Avant-garde Metal / Metal Related • United States

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Kayo Dot is a New York based avant-garde rock and experimental metal group which formed in 2003 after several members left Toby Driver's previous project, Maudlin of the Well. Kayo Dot has been subject to several line-up changes, although the constant members are Toby Driver on bass, lead vocals, guitar, clarinet and keyboards, and Mia Matsumiya on violin, viola and vocals.

The band released their debut composition, 'Choirs Of The Eye', on John Zorn's label Tzadik in 2003. This album captures atmospheric metal with avant-garde overtones with an evocative and sincerely experimental approach. 'Choirs Of The Eye' continues the combination of metal and atmospheric compositions which maudlin of the Well are known for, and is a good entry point for new listeners.

The band's 2006 follow up, 'Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue', combines a more avant and less metal overall sound, and features over an hour of guitar based compositions
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Coffins on IoCoffins on Io
Flenser 2014
Audio CD$9.21
$7.50 (used)
Choirs of the EyeChoirs of the Eye
Tzadik 2003
Audio CD$9.75
$12.92 (used)
Audio CD$56.30
$54.00 (used)
Gamma KnifeGamma Knife
Antithetic 2012
Audio CD$8.65
Hydra Head Records 2010
Audio CD$9.93
$7.39 (used)
Blue Lambency DownwardBlue Lambency Downward
Hydra Head Records 2008
Audio CD$6.99
$4.92 (used)
Dowsing Anemone with Copper TongueDowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue
Robotic Empire 2006
Audio CD$52.80
$17.17 (used)
Stained GlassStained Glass
Limited Edition
Antithetic 2012
$28.92 (used)
DIW Records (JAPAN)
Audio CD$32.13
$12.02 (used)
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KAYO DOT Discography

KAYO DOT albums / top albums

.. Album Cover 4.34 | 46 ratings
Choirs Of The Eye
Avant-garde Metal 2003
.. Album Cover 3.13 | 21 ratings
Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue
Avant-garde Metal 2006
.. Album Cover 4.04 | 7 ratings
Blue Lambency Downward
Metal Related 2008
.. Album Cover 4.45 | 7 ratings
Metal Related 2010
.. Album Cover 3.80 | 13 ratings
Gamma Knife
Avant-garde Metal 2012
.. Album Cover 4.71 | 13 ratings
Avant-garde Metal 2013
.. Album Cover 4.70 | 6 ratings
Coffins On Io
Metal Related 2014

KAYO DOT EPs & splits

.. Album Cover 3.76 | 4 ratings
Kayo Dot / Bloody Panda
Avant-garde Metal 2006
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Champions Of Sound 2008
Avant-garde Metal 2008
.. Album Cover 3.54 | 4 ratings
Stained Glass
Metal Related 2010
.. Album Cover 4.25 | 2 ratings
Metal Related 2014

KAYO DOT live albums

.. Album Cover 3.50 | 1 ratings
Live in Bonn 2009
Metal Related 2010
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Coyote - Live on WMBR, August 31, 2010
Metal Related 2014

KAYO DOT demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

KAYO DOT boxset & compilations

KAYO DOT singles (0)

KAYO DOT movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

KAYO DOT Reviews

KAYO DOT Gamma Knife

Album · 2012 · Avant-garde Metal
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He could not remember the dream

"Gamma Knife cuts through his skull as soon as he falls asleep. His vision is dim and blurred at first but it brightens with every second and he feels moved by the blissful, eerie spectacle that unfolds before him. The knife suddenly reaches his mind and the bubble bursts. All becomes vivid as the chaos spreads around and all calmness drowns in its foaming depths. How long did it last? Can time be measured in a place like this? He doesn't know. But as the edge of radiation withdraws, he is in a peaceful place again. Soft light soothes his senses as sounds of music sustain his slumber. And it all ends with silence..." Now that I lost most of you with my failed attempt at artistic writing, let's begin.

As by far the most obscure album by Kayo Dot, Gamma Knife is a negative of itself. An amazing case of an album that contradicts itself and yet, by the power of its overarching idea, works wonderfully as a whole. Now, if I just came down to earth for a moment... Gamma Knife is intentionally made that way to create an impact. The album begins and ends with stunningly beautiful and soothing, choral chamber music recorded in studio, but at its core are three tracks recorded live in concert. Could it go any weirder? Well, yes! In short, the middle part is as eclectic, avant-garde and extreme as it could get in less than twenty minutes. It's basically like a surreal 20s film where avant-chamber music meets jazz, RIO and black metal and have a shot of absinthe. The black metal side is somewhat reminiscent of Deathspell Omega and early maudlin of the Well. Compared to other avant metal acts like Ephel Duath, Gamma Knife sounds much more organic and bold in its exploration of avant jazz and chamber music. Strong psychedelic presence in the vein of Swans is also noticeable. However, what binds all these elements together to give them common identity, is the unmistakable Kayo Dot vibe that, like a totem spirit, animates every single album by this band.

I must admit that at first Gamma Knife didn't work for me as well as it does today, and I did not fully embrace its inner dualism until just a few months ago. Just like any other album by Kayo Dot, it's definitely not an easy one to get into but it's all the more rewarding once you do. Less focused on patient theme evolution of Choirs of the Eye and more on tight, aggressive experimentation known from Hubardo, Gamma Knife is a truly unique avant-garde rock ride. Let it sink in and you'll have one damn peculiar daydream every time you give it a spin.

KAYO DOT Coffins On Io

Album · 2014 · Metal Related
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Imagine a silver string stretched out across the room. Every of its seven segments is decked with objects of such a variety in shape, size, weight and colour, that they almost seem to be a random streak of elements, suspended magically in space. You can barely see what's linking them all. Yet every time Toby Driver and his ever changing team puts out an album, you instantly recognize who pulls that string. While Hubardo could be, as a last resort, described as a summary of all things Kayo Dot-ish, maudlin-ish and Driver-ish in general, Coffins on Io, just like Coyote before it, is a venture into new territories.

However, while Coyote treads a bumpy path of chamber disharmony, Coffins on Io, instead of treading a path on foot, drives a Mustang '67 convertible along a desolate highway with southern lights in the night sky above and a dead body in the back seat. Every Kayo Dot album features a conceptual basis that provides the whole thing with a core. Even Hubardo was strangely consistent despite its eclecticism. Coffins on Io on the other hand is a rather focused effort... for this band. It is indeed an album heavily inspired by retro-futuro artists of the 80s, Vangelis to name just one. Equally noticeable is David Bowie's influence, especially thanks to Toby Driver's charismatic vocal delivery. You can also get some Joy Division vibes, especially in the second track. Brian Ferry also comes to mind. Generally speaking, songwriting is more minimal compared to the previous album and more focused on subtle evolution through repetition of themes. All that gives the album a quite psychedelic character. Still, somehow Kayo Dot once again escapes categorization and despite more traceable influences than ever before, it's still a band one of its kind.

Coffins on Io charms the listener with dreamy psychedelia and retro pop touches, but as any other Kayo Dot album it requires more than just your attention - it requires you to discover and feel the creative passion that boils just like the magma underneath the surface of Io. As your perception of the music evolves with time, the album does so as well, and before you know it, you're submerged in a polyphonic hell. And you know what? If this kind of hell exists, I'm going to sin as much as possible just to get there.

KAYO DOT Choirs Of The Eye

Album · 2003 · Avant-garde Metal
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Kayo Dotted

I hate reviewing albums older than 10 years, critically acclaimed, or albums unique to the point where any comparison to other stuff is nonsensical. Guess what, Choirs of the Eye matches every single of these criteria. I've been postponing this for far too long, though. No more silence! No more running. Let's do it! Kayo Dot, the veterans of all things experimental, extreme and eclectic, can't wait to hear me singing their praises. Oh, and I shall... even though I lied, they don't give a shit.

Choirs of the Eye's the first album from Kayo Dot but by no means should it be considered a debut. Toby Driver and his crew were already seasoned musicians back than in 2003, having released three maudlin of the Well albums and some other stuff on the side. Now, this album can't be perceived as metal, or even experimental rock for the very structure of it follows modern classical/chamber music standards. And yes, the pace may remind you of doom metal, some themes draw heavily on black and death metal and soothing presence of post-rock sound is undeniable. Still, the core of this record is the modern classical background of Toby Driver. Unlike many modern composers, however, Toby focuses on the emotional impact and artistic expression rather than form and pure experimentation. And that's exactly what makes this album a deep and thrilling experience.

Kayo Dot is one of those bands that you just shouldn't overlook. If you do, you miss an opportunity to experience something unique and deeply moving. Kayo Dot prove that pushing the envelope can result in something more than a mash up of genres. And if avant-garde experimentation not only with sound but with the very form too doesn't repel you, give it a go. It truly is postmodern music at its finest.

KAYO DOT Blue Lambency Downward

Album · 2008 · Metal Related
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Kayo Dot steps forth from the mist in which he is saturated. Kayo Dot strides forward as the shadows shift around him. He breathes the morning air and the limitless potential captive inside its rush. He meanders throughout a rocky waste, dancing, weaving fabric of his thoughts through evenings and pre-dawns. Wherever he goes, the mist writhes about him, and the fabric trails behind. The mist sometimes envelopes the fabric as they are whipped by wind, and they flow as one energy behind Kayo Dot. Kayo Dot is ready to do something that he hasn't done in 2 years. He performs his ritual then begins. He mixes the mist and tapestry and begins making emotions and characters out of it. The characters are shades against a craggy landscape. He makes emotions heavy and profound, swinging them around himself until in a blinding flash, Kayo Dot's job is finished. An etheric vinyl record that was produced by the flash now sits on a small, ornate stone table.

Toby Driver hears that Kayo Dot has come awake again, and he travels to the rocky waste in search of what will come to be known as Blue Lambency Downward. After three nights in the rocky waste, Toby Driver is starting to tire, but he knows that only he can bring this gift to mankind. He presses on until finally, in the afternoon glow, he finds the treasure. Now, he must begin the rocky trek back to town where he will press Blue Lambency Downward and spread it throughout the world. And this time, there are woodwinds.

Rating: 9/10

KAYO DOT Hubardo

Album · 2013 · Avant-garde Metal
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Conor Fynes
'Hubardo' - Kayo Dot (10/10)

Although I've never concealed my love and passion for progressive rock, it's been a genre I've viewed through a jaded lens as of late. After all, let's face it: for every sterling artist making the genuine attempt to push the envelope and get daring with their sound, there are a hundred that prefer to piggyback on the accomplishments of those long past; many of the so-called 'modern' prog bands wouldn't be more anachronistic if they were babbling on about the Cold War and the rise of Disco music. It's a sorry state to be certain, but it makes a band like Kayo Dot feel all the more special and vital. Since Kayo Dot's start with 2003's "Choirs of the Eye", and their earlier incarnation as maudlin of the Well, Toby Driver and co. have been making some of the most interesting and adventurous music coming out of the prog rock and metal spheres. Although I haven't fallen in love with everything they've done- "Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue" never really clicked with me- I hold no reservations in calling Kayo Dot one of the finest experimental acts out there nowadays. Observing the ten year anniversary since the release of their debut, Kayo Dot have unveiled what is undoubtedly their most complex and majestic work to date. I've now spent nearly a month listening to it, and it hasn't lost any of its spark or excitement on me. "Hubardo" may very well be the most refreshing piece of work to yet come out this year. At no other point in 2013 has an album dared to compete with the pantheon of my most beloved albums, but "Hubardo" shows no signs of losing its steam. At the risk of sounding overzealous, those who have felt my same frustrations with recent progressive rock should look no further than Kayo Dot. It's not an easy pill to swallow, but adventurous listeners will find their efforts repaid tenfold. This is avant-garde metal at its finest.

Kayo Dot have locked themselves in a constant state of reinvention. From the start, the band is noted and defined for its dedication to change and progression. "Choirs of the Eye" immediately distanced itself from the idyllic sound of maudlin of the Well with a more sombre and jaded approach. With "Dousing Anemone with Copper Tongue" through to 2010's uncompromisingly bleak "Coyote", Kayo Dot began exploring sonic darkness in other ways, escaping the traditional confines of metal music completely. To the point where Kayo Dot had excised use of the electric guitar completely, Kayo Dot made a very surprising and pleasant leap back to metal with "Gamma Knife", this time sounding even less like classic maudlin of the Well, and more like a jazz-infused Deathspell Omega. Although "Coyote" was no slouch artistically speaking, the return to a fresh metal style has been quite the jumpstart for Kayo Dot; it feels like they have been revitalized in a way not heard since the debut. While "Gamma Knife" may have felt like it was only partially fulfilling Kayo Dot's potential with avant-black metal, "Hubardo" expands on the scope and ambition to a degree never before seen in a project by the band. At an hour and a half long, "Hubardo" immediately sets itself apart; more impressive still is the fact that Kayo Dot have accomplished a work of this length without any sacrifice to the consistency or quality of the music. Flowing seamlessly from jarring black metal to post-rock and trippy jazz fusion, I have difficulty recalling an album that manages to be so diverse, yet feel so tight and well- constructed.

Following a familiar Kayo Dot tradition, "Hubardo" opens up on a fairly mellow and deceptively quiet note. Even though the first four minutes of "The Black Stone" feel fairly loose and scattered, it builds a frightening tension that erupts masterfully in the rupture of the song's latter movement. "The Black Stone" also features the long-unheard growls of Jason Byron, best known for his harsh vocals on the Maudlin records. Clean guitars sputter alongside a frantic drumline and Byron's familiar growl, and though it doesn't start off conventionally heavy by the traditional 'metal' standard, it's dark as all hell and evokes a tension that feels like it's going to burst at any moment. Although "The Black Stone"s misleading overture creates a wonderfully dark emotional palette, it does tend to drag on a little longer than would have been optimal. Luckily, once "Hubardo" trespasses this arguable lowpoint, it soars and continues to hover at a level of relative perfection thereafter. By the end of "The Black Stone", Kayo Dot transcend a modernistic classical atmosphere and dive straight into a terrifying black/death metal chaos, the likes of which remind me of Australian lurkers Portal. "Hubardo" leaves a pretty indelible impression from the start, and even then, "The Black Stone" may be my least favourite track on the album.

While Kayo Dot albums of the past tended to focus on, and flesh out one particular style, "Hubardo" is notable for how diverse and varied it is. As "The Black Stone" should indicate to new listeners, there's quite a sonic range Kayo Dot choose to work with here. Their take on black metal- pregnant with saxophone and electronic interruptions- is arguably the most memorable aspect of the album, but there's just as much of the album that recalls their more mellow leanings. "The First Matter", "The Second Operation" and "And He Built Him A Boat" all capitalize on haunting ethereal beauty. Toby Driver's longstanding mastery of arrangement flourishes on these tracks, particularly on "The Second Operation", which features a stunning blend of violin, horn and synthesizer that nearly moved me to tears the first time I heard it. "And He Built Him A Boat" was the first track I heard from the album, and I was obsessed with it the first time I heard it. Arguably the most conventional and accessible piece on the album, "And He Built Him A Boat" shares a kinship with a lot of 'cinematic' post-rock; I'm thinking bands like Explosions in the Sky, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Mono. Although vocals have never been a strong suit of Toby Driver or the bands he's been a part of, Driver's voice is uncharacteristically strong here, and the accompanying choral arrangements are haunting as anything I've heard. "And He Built Him A Boat" ultimately gives way to "Passing the River", a longer piece that starts off echoing Radiohead more than anything, before diving into a hammered dulcimer and sax-infused metal climax. On the other side of the spectrum, Kayo Dot save their biggest surprises for their newly acquired black metal style. "Thief", "Floodgate" and "Zlida Caosgi" are all chaotic and multi- layered, easily rivaling the technical complexity of Gorguts, Deathspell Omega and any other band that have spent their careers building up this sort of calculated madness. "Zlida Coasgi" in particular may be my favourite song on the album, managing to balance heaviness, atmosphere, beauty and catchiness to a degree of perfection I don't think I've ever heard before.

Existing fans of the album may remark that I failed to mention "Vision Adjustment to Another Wavelength" when listing off the heavier tracks. I might explain that choice by saying that it deserves a pedestal of its own entirely. While "Zlida Coasgi" may be the track that I enjoy the most, it's "Vision Adjustment?" that makes up the album's most terrifying, leftfield and experimental moment. Frantic saxophones are mixed in with mind-blowingly weird electronic textures, inhuman screams and indecipherable guitar patterns, creating one of the weirdest things I have ever heard in my entire life. I'm not sure it can even be done proper justice in writing. Just listen to it. Listen to it. I'm pretty sure that song alone earns "Hubardo" its bread.

The album ends on a surprising note; while much of "Hubardo" has been passed between black metal and more ambient post rock, "The Wait of the World" closes the album with a psychedelic and very modern take on jazz fusion. As if Robert Fripp and John McLaughlin joined The Mars Volta and had some sort of lurid acid party, it evokes a feeling of eeriness and unease quite unlike the band's metal output. In case anyone reading this has heard it, it's a similar experience to Steven Wilson's own fusion freakout "Raider II" off 2011's "Grace for Drowning". Quite an unexpected way to close off an album, and an excellent one at that. As is the case with most albums deserving of a masterpiece, "Hubardo" excels just as much with regards to its execution as it does with the compositions themselves. While "Gamma Knife" felt a little low-budget productionwise, it feels like no expense has been spared in fulfilling their music this time around. While many albums this complex generally suffer from a feeling of being too sterile and focused on clarity, "Hubardo" sounds rich and organic, like a classic analog album if it was injected with precision and crystal clarity. With maudlin of the Well and even a lot of Kayo Dot's material, I was never overtly blown away by the demonstration of musicianship, but since they amped up the complexity with "Gamma Knife", Kayo Dot have been terrifying in this regard as well. Very special commendations go to the drummer Keith Abrams, who passes me as being a sort of metal-oriented Bill Bruford with the way he's able to intone every beat and hit with detail and texture. Abrams changes up his drumwork to accommodate whatever given style is happening on "Hubardo" at the time; he sounds well at home as a fusion drummer just as much as a metal drummer. Did I mention "Hubardo" has some of the most impressive blastbeats I've ever heard on record? Yes, there's that as well.

It would have been nice to have heard violinist Mia Matsumiya perform a little more on this album, especially since her showcase towards the beginning of "The Second Operation" is breathtaking. Listeners coming from a more distinctly metal background will note the unconventionally meaty presence of saxophones on the album. Daniel Means and Terran Olson offer a double sax attack, the likes of which I've never heard work so well in a metal context. Especially on "Vision Adjustment to Another Wavelength" and "Floodgate", it's difficult to imagine the music sounding so scary and chaotic, had the saxophones not been there.

It's uncompromising, rich, and for my money, it's an instant classic. I have long considered "Choirs of the Eye" to be one of my favourite albums ever, and a month into experiencing "Hubardo", I have to say that this one trumps their debut by a noticeable margin. Always pushing the envelope forward, it's my hope that this album gives Kayo Dot the exposure and attention they deserve. Even from the length alone, it's not an album that all prospective listeners will have time for, but I don't think I've heard an album this year that has created such an awe in me; only the new Gorguts and The Ruins of Beverast albums have even dared to compete. "Hubardo" is the sort of album that only comes around once in a while, and I won't even try to predict where the band goes next from here. Total mastery.

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