"Spiral Shadow" is a big mix of emotions and musical variety.
American Stoner Metal band Kylesa’s 2009 release, “Static Tensions”, was one that was hard to follow, because of its use of successful formulas mixed together well. But “Spiral Shadow” comes right behind it in terms of quality, and in some points, there is even a slight improvement: however, overall it’s not as solid and enjoyable as the previous album.
There are pretty noticeable changes in direction the band takes on this new album: the distortion has lost a bit of its original impact, favoring however a more atmospheric sound, cleaner passages that include diverse guitar effects and more rich arrangements; this way, many of these moments are remindful of Sludge Metal's more atmospheric side, except for the fact that Kylesa have always been straight to the point and have always done the job quickly, and it is no different here. The type of impact the band delivers is also very varied; from tense, anxious moments, there are also more optimistic and cheerful ones, or angry, violent ones. Previous albums by the band have had more of a monotone attitude and never changed their perennial state of anger.
Again with a short 40 minute album, Kylesa with “Spiral Shadow” show they can blend many things into one another in order to make a more different, elaborate and musically luxurious sound. But they're making the album as a whole a little less solid and a bit more sparse. The great songs are still here, like the opener “Tired Climb”, which is nauseatingly aggressive for the most part, but it also has a cool, tense and anxious build up. “Crowded Road” has a Doomier, heavier feel, while the guitar tapping of “Don’t Look Back” almost reminds of Math Rock, with a somewhat strange and very subtle Pixies influence in the songwriting. The second half of the LP, while it still has a few good moments like the solemn closing track, is a little less emotional and impactive, focusing more on showcasing interesting filter effects rather than concentrating on the songwriting.
An album with a very wide range of sounds that still however remains faithful to Stoner Metal. Although a bit one sided (superiority of the first half to the second), it remains enjoyable pretty much all the way through, and delivers excellent songs that will become, in my mind, Kylesa classics.