the form of huge riffs, but it pulls it back and goes back to the verse section again and you are waiting, waiting, waiting and then it finally gets dirty with that bottom end sound to the riff.  It takes time and also needs a few listens to get into the song, it also ends a bit suddenly for my tastes; but it is worth the effort and it grows before you with each subsequent listen.  “Night Drive” find Phillip Cope back in front of the microphone as the band are playing it loose on the verses and hard/heavy on the chorus, with another song that is a solid performance but it does not really move me as much as other songs.  It is definitely not a bad number, but it is up against some stiff competition from other songs on the album.  The eighth track is called “Blood Moon” which starts off with a shoegazer drone and then all of a sudden it burst into a sludge song that makes you jump slightly on the first listen as you are not expecting it.  It is a fast number after that opening drone, a powerful reminder that not all sludge is moving at the pace of a glazier heading over the land.  I like this song, it is slightly confused in places and it works well for that strange vibe that runs through it, the ending come down is particularly brilliant as well.

“Growing Roots” carries on that strange stoner/doom fashion that is obviously the calling card of Kylesa, you have a massive riff and some brilliant moments where you can rock out or get lost just following one riff/bass line/drum beat.  It has a great ending, it just builds from the middle section of the song and keeps giving in a way that might not have been as immediately obvious from the beginning of the song.  It is a great number that keeps on giving with each listen and that is as good a complement that you can give a song in my opinion.  The penultimate song is called “Out of my Mind” takes you on a great ride, it has a stunning riff & drum beginning that gives way to a sludge drone and you are lost in the moment as the band drive you toward fuck knows where.  I like this sort of song, it changes in different places and it is so simple that is stunning to think that this piece has not been thought of before.  The ending as everything speeds up is one of my favourite sections of the whole album and I would have loved it if the album had have ended at that point.  But it does not, the ending song is a slowed down version of “Paranoid” originally by Black Sabbath.  It slows everything down to a monolithic pace and is performed very well, you cannot fault that performance.  But really?  Is there a need for another version of this song which has been done in so many different styles – pop, gabba, grunge, alternative rock, reggae, dance hall – that it was missing this cover?  I mean it is decent, but not really essential to the album and ends it on an unnecessary moment for me.

When you look at this album from start to finish (even “Paranoid”), clearly it is not doing anything that has not been done before; but it is doing it in such a way that you really do not give a shit about that sort of stuff when it sound this good.  For a sludge album, some of the songs are quite quick, but none of them really outstay there welcome.  You have a beautiful sludge/stoner record that has some elements of shoegazer, classic rock and doom added to the mix to create a great record that has one track too many. Now there reason I was going to skip this is that it did take me a while to get into it, I have been listening to this album for the last two months and it was not working. But something has been dragging me back pretty much each day and it has started to get in the way of other reviews.  I have a feeling that in years to come this mark will seem a little harsh and I will be wanting to give it more, apart from "Paranoid" - that version is not needed at all.  Amazing album, pointless cover.

8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Top track - Lost and confused

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