Unfolding from the horizon of Savannah, Georgia in 2001, and roughly borrowing their name in part from the concept of “kilesa mara” (the Buddhist term for demons of defilement), psychedelic metal quintet Kylesa have never given much thought toward any sort of genre classification. In all actuality, slapping any lone label on the band’s sound should be done with the cautious expectation of being proven wrong at any given time. They are one of those bands that do a damn good job of reworking the definition of “heavy.” Kylesa utilizes the presence of two drummers (Carl McGinley and Tyler Newberry) and two vocalists (two remaining original members, Philip Cope and Laura Pleasants) in the ignition of a beautifully thunderous blend of sludge riffs, ghostly ambience and stoner sensibilities.
Kylesa’s latest full-length offering, Spiral Shadow (Season of Mist Records), revolves largely around the idea of the retrospection of one’s life history and manifests in a form somewhat catchier and more melodic than 2009’s Static Tensions. Album opener and definite highlight, “Tired Climb”, serves as the perfect introduction to the latest chapter in the band’s catalog. The song begins with a galloping whirlwind of tribally-rooted percussive thunder before erupting into the type of groove fans should be well in tune with. Cope and Pleasants trade vocal passages in a “harsh yelling-versus-ethereal and delicate” fashion. “Drop Out” bears its teeth as a pummeling war machine steered by McGinley and Newberry with Laura Pleasants adding her echoing howl to the arsenal nicely. The up-tempo approach of “Back and Forth” switches gears in the way of a style somewhat new to the Kylesa sound in that it strays from the big picture formula of the rest of the record. The same can be said for the epic, almost poppy “Don’t Look Back”, which features memorable qualities that make it impossible not to wonder, at first listen, if the song isn’t a masterful cover of an 80’s classic. But no, its yet another grand creation of a band that refuses to be pushed by the wayside.
Whatever fans assumptions fans may have after Static Tensions, they should dive into Spiral Shadow with the expectation of evolution. An open mind is a beautiful weapon, and so is Kylesa’s newest effort. Prog tendencies and excellent production are abundant throughout the entire record, as well as the band’s obvious ability to destroy everything in site with skillful ease. There will undoubtedly be those that have issues with much of this record, but that’s their problem. Intricate, diverse, and immersed in a sea of flowering mystery and tripped-out psych vision, Kylesa’s Spiral Shadow is easily one of the year’s best releases!