Review Summary: Welcome to Sky Valley is Kyuss at their best. Taking Sabbath's heavy riffs, grunge's fuzzed distortion, and an irresistable groove, Kyuss makes a fiery yet offhanded album that is just too cool to pass up.
Heavy is the best way to describe Kyuss. I submit that Kyuss is second only to the one and only Black Sabbath when it comes to heaviness. Metallica, Motorhead, Slayer, Megadeth, and many other metal bands rock freakin’ hard, but Kyuss is just plain heavy k" HEAVY baby, HEAVY.
Anyways, Welcome to Sky Valley (officially entitled ‘Kyuss’, but is known as Welcome to Sky Valley because of the sign on the album cover), is Kyuss’ third studio album. Their previous album, Blues for the Red Sun, was praised by both fans and critics, and needless to say, expectations were high. Kyuss audaciously made the album so it had only 3 tracks, the first two with 3 songs, and the last track with 4 songs. Kyuss wanted the album to be listened to as a whole. Usually I would find that to be annoying and pretentious, but the album is so good that I want to listen to it all anyways.
Things to Notice While Listening: Lead singer John Garcia’s vocals. He is intense and talented, and doesn’t take away from the impressive instrumentals of the band. Also, watch for perfectly placed bridges that are entrancing and melodic. More than anything, notice how well the album flows.
Kyuss was for Welcome to Sky Valley:
John Garcia- vocals
Josh Homme- guitar
Scott Reeder- bass guitar
Brant Bjork- drums
One must be sure to have the volume turned up LOUD when you first put Sky Valley in. The first song is the definition of stoner rock. “Gardenia” starts with a bludgeoning riff that hammers throughout the entire song. The drums come in and gets the groove going. I always turn this song all the way up in my car, and everybody looks at me wishing they listened to cool music like me. Somehow Kyuss is able to make music that is as furious as it is laid-back. After many a “Get back, get back, the motherf*****.”, the song fades and a ponderous bass gives you a false sense of security, which is jarringly shattered by Homme’s colossally huge riffs. “Gardenia” becomes “Asteroid” effortlessly (In fact, I’m not really sure where the first ends and “Asteroid” begins). After a few minutes of prog rock-infected instrumental insanity, “Asteroid” abates into the humorously titled “Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop”. Now I’m not sure what this song has to do with scooping (Ice cream""), but I do know that Garcia takes over the song with his rowdy, powerful vocals. After Garcia shows his stuff, Homme shows his guitar heroics, and the song and first section of the album ends with a menacing, Jaws Theme-like riff. The first section of Sky Valley is full of relentlessly pummeling guitars and energetic drumming.
Section two starts with “100 Degrees” a short, crazed rocker that really finishes off your ears if you survived section one. “Space Cadet” is the perfect break in the middle of the album. An acoustic bass guitar instantly calms your senses and eventually teams up with two guitars (acoustic and electric) and makes one of the coolest, relaxed but urgent songs I have ever heard. Garcia sings cleanly and the song never rises above a moderate volume. The guitar-work is expert. All three guitars intricately and seamlessly weave to create a deep pattern of collected and clamorous sound. It is truly an awesome song that any fan of music would thoroughly enjoy. Well, after that, it looks like things can only go downhill, but Kyuss finishes the section strong with “Demon Cleaner”, perhaps the most Black Sabbath-influenced song on the album. Looming riffs and catchy lyrics make a song that could be put in Paranoid and wouldn’t sound out of place. With this section two finishes with style and leaves me wanting more.
The last section starts charges off the line with “Odyssey”. Again, the order of the day is massive guitars and a formidable bass, and Garcia singing about “the belly of the beast”. The cymbal heavy “Conan Troutman” continues the ear-thumping, and “N.O.” is again, heavy, but has a classic rock feel, with bluesy guitar solos that remind me of Jimmy Page’s untidy extravagance. Our journey through Sky Valley ends with the bliss that is “Whitewater”. Even if I’m slightly tired of getting my head rumbled for the past 40+ minutes, I always enjoy this song. The mighty guitars eventually cut out and we are left with a quiet 5 minutes of a bass-driven guitar solo fest. It’s the perfect way to end such an explosive album.
Now I guess I should mention the bonus track called “Lick Doo”. There’s a cheesy organ and Garcia sings “You know you can and will lick my Doo”, with many a “Oooo waaa” in the background. What a “Doo” is, I can only imagine.
The band works nearly flawlessly as a cohesive unit for the entirety of the album. This is one big reason why Welcome to Sky Valley is considered by many to be the best stoner rock album made. Garcia riotous vocals are the perfect fit to Homme’s guitars, Reeder’s cranked up bass, and Bjork’s mammoth drumming. The flaw of many bands is when an instrument or voice steals the spotlight and leaves the others in the cold. Every member of Kyuss contributes brilliantly and blends to make a collective whole that sounds as complete and accomplished as it is heavy. The only thing that keeps Welcome to Sky Valley from achieving the prolific classic rating is that by the 3rd section, a couple songs sound a little too similar. That’s easily enough overlooked, because the album is supposed to taken in as a whole, and many songs flow into the next.
A truly superb album.