I can safely say, right off the bat, that Kylesa have knocked out one of the albums of the year with Static Tensions. It's a fairly bold statement considering we're only a quarter of the way through 2009 but this album really is a stormer.
Kylesa's sound is pretty hard to pin down - they use elements of stoner rock, doom, hardcore, metal and good old fashioned psychedelic rock to paint a Jackson Pollock-esque musical landscape. At first Kylesa's music seems messy as it jumps around all over the place, they have two vocalists (three on past albums) and their songs do seem to blur together somewhat. If you give them the time to sink in, you realise everything is so finely crafted and considered it forms a bigger, more textural and elaborate picture.
Kylesa employ two drummers, which may seem a tad overindulgent but they lock together in time so well that often it seems there's only one. What would the point be you ask of having two drummers that sound like one drummer? If you've ever seen a band with two drummers live, then you'll not be asking that question.
Static Tensions is most definitely the peak of Kylesa's career so far. Their previous two albums were both great but lacked something. Without doubt, Static Tensions has this - the elusive aspect of melody. A wee bit of a taboo when discussing a metal band - I'm not talking about a Disney theme amount of melody here - but just the right amount to offset the riffs and stampede of drums; and most of all - so every single track locks iteslf into your mind in some form or another.
Every track has a recognisable vocal hook of some kind - a catchy bridge riff or breakdown or intro - there's always something going on. The two drum kits are split left and right and pretty much everything else runs through the centre of the mix. Everything is tight and clear enough for Static Tensions to be forceful and heavy without being sludgy.
One of the key factors of this being a brilliant record is the complete lack of throw-away material. I'll be honest - as I've mentioned, the tracks to blur together a bit because they jump around stylistically so often, but when every track is this good, who cares?
The only band they can really be compared to is Mastodon. They aren't as obsessed with virtuoso prowess as Mastodon and have a much darker Neurosis-like tension. Whereas Mastodon are losing focus as they mature - Kylesa are getting better and better. A perfect example where the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts. Hopefully Static Tensions will garner the attention and respect Kylesa deserve, they've definitely earned it.
Kylesa are frequently compared to Mastodon and Baroness in reviews and features. This isn't entirely inappropriate, but what unites the three bands from Georgia is less a specific 'sound', so much the creativity that they bring to the metal genre. Each has proven that heavy music can be as smart as any other genre. So whilst Kylesa may evoke many different bands from across the musical spectrum, the band they ultimately sound like is... Kylesa. Certainly, few other bands can boast the two-drummer, three-vocalist set-up that the band employ on 'Static Tensions'.
This stereo-percussion in particular sets the band apart. The drumming doesn't just provide the beat, it is placed front and center to create complex, three dimensional sound that really sets the band apart. On tracks like 'Said and Done' these percussive gymnastics offset sludgy lyrics that dredge up the kind of heavy, oil-slick riffs that can wipe out whole marine ecosystems. 'Running Red' and 'Nature's Predictions' likewise bring out the big guns, offering the sort of crushing, rolling riffs that make sludge fans drool. But elsewhere the band weave in different threads, the soaring guitars and vertiginous lyrics of 'Almost Lost' evoke the same kind of musical tension employed by post-rockers such as Explosions in the Sky. 'Scapegoat', the album's opening track, is infused with the kind of rock-a-billy swagger that had me thinking of The Kills. The driving alt-metal riffage of 'Insomnia for Months' starts at full speed and doesn't let up, yet gives Laura Pleasant's more delicate vocals a chance to shine. Pleasant's voice is again deployed as an offset to the hoarse, stoner-rock lead vocals on 'Unknown Awarenss', probably the strongest track on the album, which mixes the metal-meets-Mesopotamia sound that High on Fire played with on 'Death is this Communion' with the crushing sense of 'destroyed beauty' that post-metal bands like Isis evoke.
This is a work of tremendous creativity and almost effortless skill. The final track on the album, 'Perception', is a showcase of the band's ability: Pleasant's vocals calling across a psychedelic sludge limbo, before the track performs an angry-bull stomp of an about turn, leading into a soar-away stoner-rock riff that takes off like a bad peyote trip. This is a band in their prime that are creating a sound all of their own.
The album got here quickly which was was good of course, however the front of the plastic casing was cracked.(Presumably it got damaged in shipping)The disc however was in perfect condition and the music is awesome.