Review Summary: Spiral Shadow finds Kylesa evolving beyond their previous efforts to craft their strongest and most focused endeavor to date.
Somewhere in the midst of the warm piano, languid guitar taps, subtle analog delay oscillations, and cascading drum rolls that occupy the first 50 seconds or so of Kylesa's newest release, Spiral Shadow, it's made fairly apparent that the band would not be satisfied with simply rehashing the same pseudo-psychadelic motifs and sludgy aesthetics found on their previous releases (although honestly, there wouldn't be anything wrong with that). Where Kylesa's previous endeavors reveled in their dual percussion, sludgy riffs, dueling vocals, and general bad-assery, Spiral Shadow finds the group evolving beyond their previous work and embracing a slew of new influences and aesthetics. The core of the Kylesa sound is still very much in tact here, as pounding dual drum work, sludgy riffs, and the vocal interplay that Kylesa has come to be known for still permeate the album, but not only have these components all been elevated to an entirely new level, they've been reworked and reshaped to create their most cohesive and hard hitting release to date.
Album opener "Tired Climb" serves as the perfect introduction for what the rest of Spiral Shadow entails. After the aforementioned intro, the song is ripped open by pounding drums, delicious fuzzy drop G riffing, and remarkably clear, yet still authoritative shouting from guitarist Phillip Cope, followed up by Laura Pleasants's hypnotic, lazy delivery in the chorus. As the final chords of "Tired Climb" die out, this throbbing, earthy, ethereal organ of some sort (which incidentally is one of the coolest damn sounds I've heard all year), swells into the soundscape of "Cheating Synergy" before being cut right down the middle by snare rolls, fuzzy bass, and more sludgy riffs. Still, Spiral Shadow is so much more than a collection of spiffy intros that segue into head pounding metal riff fests. Tracks like "Dust" and "Spiral Shadow" showcase Kylesa's newfound ability to take a simple, slow motif and not only build on it, but eventually turn it on it's head and create a massive soundscape out of it. At the same time, tracks like "Back and Forth" and "Don't Look Back" find Kylesa embracing more catchy, major key aesthetics. The chorus of "Back of Forth" has an almost Torche-esque feel to it, while still remaining very much a Kylesa track, and "Don't Look Back" manages to be catchy, triumphant, and pummeling all at the same time. As a quick side note, for anyone who says that Pleasants's vocal delivery here lacks a general sense of conviction, just check out her venomous shrieks in the bridge of "Drop Out" and verses of "Cheating Synergy".
Going into the studio so quickly after the release of Static Tensions, it's really quite remarkable just how much Kylesa has grown as a unit since last March. Where Static Tensions seemed to almost show that Kylesa was comfortable being labeled as just another solid act in the burgeoning Georgia metal scene (that just happened to have two drummers), Spiral Shadow finds the group not only living up the potential it's been clear they've possessed all long, but also getting an incredibly solid foothold on the way to becoming a true juggernaut amongst their contemporaries, and a driving force within the entire metal community.