Review Summary: A Spaced-out Riff Machine.
Growing from the same Georgia scene that produced Mastodon, Kylesa have been one of the most visible bands in the stoner rock outlook for the past decade. Back in the day they used to heatedly shout a lot while playing speedy hardcore punk however as each album spawns; they have lost their edge of speed and thus mellowed out in a swampy doom ridden rock band. The latest outcome, Exhausting Fire, is their seventh album now and the title alone is a great metaphor of their music it is comprised of- the drowsy soundscapes have a soporific effect that is literally exhausting yet the raw fervour that pours out of these drones is vigorous.
Kylesa serve a fine dish of meaty riffs on every song during “Exhausting Fire”. Nearly all follow the general pattern of a clotted sluggish tone that matches the band’s genre like on ‘Inward Debate’ and ‘Blood Moon’ but on tracks such as ‘Falling’ and ‘Lost And Confused’ the guitars gleam with sporadic tranquillity just to add an extra dose of oddity to their trippy sludge riffs. Album closer, ‘Out Of My Mind’, manages to meld both mammoth riffs and mellowed atmosphere together with clear hints of ominous Geezer Butler bass. Leading singe, ‘Shaping The Southern Sky’ provides the most ballsy attitude of the album where several giant riffs slide seamlessly up and down the heavy metal scale in a cacophony of stoner robustness.
Over the years, the band’s progression into sludge metal has always seemed organic and never a forced move. This is strengthened by the strange soundscapes that ooze naturally in “Exhausting Fire”. ‘Crusher’ weaves inside your head, leaving you disorientated with every change in dynamics- first a heavy slumber of Philip Cope’s guitars, then a dreamlike aura, next a cacophony of sound that builds up to a peculiar soundscape that sounds weirdly tropical. ‘Moving Day’ is a short track however it wastes no time creating a hazy sensation which is mainly down to the coupled vocals of Cope’s yawning style and Laura Pleasants’ spirited wails. The most boggling element of the album however is during ‘Night Drive’ where behind a wall of bass the guitars seem to bubble at the beginning of the track then flicker more sharply as the song progresses. It’s an interesting dimension to the music yet as well as the bashing drums there almost seems to be too much to listen out for.
Philip Cope now plays more of a central role compared to Kylesa’s previous album: “Ultraviolet”. He doesn’t seem too fazed to over exert his lungs on this album except on moments such as ‘Out Of my Mind’ during the fastest segment of the entire album. His style is a deep, laid back approach that matches the march of elephantine riffs ahead and he does provide a good balance of heavy vs light with co-singer and guitarist: Laura Pleasants. While Cope sets a vocal foundation to the songs, Pleasants provides numerous vocal hooks that make the singing just as infectious as their guitar playing. They can be brooding as in ‘Growing Roots’ or light-hearted floating such as ‘Lost And Confused’, no matter how she sings her voice is bound to endlessly buzz around inside your brain.