The Rodney Dangerfield of music, metal gets little respect from the mainstream and music enthusiasts alike. The 80s are mostly to blame; metal took a sharp turn into the absurd by combining the over-the-top theatrics of classic bands with the pummeling aggression of the then-burgeoning hardcore scene.
The result is now what the genre is notoriously known for: from the much-maligned guttural vocals of death metal to the lo-fi Satanism of Norway, metal is an easy target for mockery and, consequently, ironic kitsch. Given this cultural milieu, it is almost always surprising to see a band with metal roots break the mould and attract a following beyond the pits of the dedicated horde.
Savannah, Georgia-based Kylesa are one such rare act. Hipster tastemaker Pitchfork has called them “pretty irrefutable truth that metal’s still the best place to find rock that actually rocks”– high praise from a publication that routinely disses music with D-tuned guitars while lauding the latest Drake single.
The acclaim should come as no surprise considering the success of other Southern sludge bands Mastodon and Baroness in the last 5 years; it seems only right that Kylesa have come into their own. Their psych-metal with a southern crunch sound may not be wholly unique, but the infectious songwriting and organic sound translates well to the live environment.
Band leaders Philip Cope and Laura Pleasants share singing and guitar duties and each provides a counterpoint to the other. Pleasants’ graceful guitar technique coalesces with Cope’s down-picking assault in a way similar to how the scraggly bellowing of Cope complements Pleasants shallow, atonal croon.
The rhythmic emphasis of the band is buttressed by a dual drummer setup that syncopates with Cope and Pleasant’s inventive guitar lines. The net effect is a dreary atmospheric rock that commands the venue. From the headbang-friendly “Tired Climb” to the melodic alt-rock anthem of “Don’t Look Back”, Kylesa’s scope is accompanied by a second-to-none execution. Chaotic, without sacrificing accessibility or atmosphere, Kylesa’s live sound is as precise and punchy.
For a band of such breadth, it was disappointing to see the venue choice fail to meet expectations—the small corner stage of the Wreck Room is no place for bands with huge sounds. Despite this sub par setup, the atmosphere of the club was electric. Pyrotechnics may have been lacking, but the sound was nothing short of explosive.
Sample some tracks on their myspace, and then head to your favourite Danforth-area music store to pick up Kylesa’s latest albums Spiral Shadow and Static Tensions.