It’s all too easy to take a band for granted, especially when they’ve been doing their thing for as long as Kylesa have. However, if we take a few moments to hark back to 2001, when they first formed, sludge metal was having another resurgence. Kylesa exploded to the forefront of the scene alongside fellow Savannah hometowners, Black Tusk and Baroness. If you think about the musical direction that each respective band has taken since then it really puts things into perspective and helps you appreciate the musical journey that Kylesa have embarked upon over the last 14 years.
The core focus of Kylesa’s music has always been the dual pairing of Laura Pleasants’ and Phillip Cope’s vocals and guitars. Their sound has been consistently rounded out by an ever changing rotation of drummers, often two at once; a better known feature of their live performances. Currently Carl McKinley wields sticks for the band, and has been a permanent fixture since 2006.
Kylesa’s musical progression could not have taken them further away from those early days, when terms such as ‘post’ and ‘sludge’ were thrown around all too easily. The trio have carved out their own unique niche, and while swampy sludge is still effervescent within their roots, it’s now pair bonded with dreamy, almost gothic sounding passages, making for a much more refined and mature sound.
Seventh full length album ‘Exhausting Fire’ is Kylesa’s most experimental release to date, expanding upon themes and sounds that were merely hinted at on previous release ‘Ultraviolet’. The track listing makes for a real mixed bag – ‘Shaping the Southern Sky’ is the most riff packed song on the record, and possibly their heaviest endeavour since 2010’s ‘Spiral Shadow’. Meanwhile, ‘Moving Day’ is a synth filled, gothic lullaby, that allows for Cope to almost croon, opposed to his usual trademark punk bark. If you were to categorise ‘Exhausting Fire’ as a whole, it would most definitely be ‘heavy pop’ – the best example of this is within ‘Night Drive’, it’s earnest and passionate yet not quite disarming enough to be categorised as metal. This is by no means a bad thing, however; every song is catchy as heck and still packs enough punch to get heads nodding.
Ultimately, if you enjoyed ‘Ultraviolet’ and have been keeping an open mind towards Kylesa’s upwards trajectory away from the ‘sludge-norm’ then ‘Exhausting Fire’ will be an album you’ll enjoy. It’s easily the band’s most accessible release to date and definitely one of the best they’ve written so far.
(9/10 Angela Davey)