By Matt Hinch
Ultraviolet, the sixth studio effort from sludge peddlers Kylesa is the logical next step in the continuous evolution of a band which refuses to stagnate. Their progression isn’t necessarily just for the sake of it however. No, this is more natural. A process of allowing themselves to create what they feel and not what is expected. What has resulted from the creative freedom is a succession of stellar albums. Starting with their “breakout” Static Tensions the band has seen their fan base grow with every release as well as garnering increasing praise from critics.
On Ultraviolet we see Kylesa opening up even more. Not only do the songs breathe more than ever but the diversity of the album is greater as well. From the angry “We’re Taking This” to the low-key “Low Tide” and everything in between, Kylesa cover all their bases on what is also their most personal album. Never ones to shy away from showing their feelings to begin with, here we see co-guitarists/vocalists Laura Pleasants and Philip Cope baring their souls to a greater degree. The title itself refers to that which we can feel yet cannot see. The listener can definitely feel the emotional weight projecting from the sounds created on Ultraviolet.
As with any Kylesa album the vocal tradeoffs between Pleasants and Cope are spot-on. Two incredible songwriters who are able to work so well together as well as with the other members. Joined by the drum duo of Carl McGinley and Eric Hernandez, Kylesa has become a dominant force in the metal scene. That’s not to diminish the contributions of new bassist Chase Rudeseal (Hernandez, Cope and Pleasants handled bass duties on the album) or temporary drummer Tyler Newberry of course.
Throughout the album the classic Kylesa vibe makes up the core. Yet, as stated, the songs are more open. The psychedelics worm their way into the mix more, broadening the sonic palette instead of a constant wall of sound. This allows the songs to weave in and around the listener, connecting on a deeper level. Although Cope’s production keeps the two drummers on the same channel this time, the power of the duality isn’t affected. While not unique, none do it better and it’s a signature that has become integral to the band.
Opener “Exhale” delivers the big stomping riffs we expect and a great vocal back and forth between Pleasants and Cope. Psych/prog tones and hypnotic circularity highlight “Unspoken”. “Grounded” is a total heavy stoner trip. Power and huge riffs flatten us on “We’re Taking This” and “Long Gone”. Dynamics fuel “What Does It Take” and “Steady Breakdown”. “Low Tide” sees Cope getting heavy on the introspection before wicked groove and attitude pick up the pace on “Vulture’s Landing”. That track also sees Pleasants add another “voice” (grunge girl?) to her repertoire. The sweet riffs of “Quicksand” give way to the rainbow that is closer “Drifting”. The album’s capstone displays the entire spectrum of emotion, from the felt-not-seen ultraviolet frequency, through the blues up to the warmth of the angry reds.
I’ve heard that it’s taken some time for others to warm up to Ultraviolet. I suspect this is due to the fact that Kylesa haven’t made an album quite like this before. All the things that make Kylesa Kylesa are still present but the band has shed another layer of skin to expose a deeper sense of self, thus creating a highly dynamic and more sensitive album. The heavier sludge parts exude power and defiance while the more plaintive aspects display vulnerability.
As humans we are subject to a vast range of emotion and how we choose to express those feelings is our choice. Kylesa have chosen to take their personal turmoil and create their most expressive piece of art to date. As Kylesa continues to evolve it’s hard to imagine exactly what’s in store beyond Ultraviolet. In the meantime, this album is all that Static Tensions and Spiral Shadow were, Ultraviolet may just be the best yet from a band that just keeps getting better.
(Season of Mist)
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