Just last year, Kayo Dot were releasing one of their most ambitious and challenging albums, Hubardo. The US based band, led by mastermind singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Toby Driver, has made a career out of their crazy mold of different musical genres. Hubardo was the perfect example of the Kayo Dot vision, encompassing in its two disks elements of avant-garde metal, post-metal and black metal alongside chamber music and jazz fusion. The result itself was fantastic with the album being an absolute joy to listen to multiple times. But as a result it is quite difficult to come back from that.
Coffins On Io is definitely different from Hubardo, both in terms of ambition but also in terms of style. In their latest album, Driver and co. shed most of their metal skin and roams forward into darker realms. The influence of darkwave and gothic rock are apparent from the very start of the album with the additional touches of, once again, chamber music and jazz fusion. The whole vibe of the album though it still radiates a progressive rock oriented feeling that shapes all these different sides of the band together.
All this really shows in the ambiance that is present within Coffins On Io. The emotional façade that Kayo Dot lays out comes straight in from the moment “The Mortality of Doves” is introduced. The laid back drumming and the interesting synths make an appearance as the vocals set the tone. The ambiance starts to drift even further with “Offramp Cycle, Pattern 22” giving an otherworldly sense, something that the band also implements in a more dreamlike manner in “Longtime Disturbance on the Miracle Mile.” But that of course is not the only game in town and Kayo Dot makes a turn towards different paths when that is needed. A turn from surreal to spooky is waiting in “Offramp Cycle, Pattern 22” and a much darker vibe is found within “Library Subterranean.” The band obviously has its outbreak moments with “The Assassination of Adam” standing out with its more direct attitude.
What is apparent in Coffins On Io is a turn from the band towards more mesmerizing parts. The use of repetition awakens the circling effects of their songs. The way the opening song unfolds sees the band taking their time to build the track properly before they go for an impact, something that they do a couple of times in that track. Similarly in “Longtime Disturbance of the Miracle Mile” the band is taking its time, letting the song evolve. That approach sometimes can be a touch overwhelming, as is the case with “Spirit Photography.” The final song of the album has a really strong vibe to it with the saxophone stepping in the spotlight and the rest of the band taking a short step back. But still you will get times when there is a certain degree of eagerness, which acts as a nice change from the more elusive state of Kayo Dot. “Library Subterranean” is more in that vein with the musicians really shining in the track, especially when it goes crazy in terms of rhythm. The way the song evolves and the drumming are just mental. A similar approach is used in “The Assassination of Adam” with the band letting loose their aggressive side and with a busier orchestration lay waste on everything.
Coffins On Io is a well laid out album. The guitars and synths are doing a great job of creating a solid ambiance for the songs with the vocals sitting on top, as the drums and bass create a solid foundation for the music. But what I found so compelling here was the vibe that Kayo Dot were able to create. Yes, the album might not be as ambitious and colossal as Hubardo was, but it is definitely an interesting one.
7.4 / 10
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