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Album Review: KYLESA Ultraviolet

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The last time Kylesa took three years between records they came back with two drummers and their career high water mark up to that time, Static Tensions. In that case, they were back a mere year later with Spiral Shadow, an album that was well received as a whole, but dubbed a retread of its predecessor by others. The band responded by touring their asses off, dropping a surprisingly solid album of unreleased tracks last year to remind fans living in cities that weren't on their tour docket that yes, they still exist.

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Ultraviolet functions as a re-introduction in a different sense; perhaps it was the relentless touring and playing the same songs again and again – the Kylesa back catalog to date, each full length hovering eerily close to the 40-minute mark, can comfortably be consumed in 3-4 hours – but 2013 finds the band experimenting in subtle ways that nonetheless make a profound difference in the way these new songs are delivered.

Laura Pleasants' deadpan reading of the "Unspoken" chorus is nothing unusual in the Kylesa canon, but the taunting "aaaah"s in the background and the near-imperceptible chants occurring within the mid-song breakdown push the track into goth crossover territory. The riffs anchor it firmly in sludge territory, but the additional grace notes convey an added depth not always present in the more straightforward material of prior albums.

Pleasants also experiments with an almost dream pop vocalization in "Long Gone", a song that also features a rare drum duel between Carl McGinley and Eric Hernandez (the twin percussion shtick here is much more tasteful and restrained than on the two previous records, where the band sometimes got a little too carried away with their new toy). Pleasants reprises her clean vocals on the riff monster "Steady Breakdown", this time deadening her delivery into more of a post-punk leer.

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Pleasants' co-writer/co-vocalist Phillip Cope is in somewhat of a less exploratory mood here, turning in more conventional vocal performances on "We're Taking This" and "Exhale", but both vocalists stretch out on the stunning "Low Tide", easily the most outre standout in the band's catalog to date and the kind of artistic breakthrough that, while sticking out like a sore thumb on Ultraviolet, ought to become a cornerstone of the Kylesa sound on future albums.

Not every last thing here works – "Drifting" meanders and "What Does It Take" is more of a sketch than a finished song – but the bulk of material on Ultraviolet ranks up there with the very best, not only of Kylesa's own material but of anything being released in heavy metal right now. In fact, a slight amount of trimming might have earned this album a perfect score, but why fuck with that rabbit's foot of a 40-minute run time?


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