KAYO DOT

Avant-garde Metal / Non-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 album, 'Choirs Of The Eye', on John Zorn's label Tzadik in 2003. This album captures atmospheric metal with avant-garde overtones. 'Choirs Of The Eye' continues the combination of metal and atmospheric compositions which maudlin of the Well are known for.

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 with less frontal vocals and a higher emphasis on atmospheric textures and avant-garde playing.

In 2008, they
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KAYO DOT Discography

KAYO DOT albums / top albums

KAYO DOT Choirs Of The Eye album cover 4.28 | 58 ratings
Choirs Of The Eye
Avant-garde Metal 2003
KAYO DOT Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue album cover 3.34 | 31 ratings
Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue
Avant-garde Metal 2006
KAYO DOT Blue Lambency Downward album cover 4.00 | 13 ratings
Blue Lambency Downward
Non-Metal 2008
KAYO DOT Coyote album cover 4.00 | 13 ratings
Coyote
Non-Metal 2010
KAYO DOT Gamma Knife album cover 3.72 | 19 ratings
Gamma Knife
Avant-garde Metal 2012
KAYO DOT Hubardo album cover 4.49 | 22 ratings
Hubardo
Avant-garde Metal 2013
KAYO DOT Coffins On Io album cover 3.90 | 12 ratings
Coffins On Io
Non-Metal 2014
KAYO DOT Plastic House On Base Of Sky album cover 4.40 | 6 ratings
Plastic House On Base Of Sky
Non-Metal 2016
KAYO DOT Blasphemy album cover 2.92 | 2 ratings
Blasphemy
Non-Metal 2019
KAYO DOT Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike album cover 4.00 | 4 ratings
Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike
Avant-garde Metal 2021

KAYO DOT EPs & splits

KAYO DOT Kayo Dot / Bloody Panda album cover 3.70 | 5 ratings
Kayo Dot / Bloody Panda
Avant-garde Metal 2006
KAYO DOT Champions Of Sound 2008 album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Champions Of Sound 2008
Avant-garde Metal 2009
KAYO DOT Stained Glass album cover 3.60 | 10 ratings
Stained Glass
Non-Metal 2010
KAYO DOT Kraków album cover 4.25 | 4 ratings
Kraków
Metal Related 2014

KAYO DOT live albums

KAYO DOT Live in Bonn 2009 album cover 3.50 | 1 ratings
Live in Bonn 2009
Avant-garde Metal 2010
KAYO DOT Coyote - Live on WMBR, August 31, 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 re-issues & compilations

KAYO DOT singles (0)

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

KAYO DOT Reviews

KAYO DOT Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike

Album · 2021 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
In the on again / off again world of KAYO DOT in regards to being an avant-garde metal band, Toby Driver has shifted gears once again away from the Gothic rock / electronica menageries of his post “Hubardo” period and once again jumped back into the heavier realms of music complete with death growls. While some may call KAYO DOT’s tenth studio album MOSS GREW ON THE SWORDS AND PLOWSHARES ALIKE a return to form, it would be more accurate to call this album an interesting album length compendium of everything Driver has conjured up in his past works and thrown onto the work table for the ultimate mix of all the previous styles in one listening experience.

One thing is for sure and that is that KAYO DOT remains in its own little world, utterly unclassifiable although the list of ingredients that include avant-garde metal, gothic rock, doom metal and progressive rock do give a hint of what to expect. With some rather bloated projects in the past with huge rosters of guest musicians, MOSS GREW is basically the Toby Driver show where he plays all the instruments with the only exception being guitar solos performed by Greg Massi. Jason Byron, the long term collaborator continues to provide the lyrics for Driver’s unique atmospheric knotty prog to latch onto.

Clocking in at close to an hour, MOSS GREW ON THE SWORDS AND PLOWSHARES ALIKE displays a triumphant return to those missed metal accoutrements that decorate Driver’s musical palette like no other. “The Knight Errant” unapologetically breaks down the door announcing that the series of non-metal albums has ceased and a new chapter of the KAYO DOT experience has begun. With dramatic synth stabs, howling atmospheric keyboard fuzz and off-kilter percussive outbursts, Driver re-introduces his growly metal vocal angst yet without the aqcompanienmt of heavy guitar distortion but rather jagged angular keyboard runs, jazzy drumming dopamine inducers and crazy roller coaster ride time signature changes and proggy workouts. Some heavier guitars do make their appearance but always play second fiddle to the untamed and oft unhinged synth madness.

It becomes quite clear with the second track “Brethren Of The Cross” that Driver did not completely abandon his avant-goth leanings of the previous albums but in fact has melded them with his prior avant-metal and Maudlin of the Well sensibilities. The juxtaposition of elements provides a turbulent stormy ride like chartering a sailboat over the Drake’s passage to Antarctica. This atmospheric jungle mixed with the more aggressive metal leanings is exactly what the doctor ordered and offerings the much needed contrast that has been missing on Driver’s non-metal offerings. The result is an abstract soundscape in the vein of MotW’s “Bath” and “Leaving Your Body Map” as well as the earliest KAYO DOT offerings all kept in the more accessible realms of Driver’s more recent jaunts into the easier on the ears soundscapes of Goth electronic mood enhancers.

The diversity factor has been turned up on MOSS GREW and that is what makes it such a welcome return to past glories! While recent albums sorta got stuck in a one-trick pony groove, this one really isn’t afraid to let each track drift to wherever feels right. “The Necklace” is a particular standout as erratic percussive drive accompanies a chilled out synth soaring sequence with Driver screaming from beneath the mix. Another standout is the closing 13-minute plus “Epipsychidion” which delivers what one could only deem as atmospheric death metal. Thick ambient cloud covers suffocate heavy drumming and growly vocals with weirder than weird meandering compositional fortitude that reminds as to why Toby Driver is considered one of the most inventive artists in today’s prog and metal realms.

MOSS GREW ON THE SWORDS AND PLOWSHARES ALIKE comes as an unexpected surprise as the previous album “Blasphemy” really made me think that Driver had peaked and was destined to no longer compose music that i can’t really resonate with. If anything this album reminds me that Driver is always on the lookout for something new to latch onto but also has his pulse on the whims of the fanbase and returned to a more familiar comfort zone in the nick of time for those on the fence. Overall, MOSS GREW is not only a dramatic and welcome return to his metal roots but really does capture the essence of everything Driver has tackled up to this point. It’s sort of a recap in musical form of all those “leaving your body map” musical projections. What really makes this one work is the abstract fuzziness of it all, as if it is the soundtrack to a dream. Just enough melodic progressions to latch onto yet one of the most surreal KAYO DOT experiences to behold in a very long time.

KAYO DOT Blasphemy

Album · 2019 · Non-Metal
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siLLy puPPy
KAYO DOT decidedly abandoned any metal connections on “Coffins On Io” and started melding Gothic rock with it’s unique brand of dark jazz, avant-prog and darkwave. Toby Driver and friends continue this on BLASPHEMY, the ninth studio album. While the previous release “Plastic House On Base Of Sky” was larger than life with 21 extra musicians on board to create a somewhat bloated production, BLASPHEMY on the hand creates a more immediate effect by reducing the lineup to a mere six participants. The result is a more direct progressive rock experience that focuses on creepy atmospheres that match the foggy album cover art with Gothic bleakness.

There are two camps of KAYO DOT fans, one that went gaga over Driver’s unique avant-garde metal style that mixed metal bombast with jazz, chamber prog and avant-garde weirdness and then there are those who love this second phase of non-metal mood maddening Goth. Of course there are those who get into both sides. I’m in the first camp and have never related to this phase of the KAYO DOT universe and unfortunately BLASPHEMY does not change this fact. The album consists of eight tracks of over 45 minutes however there is also a second bonus disc titled PURITY for those who can’t get enough of this style of KAYO DOT. If that’s the case get the Digibook Limited Edition and bliss out!

Admittedly while i literally hated this album upon first listen, it actually has grown on me a bit through forced exposure until i can put myself into the head of the creators who forged it in their fiery pits. The admirable aspects include highly complex time signature changes, abstract and surreal tones and timbres that really do take you to the heart of the matrix for deep contemplation. The whole thing does sound what The Cure might’ve evolved into had they pursued a more progressive rock oriented sound. The down side is that after the first three tracks the album begins to lag a bit and the spell that the album casts begins to wear thin to my ears.

While the production works quite well, i find the vocals to a bit irritating to be honest. Musically all is fine featuring those knotty KAYO DOT workouts but considering the music is so dark and depressive i find the vocals to be a bit one-dimensional and in the end pretty much ruins the overall experience. In fact the vocals sound processed much of the time and there is some sort of tinny tone that reminds me of modern day electro-pop which while not inherently bad for what it is, doesn’t resonate in the context of a dark gloomy album theme to my ears. Whatever the case some have warmed up to this album as the logical next step from this series of non-metal albums.

Given the Gothic rock leanings, BLASPHEMY also has more pop oriented hooks than most KAYO DOT albums would ever dare. As a KAYO DOT fan i’m more accustomed to the jagged surreal soundscapes of “Choirs Of The Eye,” “Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue” and “Blue Lambency Downward,” therefore this one is just too tame for my interest from an artist known to expand the metal world’s horizons into bizarre new colonizations of sound. All in all this isn’t as bad as my first impressions implied but after giving it more time to sink in and renewed contemplation, it still doesn’t exactly light my fire. When it comes down to it, BLASPHEMY just doesn’t deliver what it promises. I can’t enjoy an album that i constantly have to reinterpret it to what i want it to be. While i can overlook that to some degree, in the end this just doesn’t rank high on my KAYO DOT experiences.

KAYO DOT Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue

Album · 2006 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
After the original breakup of Maudlin of the Well, Toby Driver found a new direction to steer the avant-garde smorgasbord that mixed art rock, post-rock and progressive rock together in the cauldron with extra servings of extreme metal mixed into the pot but Driver didn’t waste any time putting together a new band that could carry these avant-garde tendencies to the next level. KAYO DOT was assembled in 2003 with Driver himself behind the steering wheel and a welcoming debut release called “Choirs Of The Eye’ on John Zorn’s Tzadik Records. Several Maudlin members also went along for the ride and together they created one of the most unique sounding albums of the entire 2000s. “Choirs Of The Eye” was part modern classical, part post-rock, part chamber music and part avant-garde metal. While the debut album caught the world’s attention and instantly brought KAYO DOT into spotlight at least in terms of the prog rock and metal underground, Driver decided to take the band into even stranger arenas from then on.

Arriving three years later, the surreally named DOWSING ANEMONE WITH COPPER TONGUE delivers the bizarre avant-garde fortitude that the title suggests. With a label jump to Robotic Empire Records, the band continued the intricately designed sprawling compositions and took them into even more bizarre and complex experimentation with a huge army of instrumentalists delivering an orchestra of bleak sonic oppression that exhibited a truly labyrinthine fusion of modern classical, avant-garde jazz, post-metal and chamber rock. It was clear that KAYO DOT’s instant popularity wasn’t heading in a more accessible direction and on the contrary DOWSING ANEMONE WITH COPPER TONGUE is one of those albums that requires a multitude of listening experiences preferable in a wide range of moods to really find its way under your skin but ultimately casts a long-lasting spell as it slowly sinks into your psyche like a parasitic hookworm!

While classified as metal, the heavier parts are intermittent with much focus on the slithering slow chamber rock and jazzy touches ratcheting up the tension in the same fashion as any good Godspeed! You Black Emperor style of apocalyptic post-rock however KAYO DOT’s sophomore album exudes a much more interesting turn of events with violin solos unleashing haunting melodies over a dark atmospheric backdrop of guitars, viola, trumpets and keyboards. The drums and the bass provide the rhythmic drive as with most rock bands but the tempos and time signatures ratchet up often with zigzagging riffs, sudden start / stop syncopation and jittery uncertain gloomy mood enhancing timbres that climax in explosive outbursts of dissonant power chords unleashing their fury in metal bombast. Out of the five lengthy tracks, the shortest running time of “Aura On An Asylum Wall” still hovers near the eight minute mark while the soul crushing bombast of “…On Limpid Form” soars to a majestic eighteen minute run. This is an album to savor slowly as it requires full active participation in its ever-changing stylistic sequences.

DOWSING ANEMONE is quite a different beast than “Choirs” as each track is independent of the other and has a distinct personality trait. While the opening “Gemini Becomingt The Tripod” delivers a distinct metal bombast as heard on “Choirs,” the following tracks focus much more on the chamber rock, jazz and 20th century avant-garde attributes of avant-garde classical musical scores. The metal bombast returns on the lengthy “…On Limpid Form” which strangely builds up a textural whirlwind of jazzy melodies with indie rock sensibilities until it creates a monstrous roar of heavy metal thunder that carries it far and wide. The time signatures on this album are off the chart as each track employs a wide range of off-kilter compositional counterpoints with a tapestry of instrumental interaction that is phenomenally performed in manners hitherto unheard. This music is startling and dramatic and sounds like it was beamed down from another world.

Personally i have always preferred this second album to the first and anything KAYO DOT has down to the Maudlin of the Well material that preceded. This album simply takes me to places i never knew existed and that is exactly what avant-garde music is supposed to achieve only this isn’t experimentation for its own sake but rather an interesting new way of achieving a full compositional experience with everything tweaked in order to create an alienating effect. While i absolutely love the chamber-jazz-metal-art-rock that’s on display, i still find the vocals to be quite weak on several occasions. While they are perfect in some contexts, particularly the more aggressive moments, it’s during the really slowed down and whiney parts they are awful and this effect is on full display, unfortunately for much of the final track “Amaranth The Peddler” which exercises the weakest aspects of the bands and crafts them into an entire track. Seriously if it weren’t for the closer i would rate this much higher and had it been cut off it would still be a 40 plus minute listening experience. As much as i love DOWSING ANEMONE WITH COPPER TONGUE it pales in comparison to the even more dynamic perfection of the following “Blue Lambency Downward” album.

KAYO DOT Coffins On Io

Album · 2014 · Non-Metal
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Warthur
Possibly the most accessible Kayo Dot album of them all, with some sections of the selections here almost sounding like comparatively conventional gothic-leaning alternative rock given an eccentric production treatment. As usual, I find Kayo Dot's approach rather hit and miss, and whilst I appreciate the extra clarity they have attained by allowing themselves to prune back their sound and resist the temptation to turn the experimentalism up to 11 all the time, at the same time that selfsame clarity doesn't reveal much to write home about, at least to my ears. I never feel like I can mark Kayo Dot too far down, because they're always technically proficient, but I do think the album is enough of a love-it-or-hate-it deal that I can't honestly rate it as highly as Hubardo.

KAYO DOT Hubardo

Album · 2013 · Avant-garde Metal
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Warthur
Hm, this is odd. After the acclaimed Choirs of the Eye and the work of predecessor band maudlin of the Well left me cold, I'd largely ignored Kayo Dot as being a group who, whilst clearly competent, weren't quite to my taste. However, on giving them a second chance on Hubardo I find that either they have changed, or I have changed; this time, their combination of avant-metal and quieter moments works somewhat better for me. Perhaps this is because both sides seem to have been honed to something a bit more cohesive and targeted, the metal portions putting me in mind of a black metal band who's listened to too much Sunn O))) and Blut Aus Nord, and the quieter bits rumble about in the sort of space between post-rock and goth that Swans sometimes visits. Either way, finally Kayo Dot have captured my attention and I will be interested in exploring more of their stuff in future.

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