Review Summary: The shape of metal to come?
Metal, as an overall genre, is extremely difficult to pin down. Perhaps that is the purpose of the genre- to avoid the classifications that marginalized punk and commoditized grunge. Due to the ambiguity of the genre, it is a magnificent event when a band creates an album that defies all marginalization, all accusations of blandness and unoriginality that often plague metal and modern music as a whole. These albums must retain the aspects that make metal what it is: the fury, the sonic assault, and the grand instrumental showmanship. This, however, must be balanced with a creative ear for the new- that is to say, the shape of metal to come.
Kylesa have crafted ten songs that combine four decades worth of boiling anger: from the psychedelic, drug-addled musings of 60's guitar pioneers, to the groundbreaking thrash of Slayer and the sludge of Acid Bath, Kylesa leave no musical rock unturned. The opening song on Static Tensions- 'Scapegoat'- has an almost hardcore vibe, followed by a guitar-phaser fueled breakdown that adds a tension to the sonic assault. 'Unknown Awareness' furthers the psychedelic vibe of the album, with the guitars crafting patterns that swirl around the pounding, pseudo-tribal drum beat. Standout track 'Running Red' is the most obviously metal of the bunch: the group directly tribute Black Sabbath, and do so in the most fitting way possible. The guitars roar, and the song is about as catchy as metal gets. On album closer 'To Walk Alone', the band seems to go beyond a wall of sound, almost fusing with a music in a way usually reserved for post-rock bands. The guitars reach for the sky, and the drums drag them back down. Somewhere in the chaos, a voice reverberates like a yell during a hurricane. The voice isn't in vain; it is in fact somewhat necessary to prove that life is still here, that the musicians are in fact separate from the music.
This album is, first of all, metal. It is unmercifully heavy, with the practically zero filler or unnecessary tracks. The brutality is fused with an unmistakable confidence, as if the band knew they were creating something to be admired. The down-tuned guitars, the shimmering cymbals: every sound seems to be part of a greater whole, wrapping decades of music around the rusty spike of modern- or what is to become modern- metal. Along with fellow Georgia natives Mastodon, Kylesa have crafted one of the metal albums to beat this year.