O2 Academy, London
30th January 2014
Spawned in the swamps of the Deep South in 2001, Georgia's Kylesa released their sixth album 'Ultraviolet' last year.
Hailed by some as the best album of the sludge metal band's career to date, 'Ultraviolet' manages to bring elements of progressive rock and even goth-like experiments to the fore; sounds that the band merely hinted at on their previous album 'Spiral Shadow'.
Combined with their earlier releases of grinding and exquisitely heavy riffage, expectations for this show were very high indeed. The diversity of the crowd queuing up outside the venue on this cold Thursday night represent Kylesa's genre bending style down to a tee. The band are currently on a month-long European tour with dates in Australia in March and April.
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Kylesa don't mess around and kick things off with 'Scapegoat', the fantastic opening track from 2009's 'Static Tensions'. It's fast, it's furious, however dismally let down by terrible sound in the venue.
The guitars are almost inaudible and Laura Pleasants on vocals/guitar struggles to get her voice across. 'Unspoken', the diamond off the latest album, follows and the sound is thankfully slightly improved. The band do a blistering version of 'Hollow Severer' from 2006's 'Time Will Fuse Its Worth'. It's a brilliant trio of tracks to start with.
Philip Cope, Kylesa's founder and producer, has a theremin situated on the left side of the stage which he plays when not churning out nasty riffs off his guitar and spitting out the vocals. 'Tired Climb' is one of the three tracks we hear from 'Spiral Shadow', alas the title track is not one of these despite being one of the band's definite masterpieces.
Some stoner bands tend to get a little tedious in large quantities but there is no such problem with Kylesa. The band re-visit their 2005 album 'To Walk a Middle Course' for the kick-ass filthy punk of 'Bottom Line' whereas the newer 'Quicksand' harks back to 70s psychedelic rock with Pleasants' circling vocals adding texture.
The band's stage set-up interestingly puts the new bassist, Chase Rudeseal, in the middle and boy, can he make it work. Throughout the whole show the curly haired, bearded man holds his own between the two vocalists/guitarists. 'Long Gone', with it's menacing melody, creeps along like an alligator looking for its next victim and Pleasant's vocals hit their stride.
The two drummers, Carl McGinley and Eric Hernandez, sound awesome as usual and they do bring a different dimension to this band's output. One of the definite highlights of the night.
'Unknown Awareness', one of their best tracks, suffers from the less than perfect sound, the track's nuances lost in the quiet, muddled mix. Whilst heavy with a capital H, 'We're Taking This', is balls-to-the-wall aggressive, bringing in Philip Cope's roots in hard core punk again, and the dual vocals from Cope and Pleasants work brilliantly.
Pleasants in particular is on form. The woman has attitude, knows how to handle the guitar and happens to be in one of the best, if not THE best sludge bands around. The Sabbath-y, hypnotic 'Running Red' closes the actual set but the band step back onstage a few minutes later for encores.
'Don't Look Back' and 'Said and Done' bring the night to a close after a career spanning hour long set.
Kylesa were badly let down by the terrible sound this evening. Speaking to some fans who had stood at the back throughout the set the sound wasn't any better there - no doubt a factor in the somewhat muted response from the crowd. Kylesa can be amazing live and it's very unfortunate that this blip took the edge off tonight's performance despite the band putting the work in.
One thing is for sure: whoever the sound engineer was tonight deserves to be buried alive underneath Kylesa's delectable dirty sludge at their next gig.