I’ve got another compilation this week. Much like the Isis album, this is hardly a must have but something nice for completists or people jonesing for some Kylesa (it’s been a little over two years and counting we’ve been waiting for a new album).
And this isn’t just a bunch of old tracks thrown together. Many of these tracks were worked on specifically for this album. Tracks are really culled from all over the place. There are a few unfinished tracks lying around that were completed. There are a couple updated versions of album and 7″ songs. The touch-ups help give the album more cohesion since the songs were written throughout the past ten years. There’s also a brand new song End Truth right in the center of everything.
For me, the album’s highlights are the two covers near the end. Pink Floyd’s Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun is probably their most circulated rarity. I think it’s originally from a Pink Floyd tribute. It’s nice to see that it’s finally getting a proper release. The other is Buzzov*en’s Drained. I’m not sure if this was ever released before, but it’s a great.
My only complaint is that the album kind of just drops off at the end finishing with a drum jam (creatively titled Drum Jam). Between that and the two covers, it feels like they didn’t know how to fit them all in with the other songs so they just got dumped at the end. Apart form that it’s a good comp. They’re all solid songs.
It’s been a pretty eventful month for Kylesa. They just finished up a tour and Spiral Shadow, the follow-up to their critically acclaimed Static Tensions, was released by Season of Mist on October 26th. I caught up with Laura Pleasants (guitar/vocals) and Corey Barhorst (bass/keyboards) after their set at Webster Hall a few weeks back. And although I was barely able to speak due to a cold, and Laura was barely able to hear because she just stepped off the stage, it turned out all right. Here’s what they had to say:
You’ve been on the road with High on Fire and Torche. How’s that been so far?
Laura: It’s been awesome. We toured with High on Fire in 2005, and we’ve toured with Torche a bunch of times, so it was just like going on tour with friends and family. It’s been great.
Apart from set times, is there a difference between opening as opposed to headlining? Do you change the set around for the audience?
Laura: We just have forty minutes to play, but we’ve been playing the same set every night.
What about your plans after this tour? Are you planning any headlining tours or anything?
Corey: We have some stuff in December. We’re doing some shows on the West Coast; more Northwest.
Laura: Yeah. We’re playing with Baroness and Black Tusk in Portland, and then we’re playing Seattle and Vancouver.
Corey: And then between Christmas and New Year’s, we’re doing the East Coast with Clutch for a few days.
Laura: [To my friend in Clutch shirt] We’re going out with your boys! Clutch rules! So that will be a fun After-Christmas party with Clutch for a few days, and then we’re going to Australia. And I think before we go to Australia that we’re talking about doing some US headlining dates, and I can’t remember if it was going to be West Coast or East Coast. I think it’s going to be…
Corey: Both, but at different times.
Laura: January we’ll do maybe East Coast, and then when we get back from Australia, go to the West Coast.
Spiral Shadows is being released in a couple of days. I haven’t had a chance to see the actual album yet. Did you work with a producer or engineer?
Laura: Yeah. Phillip, our other guitar player, produced it. He’s produced our past few records. We recorded at The Jam Room which is in Columbia, South Carolina. We’ve recorded there for a long time, and we’ve worked with engineers there for a while. It’s a very comfortable recording environment.
Your albums have some pretty distinct artwork. How closely do you work with the artists?
Laura: Album art is especially important, so we work very closely with the artist.
So you give them the ideas?
And this album has a black and white cover which says a lot to me. What is the significance behind that?
Laura: It’s pretty monochromatic. Well, there are two different versions. The digipack is printed on an optical board, so it’s reflective and psychedelic. We had that in mind with the design. And it’s the end of a decade. We were wanting to do something very specific. The artist we chose does really really good work in black and white, and we wanted to keep the colors pretty simple.
Is there an overall theme to the album?
Laura: Well, lyrically, there is. Musically, it’s open to your interpretation. Lyrically, we had a common theme of distance.
Your lyrics seem very personal.
Laura: They are. Yeah.
So with two different singers, do you each write your own lyrics?
Laura: We do.
Do you discuss what the songs are about first?
Laura: We do, and we’ve written lyrics together for so long. We’ll discuss what we want to write about. When it get more developed with what the songs are about, we’re just really on the same page. So writing lyrics to each other is really easy.
I notice that with each album, the different sounds seem to coalesce a lot more. Is this a conscious decision, or does that just come with being comfortable writing together?
Laura: That just comes with creative growth; just growth as a musician and jamming together. We’ve all been playing together for a long time.
And for the record, Don’t Look Back is not a Boston cover?
Because you’re way off.
Corey: You know, it started out to be a Boston cover, but none of us could figure out how to play the song right. So we wrote it our own way, and we just kept the title the same.
Laura: That’s funny. No one’s asked us that.
Really? Well, it’s new.
Laura: Boston’s good.
Laura: It’s a rocking song.
If you were KISS, and painted your faces for a persona, what would you be?
Laura: I’d be a lion, because I’m a Leo.
Corey: I think I’d just be anything green. Like a lizard or something.
Laura: No. No. No. Corey would be a fucking weasel.
Corey: Yeah. I guess a weasel.
Laura: That would totally suit you, dude.
Kylesa played first. They had about forty minutes. I’m terrible with song names, but they played a lot of stuff from their last couple albums and a few older tunes. They sounded great. Their live sound is a more stripped-down metal kind of thing as opposed to their intricately layered albums. They were still psychedelic, but with more of a punch-in-the-face thing going on.
Next was Torche. I missed most of their set. “Missed” isn’t really quite right because i did hear it through the wall, but I was doing an interview. They were good, though. Although, their beards really didn’t seem mighty enough for them to be a Hydrahead band. I never much cared for what I heard off of their albums, but they were a good live band.
Finally, High on Fire hit the stage. They opened with Frost Hammer, a popular track off of their recent album, and pretty much thrashed nonstop for a little over an hour. Except for maybe the one time when guitarist/vocalist/Oakland native, Matt Pike, told us that The Raiders kicked The Broncos asses (the final was 59-14). They also played mostly songs from their past two albums. Baghdad was the only really old tune. Highlights for me were Blessed Black Wings and Bastard Samurai (their “ballad”). They closed the night off with Snakes For the Divine.
I found a couple of the setlists:
Face the Wall
Cast Into Unknown
Charge of Brown Recluse
High on Fire
Waste of Tiamat
Blessed Black Wings
Fire, Flood, and Plague
Rumors of War
Snakes for the Divine
I’ve got a lot of Kylesa stuff to bombard you guys this with in the coming week or so. I’ve got an album review, a show review, and an interview with Laura and Corey. Spiral Shadow was released today, so I’ll start with that.
First off, I’ll say that it’s a really fantastic album. You might think it would be difficult to follow up last year’s highly-acclaimed Static Tensions, but this exceeded all of my expectations. The opening track, Tired Climb, pulls you in right away, starting with keys and moving into a really cool layered build.
Spiral Shadow is a bit moodier than previous albums. The ambient melodic parts are pronounced and really define the album. The eclectic musical stylings that compose Kylesa are more and more coalesced with each album. It’s a pretty big jump from Static Tensions, but is also a natural progression of where the band has been headed since their debut.