Kylesa is very much a band limited by its influences. In the case of their newest album, Spiral Shadow (cool fucking name by the way), this is not necessarily a bad thing. The band’s fifth album is one of the best metal releases of the year. It drives, it rocks and it sways with the kind of confidence that only a true group of assured professionals can pull off. Spiral Shadow is so indebted to the groups that have influenced Kylesa, because it’s hard not to notice when the band hangs them so prominantly on their sleeves.
The band’s general template for songwriting is similar to that of High on Fire (gruff production, lots of drum rolls), but the vocals of Phillip Cope, Corey Barhorst and Laura Pleasants lend a variety of tones to their songs, recalling Seasons of the Abyss-era Tom Araya on tracks like “Don’t Look Back” and Converge’s Jacob Bannon on tracks like “Cheating Synergy”. The guitarwork is brash and monolithic, but, when Cope rips into a harrowing solo, it has a striking resemblance to Mastodon’s Brent Hinds. The band also diverges from the strict sound of metal into a more poppy direction, but, even then, they cannot escape some sort of clear artistic reference point, Sunny Day Real Estate most notably on the riff to album highlight, “Don’t Look Back”.
The only aspect of Kylesa that stands out other than the fact that the group incorporates its influences so well into affecting metal broods is Laura’s voice. Taking the forefront of the mix for most of Spiral Shadow’s second half, it is both disturbed and bored, soaked in malaise as each note sung inevitably falls from grace into sonic muck. Laura’s voice gives the album a haunting quality, one that is not found very easily in modern metal. “To Forget” is an excellent example of this, Pleasants taking the reigns for the song’s chorus to plunge it into a dearth of cavernous riffage. Kylesa may not be the most original band out there, and I might think of an artist that sounds like each and every one of its musicians on Spiral Shadow by tomorrow, but the group makes such a tasty jambalaya from the ingredients it’s given it’s a more than forgivable offense.