Review Summary: "THE FUCKING GROWLS ARE BACK! THE MOTHER FUCKING GROWLS ARE BACK!"
Kayo Dot have been moving further and further away from a band-oriented, metallic sound ever since maudlin of the Well’s quietus a decade ago. Earlier releases such as Choirs of the Eye
and Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue
may have been anchored by their metallic cores, but they were surrounded by several layers of orchestral cacophony. From Blue Lambency Downward
onwards, Driver’s compositions become more subdued, cryptic, and erratic in structure. It appeared as if Driver wanted to bury the notion of Kayo Dot being a “metal” band, or even a band at all in the sense of the word.
This is why Gamma Knife
is such an interesting and refreshing release. It feels like a compromise between the “goth-fusion” aesthetic of Coyote
, the droning ambience of Stained Glass
, and the explosive, dissonant climaxes of pieces like “Gemini Becoming the Tripod” or “The Manifold Curiosity.” Yes, Gamma Knife
supplies the metal that has been absent from any Kayo Dot release since Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue.
“Lethe” starts the release off on a more subdued note, however. An immediately tranquil atmosphere is painted by the swirling violins and orchestral chimes, before culminating with gregorian chanting reminiscent of cathedrals during the Latin Renaissance. Not an unintentional technique, I’m sure, with Lethe being one of the five Hadean rivers in Greek mythology. Surely, Kayo Dot have drank the Lethean water and completely forgotten their days as maudlin of the Well.
But no, “Lethe” comes to an end, and all hell breaks loose. “Rite of Goetic Evocation” immediately thrusts a sludgy, churning riff in the listener’s face before pairing it with a burst of messy woodwinds and a low death metal growl. The onslaught doesn’t let up from there, the madness has only just begun. Gamma Knife’s
middle three tracks are as furious as any Toby Driver project has ever sounded. Blast-beats are utilized to punctuate to the churning riffs and hellish bouts of jazz-wind freakouts. Throughout these three pieces, Driver doesn’t deviate from utilizing both low-pitched growls and maniacal higher-pitched shrieks. The music here is much more closely related to the Avant-Black Metal stylings of Deathspell Omega or Ihsahn with the cacophonic density of a Kayo Dot release.
The fury subsides in time for the dreary title-track, which begins as if the previous 20 minutes hadn’t existed at all. The guitars and piano shimmer brilliantly as they play off tinkering solos. Driver’s muffled croons further accentuate any instrumental hits, before the song spirals into tranquil oblivion, ending quietly and inoffensively as Driver lets out a resounding last breath.
is as short and concise as Kayo Dot have ever sounded, and at a digestible 32-minute run-time, it doesn’t overstay its welcome or noodle endlessly. While it may not contain the irrevocably powerful climaxes of their earlier material, the return of metallic elements is certainly a welcomed re-addition, and should excite those who haven’t cared as much for Kayo Dot’s recent releases. I, for one, am wholly satisfied.