Kylesa are a unique proposition, a band barely straining to meet the requirements of what is perceived as ‘metal’ in 2015 (Mastodon and Baroness share a similar disregard for convention), yet to disassociate them entirely from music’s heaviest genre would be to disregard the colossal riffs this band still seem to summon at will. What a quandary!
In actuality, when albums such as Exhausting Fire come along, this sort of problem – as in how to neatly categorise a band – is a welcome one. It means something special has arrived and this is entirely true of Kylesa’s 7th album. These Savannah savants have conjured up a slow burn of a record that ever so slowly seeps under your skin. Paths of ethereal quality are travelled but accompanied by ever impending dread, almost akin to catching sight of something ungodly in your peripheral vision without ever fully laying eyes on it; a permeating sense of charming cruelty undulating through each and every track.
Laura Pleasants’ dreamy, swirling vocals are hypnotically appealing and confidently take centre stage and while the shouts and growls of Phillip Kope have long since been sidelined, here he provides ample backing to Pleasants’ strangely New Wave edge. In fact, it’s Kylesa’s alluring psychedelia/new wave/sludge metal sound – think a female fronted Wall Of Voodoo channeling Crowbar – that makes them such a unique and challenging proposition. Fans of old need not panic though. Amidst the tranquility and flights of ethereal fancy lie the earth-trembling riffs of old; just used sparingly this time round for greater impact.
It’s strange to say but fans of Royal Blood will get as much of a kick out of Exhausting Fire as fans of Eyehategod; Kylesa now touching so many bases as to warrant approval from the entire rock/metal spectrum. Make no mistake, Kylesa’s sludge/stoner roots still form the core of their sound – the opening riff of “Inward Debate” stands as testament to that – but ‘sludge’ or ‘stoner’ as genre terminology now feels utterly redundant. What’s most satisfying about this endlessly rewarding release is that it appears Kylesa’s evolutionary growth may still be in its infancy. What the hell is going to happen when they reach puberty! 8/10