Review Summary: Kalas is a new breed of Sludge and Stoner metal and backed by Matt Pike, they have released one of the most significant and interesting metal releases of the last decade.
Stoner Metal is a genre often associated with blaring volume, slow tempos, and hypnotic, pounding, Sabbath influenced riffs. The genre was popularized by bands like Kyuss and Electric Wizard(for a more Doom feel), however no band reigned supreme over the legion of stoners like Sleep and its leader Matt Pike. After breaking new Stoner ground with Jerusalem and Dopesmoker, Pike found himself in the most popular and respected Stoner Metal band. He became famous for churning out crushing riffs over a feedback haze and taking long experimental solos with the help of his hypnotic rhythm section. Pike went on to form High on Fire, another well respected and popular Stoner Metal Band. High on Fire brought in a more technical and modern rock associated feel, however it was not a serious departure from his work with Sleep. It was not until 2006 that Matt Pike would finally fulfill his creative potential, slashing away the ties of his Stoner Metal past and creating his finest album and band to date, Kalas.
Kalas has only managed to release one CD so far; however they have already cemented a place in Stoner Metal history. Since bearing the name of Matt Pike earns instant gratification in genre, the release of their self titled debut was highly anticipated. Furthermore, questions of the sound that Kalas would possess were buzzing everywhere. Nobody wanted Matt Pike to create the same band yet a third time, and it was obvious that in order to regain his place in the metal world he would have to make some drastic changes from his previous work, and he came through 100 percent. The first major and most apparent difference with Kalas is the production. The sound is much tighter and well produced, with all the instruments being perfectly audible. From the second the Bass and Guitar come crashing in at the 18 second mark of Monuments to Ruins, the band embodies a monumental force which slowly trudges over Matt Pikes raspy vocals. Gone are the fuzzy freakouts and incoherent feedback of Sleep, Kalas’s sound is tight and clean, an instrumental behemoth that shatters anything in its path. It is also obvious that Pike has matured as a musician throughout his years as an artist. Kalas possesses none of the immature subject matter so common in Stoner Metal. There isn’t a single song solely dedicated to Marijuana! Although the Sacred Leaf was embraced by many years ago, it is hard to take bands which revolve around it as their sole creative supplement seriously, and thankfully Matt Pike chose not to dwell on it too much for his new band. Subject matter revolves around corruption, rebellion, personal dilemma, addiction, journeys, and self discovery. Yes, Matt Pike’s writing has indeed come a long since the days of Sleep. Surprisingly, a large portion of the disc is quite catchy(Voyager), with head banging riffs and commanding vocals. But by far, the most interesting new aspect of Kalas’s sound is the all new atmosphere they have introduced. Breaking completely away from the Stoner Metal trend, they have adopted a progressive rock feel extremely reminiscent of Isis. Placed all throughout the CD are intros and bridges which rely on clean guitar playing and arpeggios to bring a whole new sound to the table. Take a listen to a track like Frozen Sun or Due Time to see what I mean. These sections are not only enjoyable and extremely well done, but build up the heavy sections and climaxes to be that much more enjoyable.
Apart from a change in sound, Kalas have also upped their technicality and songwriting ability. Although the band is largely the brainchild of Matt Pike, don’t underestimate the talented band of musicians which accompany him. Pike also does not play guitar in Kalas, so he is responsible for little of the instrumentation and excellent solos. Although Pike is the only well known artist in the group, his fellow musicians are famous around the East Bay Area, hailing from bands such as Econochrist, Grimple, Samiam, Medication Time and Cruevo. Brad Reynolds on the Bass guitar has countless riffs and grooves that cement an excellent foundation for his fellow guitarists Andy Christ and Paul Kott. Christ and Kott cover everything from traditional downtuned powerchord assault to ambient clean passages. There are so many excellent riffs in this CD that just make you move. The solos are great throughout the disc, always fitting the song and never falling into self indulgence or excessiveness. They are tasteful and technical, setting a new standard for Stoner Metal to come. Scott Plumb on the Drums keeps the music crawling along, but he really shines on the softer sections with interesting patterns that give the music an extremely rhythmic feel. Once again, think Isis.
Matt Pike and Kalas have created what I consider to be one of the best and diverse Stoner Metal albums ever released. It is even hard to classify it as Stoner Metal since so many other influences are brought up on the table, however Pike’s identifiable vocals and the crushing groove force it into the genre. Combining the traditional Sleep sound with more modern influences like Isis proves to be a massive success and with improved recording, technicality, and songwriting Kalas has created a Stoner classic that is unique, heavy, and shockingly catchy. The only real downside which keeps it from being classic is that so much of the sound has already been done before. Sleep would never have been capable of writing something this diverse and magnificent, it is a must-have for fans not only of Stoner Metal but of Metal and Rock in general. It satisfies on so many levels, bringing the groove time and time again that I spin it on my CD player.