Prior to getting my hands on a copy of Static Tensions, I had never heard of Kylesa, much less actually heard them. That being true (and it is), I was unsure what to expect when I first pressed play. Around the same time I first hit that button, I decided to make use of these new-fangled social technologies, posting on Facebook and Twitter that I was listening to it. Shortly thereafter, friend, fellow BlogCritics writer, and Kylesa fan Jordan Richardson showed some love for the band. This was an encouraging sign. So, there I sat, writing about something or other, Mets game on in the background, liking what I am hearing, it is definitely different. However, it was not until a few days later that I found a better way to listen to Kylesa, and that would be through headphones. Now there is an experience.
I am relatively sure that many of you are like me, newcomers to the music of Kylesa. So, let's take a look at some of the band's basic information. They hail from Georgia, where they formed in 2001. They sprang from the remnants of a few other acts and evolved over the span of a few years as the lineup changed, one change necessitated by the tragic death of original bass player Brian Duke. The changes also include the addition of a second drummer, I guess to offset the fact they have three members who supply vocals. As for the name? It comes from "kilesa mara," what Buddhist teachings term demons of defilement and delusion. Interesting, no?
I know, I know, what about the music? In a word: breathtaking. Now, it is not the best music I have ever heard, and I do not foresee them topping any of my favorite band-type lists, but man, is the music exhilarating.
Kylesa deliver some purely experimental sludge metal, although I am sure others will toss other genres in the mix, if nothing else, they do go a long way to avoid being pigeon-holed. If I as forced to equate them with a better known act, I would have to go with fellow Georgians' Mastodon. Both bands share a technically proficient style that has jam band-like influences in their open and expansive compositions.
As soon as "Scapegoat" began coming out of my speakers I knew I was in for a treat, when I plugged in my headphones I knew it was bound to be something special. The sound is enveloping, it grabs you by the ears, forces you to attention, and actually looks for you to become invested in the music.
Static Tensions is not a passive album. Sure, you can toss it on for interesting background music to whatever you may be up to at the moment, but that will only last so long. At some point a riff, a chord progression, a vocal yowl, a drum fill, something will get your attention. At this stage you are trapped. It may take one song, or three, or five, but it s bound to happen.
"Scapegoat" grabbed my attention with the opening drums. The two drummers playing was panned to opposite channels making it an interesting rhythmic experience, especially with headphones. As grabby as that opening song is, it is not until track five, "Running Red," that I become fully aware of their excellence. It opens simply enough with a repeated piano line. It breaks into a seriously heavy slab of sludge metal that is impossible not to groove to.
Simply put, Static Tensions is an album that demands multiple listens. I still have idea what they are saying most of the time, it is the music hat grabs me. The rhythmic possibilities of having two drummers are endless, and some of those riffs are downright diabolical.
Bottomline. Kylesa is a new band that I must add to my radar of acts. There is something deeply infectious about this brand of metal and this album explores new depths of what I like to think of as jam-metal. If you have a love for all things metal, this is an album you do not want to miss.