• Sammy O'Hagar


The excellence of Kylesa’s new album, Static Tensions, is rooted just as much in what it doesn’t do wrong as what it does right: Kylesa’s two drummers could have made them the Allman Brothers of metal (metal doesn’t need an Allman Brothers, as far as I’m concerned); their super down tuned guitars and classy, evocative amps could have lead to drone metal wankery; their sludgy riffs and clear penchant for marijuana could have lead to an entertaining, yet directionless, riff fest. But they eschew that whole thing all together, instead opting to make a concise and brilliant metal record, plain and simple, without indulging themselves in the sort of excess the genre can be known for. The best parts about having two drummers in a heavy-footed metal band, the best part about having lower-than-hell guitars and sweet amps, the best part about composing an album of wall to wall top shelf sludge riffs are all that’s present on Static Tensions, an admirably lean and to the point album that’ll rattle around your rib cage until it sticks there.

At times, Static Tensions brings to mind fellow Georgians Mastodon (the opening riff to “Insomnia for Months“ sounds straight off Remission), but only in the respect that they both worship at the alter of classic capital-“M” Metal, dusting bits of prog and Sabbath swagger on top of their riff-heavy concoction. But the two bands are by no means derivative of one another; while Mastodon suckle at the teat of thrash, death metal, and even grind as well as old school metal, Kylesa are content to stay nestled in the old school, riding mammoth sized grooves and briefly dallying in psychedelic bits before diving back into the primordial ooze. And the songs retain their own personalities while managing to work well together: “Running Red” is what Fugazi would sound like covering Iron Maiden, “Said and Done” is vintage stoner rock with the menacing bellow of Philip Cope keeping it focused, “Scapegoat” is venomous metallic punk rooted in a wonderful two step, “Only One” and “Perception” both have almost offensively simple-yet-effective riffs that beg the question, “How the hell can a band in 2009 still pull this sort of shit off?” There’s not a song among them, though, that stands as filler. Every song is essential to Static Tensions, and every fucking one is great.

Drummers Eric Hernandez and Carl McGinley, as I mentioned before, certainly know how to utilize everything that’s great about having two drummers: they make monolithic beats that stand twice as massive, skitter about pensively (like they do in what sounds like an ADD blast beat on “Said and Done”), or briefly indulge in tribal-sounding rhythms. Kylesa’s sense of when to reign it in puts them head and shoulders above their hipster metal/beard metal “peers,” too obsessed with art school pretentiousness to fully grasp the primal spirit of great metal. While unafraid to put a toe into the outer reaches, they make sure that their other foot is firmly planted on the other side. Static Tensions, despite its occasional genre-flexible tendencies, is just a solid fucking metal record. Though it’s hard to tell at this time of year, it may be an early contender for one of the year’s best.

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(four out of five horns)


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