Review : KYLESA – "Spiral Shadow"

KylesaSpiral Shadow
Release Date: 2010Oct25 (US)
Label: Season of Mist
Rating: 4.5/5

Seldom had I heard such hype surrounding a relatively-unknown band as when Kylesa released Time Will Fuse Its Worth back in 2006. However, they did not strike me. Sure, they had some psychedelic elements and genuinely good ideas about how to merge this with fuzzy sludge, but I felt something lacking in terms of catchy tunes. While not inherently necessary, they clearly desired to move in that direction. 2009’s Static Tensions was a remarkable stylistic breakout, and I argue only bested by their Savannah neighbors Baroness on Blue Record that year. After three albums on Prosthetic Records, they reach still further for their Season of Mist debut, Spiral Shadow.

“Tired Climb” is an apt opener and lead single, taking time to emerge before their familiar attack, with intriguing, introspective lines like “[r]egrets indicate, moving forth is walking backwards”. Advancement is a common theme, with the mantra-like “keep moving, don’t look back” appearing on their most accessible song ever. But Kylesa continues to hone their inimitable style by imprinting a unique character to each tune.

Take “Cheating Synergy” for example, which features keyboards by bassist Corey Barhorst (a missing piece from the last album) that sound channelled from Clifford Meyer by way of Isis‘ “Ghost Key”, about a minute in. This is one of many subtle distinctions that take time to find favor. Like many immersive favorites, headphones enhance the experience. Without, the hypnotic effect of Laura Pleasants and Philip Cope trading lines and riffs can get muddied. This brings me to my sole detraction.

As much as I like Cope, I feel he may want to relinquish production reins next time. Kylesa perform a daunting and delicate dance, and I would love to hear where a guy like Matt Bayles could take them. It may be hard to cut up your babies, but Cope has certainly learned to become a more judicious editor. They still allow for structured improv, such as the minute in “Crowded Road” with Middle Eastern-influenced guitars and progressively-intensifying dueling drums, or the thirty seconds of chaos in “Forsaken” that sound dredged from the most terrifying moments of one’s agony. And even though their last four albums have all kicked around the 40-minute mark, now they are quite simply more efficient, more purposeful.

The sonic confidence behind Spiral Shadow is so evident in the title track, which is ironic considering lyrics like “Grounded foresight/Crowded hindsight” suggest insecurities. But at least part of everyone must be insecure, else we sacrifice part of our humanity. Kylesa embraces this reality, and even leaves the listener with the reassuring lines Every mistake I’ve made, I would make again / If that is what it took to be where I am”. It’s one thing to mature with grace, but to both retain and amplify vibrancy, that radiates across generations.

FCC: 7
Try: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11

01. Tired Climb
02. Cheating Synergy
03. Drop Out
04. Crowded Road
05. Don’t Look Back
06. Distance Closing In
07. To Forget
08. Forsaken
09. Spiral Shadow
10. Back And Forth
11. Dust

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