Kylesa – Static Tensions

Kylesa – Static Tensions (Prosthetic)

Kylesa have a very interesting history so far and these last few years they have been progressing swiftly and successfully. The band’s aesthetics with the Pushhead artwork had sucked me in from the get-go, and so had their music. Their first offerings were some of the finest hardcore you could hope to find. Their self-titled debut and the EP’s that followed found them delving into metal territory, with fewer boundaries than before, and this exploration culminated in their album “To Walk A Middle Course” in 2005. The release of “Time Will Fuse Its Worth” one year later will draw even more people into their music, as this particular Georgian band seems passionate and agitated. And this is where we come upon the devastator called “Static Tensions”.

The story goes something like this: in 2006, shortly after the release of “Time Will Fuse Its Worth”, the drummer departs. This way Kylesa decide to substitute him not with one, but with two drummers, and have toured with this line-up ever since. At some point one of the two drummers also departs, so the band finds another one (their fourth so far) to be able to continue with the double-attack in their live shows. It might not be a particularly suspenseful story, but it’s funny when you think that instead of one, they found two drummers, one left, and instead of thinking “okay, no sweat, we got a spare one” they went out of their way to replace him just for the hell of it. As a result, they came out of this situation as winners, and congratulations are due for their determination. In the meantime they toured with Mastodon, people concentrated more in the Georgian music scene (including Mastodon and Baroness, underground bands going inevitably mainstream), hence more people had their eyes and ears focused on Kylesa. And not without a good reason.

From the first track that circulated, called “Said and Done”, I had the feeling that this album was going to be interesting at the least. And this is the reason I want to write about bands. A motivation beyond them being simply adequate in what they do, and Kylesa sure do offer it. The fact that they recorded with two drummers was a challenge in itself, not only in terms of musicianship but mostly sound engineering.

The album kicks off in the sweetest way, with the two drummers playing separately in their toms, only to be locked together so “Scapegoat” can begin. The groovy rhythm has you moving. The break in the middle filled with sound effects has you wondering first, then accepting their exploration. A hardcore track rooted in punk but presented in a metal way. This is the hybrid that Kylesa have perfected all those years. The song progresses wonderfully with upbeat rhythms, the double drumming just kicks ass, Phillip spits the lyrics crossover-style, Laura beside him unleashes one great riff after the other, “Said and Done” is a definite hit with it southern break in the middle and the cyclical ending, the drummers going crazy and this totally awesome riff! I don’t know if they’re down tuned even more but the sound is as heavy as it gets. Maybe the best sound Kylesa have managed.

In “Unknown Awareness” the band takes a sharp turn. Psychedelic guitars, tribal drumming, melodic leads, returns, what’s going on here? Kylesa have grown up and matured. And if you’re following them from the start, that’s certainly something to behold. This is a totally trippy track but not in a way that cuts back from the heaviness. The only thing here that reminds you of the usual Kylesa is Phillip’s vocals, otherwise it’s a complete transformation. One of the album’s best moments, and a turning point for further experimentation. Sounds good, right? You have two drummers. And you have to take advantage of it, somehow. And that’s what they do here.

Laura’s melodic vocal lines in “Running Red” build up an OM-kind of mood, only to be followed by a ravaging, hellish riff. Kylesa start toying with dynamics and I can’t help but smile at their progress. The track concludes with eastern leads in the middle of the track that compliment perfectly the main theme. Enter “Nature’s Predators”, a doom/hardcore song with a relentless groove. The double drumming is paying it’s ass off, and the stereo recording gives you the opportunity to hear each of them separately. Beautiful breaks, tight-as-fuck compositions, imagination, inspiration. A Mastodon-like break concludes in one of 2009’s most groovy and hellish moments, starting from the 2:30 mark.

Kylesa though win the most expectations in the last tracks of the album, full of energy and fine musicianship. And I think that’s the road they’ll take from now on. Trippy, no-boundaries attitude, melodic vocals almost from out of nowhere, heavy sound, psychedelic moments and careful use of effects, with riffs that build on the drummers’ crazy rhythms. The track “Perception” would be a fine example of the above. Pay attention to the shifts, the bridges, the breaks, the way they’ve pulled the whole thing off. This is an album boasting content. And it’s a good time to talk about the production, which is excellent, you can hear each instrument clearly, the sound is compact and heavy, the vocals and the double drumming are well-placed in the mix, and if you pay close attention each time you’ll discover something you haven’t spotted before. It’s what we call an album great for musical food for thought.

Aesthetically, they maintain their usual high standards, and how could they not, when the artwork is created by John Baizley (Baroness) who continues the Pushead tradition and philosophy. Lyrically, the band lean on the politically left side of things, making apparent, along with Phillip’s vocals, a basically punk identity, as their message to the listener is a very liberal one.

In conclusion, this isn’t another simply “heavy” release, so, you know, let’s go for it. It may not be a terribly original release either, but it’s a very interesting view in this crossover hybrid. It’s the general consensus that Kylesa have unleashed a hell of a record, not the one that will make the great BANG in the scene, but one that will build whatever it is that will follow. Something tells me that the whole party just started. When I see them live sometime in the months to come, I’ll make sure to tell you.

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~ by Θ. on 2010/03/14.

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