Kylesa Static Tensions

[Prosthetic; 2009]

Styles:  metal
Others: Baroness, Mastodon, Eyehategod

Sometimes, we’re all better off without over-analyzing. This has made critiquing Kylesa’s Static Tensions a monumental task for the primary reason that I think it rocks, and that’s all I really care to think about it. But, for you, the enlightened and inquisitive Tiny Mix Tapes reader, that’s not good enough.

If we were buddies, I’d just tell you to shut the hell up. I’d turn up the volume, and you’d hear the way the Georgia band’s two drummers — Carl McGinley and Eric Hernandez — seem to wrestle each other, rolling back and forth from one side of the mix to the other. You’d hear Laura Pleasants and Phillip Cope trading vocals, even though they both roar like unholy menaces. And you’d hear them shred together, slinging dirty punk riffs into splashes of psychedelic swamp gas, blackened abrasion, and no-bullshit fills. In short, you’d hear heavy metal.

You’d remember what it was like when you were young and unhip, and all you wanted to do was rock the eff out in your bedroom with the speakers cranked. Of course, back then, it was probably something lame like Rob Zombie or Metallica’s steaming Load. But we can pretend it was Kylesa.

And since we’re buddies, you’d nod in approval because I’m right — this is freakin’ rad. And that’d be that.

But no, this is all text, so there’s no pat on the shoulder, no “Dude, you gotta hear this,” and no excuse for arguing on the basis of “It’s badass.”

And that sucks. Because the greatest asset of this record is that it doesn’t need a lot of thought to get it. Sure, it’s rewarding time and again, but not because it slowly unravels its thematic conceits with long-term contextual exposure or some bullshit like that. It’s just good heavy metal, and it makes you want to bang your head a little when you put your headphones on in the office.

But the “reviewer” title mandates an academic approach, not a visceral one — not even to music as visceral this. You want context, so I talk about the renaissance of metal in the South, which really isn’t all that new, although Mastodon’s mainstream success is. I mention the obvious, well-known touchstones: Baroness and Mastodon. Static Tensions reminds one of Baroness and Mastodon — not in the arty or proggy (respectively) reaches these two bands occupy, but in that good old Southern, sweaty, beer-/beard-metal sort of way. This puts Kylesa more in line with their meaner, bristlier cousins in Eyehategod or Sourvein. And, of course, the influence of Neurosis on any of this stuff is pretty clear, and to say that Kylesa is all brawn and no brain isn’t entirely fair.

Instrumentally, Kylesa’s got the x-factor here. The band’s five players swing in the same groove, even as they carve their own paths; it’s what makes the songs feel so simple and riff-heavy, even as the actual arrangements reveal plenty of technicality. This is a dynamic, densely-packaged slab of rock ’n’ roll, which not only stands alongside the titans of the genre, but gives Kylesa a name of their own. All of metal’s virtues are here: atmosphere, aggression, musicianship, and scope.

But no matter what arguments I present here, they can all be summed up by saying this: Shit’s burly, son. And if that’s not good enough, then it’s probably you — not Kylesa — who needs evaluating.

1. Scapegoat
2. Insomnia For Months
3. Said And Done
4. Unknown Awareness
5. Running Red
6. Nature’s Predators
7. Almost Lost
8. Only One
9. Perception
10. To Walk Alone

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