Release Date: Oct 2, 2015
Record label: Season of Mist
My first exposure to Kylesa came secondhand. I kept seeing their blocky, rough-hewn logo plastered across Philly bike messengers’ sweaty chests, and became familiar with their sound via sludgy, gritty early albums like To Walk a Middle Course and Time Will Fuse Its Worth. Since then, the band has evolved considerably, elbowing its way out of the “Savannah metal” niche once also occupied by Baroness and Black Tusk to arrive at a chimeric sound all its own.
It's tempting to call Kylesa's Exhausting Fire the culmination of the experimentation that began on 2010's Spiral Shadow as punk-metal tempos fell off and psych began threading its way into their stoner sludge mix. On 2013's widely celebrated Ultraviolet, they added lush atmospheres and textures to balance their heaviness. Kylesa is down to a trio here, with guitarists/vocalists Phillip Cope and Laura Pleasants, and drummer Carl McGinley.
Lately, psych-inspired doom, especially from female-fronted bands, have been enjoying their time in the limelight. Which is great for the beloved Kylesa, who have been doing that exact thing much longer than many of their contemporaries, and doing it well. The group have undergone some changes over the years, as well as some fluctuations in their overall aesthetic, but they are by far one of the strongest aggressive bands to come out of the early 2000s.
Kylesa have been experimenting with and expanding their sound for almost 15 years. They've kept moving, which is admirable, but when the Savannah, Ga., band started out, they were already unique: a crusty sludge-punk juggernaut that mixed shout-along male-female vocals into anthems that got your adrenaline going even if you weren't paying attention to what they were saying. As time went on, they added a second drummer, and replaced some of the sludge with pop.
Over the past decade, Kylesa has been one of the most consistent and visible bands on the stoner metal circuit. They rose from the same Georgia scene that spawned Mastodon, playing a brand of metallic hardcore punk before mellowing out in recent years. Shouted vocals, fast tempos, and angry, misanthropic lyrics have given way to melodic heavy psych and calmer vibes, and though Kylesa has jettisoned its old sound and lost favor in the crowd that once championed it, the band’s development into a stoner powerhouse always felt natural and organic.
All six albums by Kylesa each revolve around a different theme, and new release Exhausting Fire isn’t exempt from this, focusing on the concept of rebuilding. Although the band performs as a five-piece, the recent departure of drummer Eric Hernandez saw them become a trio, and the writing and performing of the dual drum parts fell to drummer Carl McGinley. This adaptation transformed and restored the band to who they are today.