(Prosthetic Records, 2009)
by Paul Stephenson
The area of ‘Southern/Stoner/Sludge Core/Prog Metal’ is becoming more and more crowded these days it has to be said. It’s inevitable really that with Mastodon bringing what was a pretty small scene into the spotlight that there would be a certain amount of room on their coat tails. Kylesa have been one of those bands who have benefited from this exposure, working hard by touring hard throughout the last six years and bringing out two albums, 2005’s To Walk A Middle Course and 2006’s bewilderingly excellent Time Will Fuse Its Worth, which introduced their two-drummer approach.
And so we come to Static Tensions, their new slant on the mix of Neurosis, Clutch, High On Fire and Melvins that they have cultivated over the last few years. The two drummer approach is now firmly in place, although it must be said that it isn’t used to as good effect as it was on ‘Time…’ and that’s something that you come to get used to throughout this album.
It’s not a bad album, and once again all of the ingredients are here for a cracking listening experience, but the trouble is that it’s nowhere near the dizzying heights they have achieved before. For a band so focused on making new inroads with their sounds there is precious little here to get really excited about. They have scaled back on some of the Neurosis moments, and erred more towards the High On Fire big riffing.
It doesn’t help that once again the production is weaker than it should be. While the murk of their previous efforts didn’t detract from proceedings, they have not fixed any of the problems. It’s little crisper, but the mix is still a little off, with the vocals bured deeper in the mix while the guitars lack the bite that Baroness or Torche are able to achieve.
The songs themselves are competent enough, with big riffs married to the usual array of thumping tribal drums and the excellent vocal work of Jeff Cope and Laura Pleasants, but there is nothing here to equal the likes of ‘Hollow Severer’ or ‘Where the horizon unfolds’ and the whole thing ticks along as being a good solid album, rather than the exceptional one that their progression so far has promised.
There are flashes here and there, ‘Said and Done’ showing what is possible with the twin drum attack, and dirgy riffs that recall the Melvins, and album closer ‘To Walk Alone’ with its clean vocals is vaguely reminiscent of the Breeders. But these are all too fleeting, and what is left is a capable but generally unsatisfactory album. It’s a shame, but it looks as though the band have just run foul of a dearth of ideas. If you are already a fan you will find things here to please you, but if you are new to Kylesa, go and check out Time Will Fuse Its Worth instead.