It’s been a little over two years since Savannah, GA’s beastly crew of psychedelic-hardcore-crust-punk-sludge-metal purveyors Kylesa have released their last full-length record, Spiral Shadow. While the band continued to work on a sixth studio album, which is slated for release later this spring, they also wanted to give the fans something special in the interim. From the Vaults, Vol. 1 arrived in mid-November. Just as its name implies, it’s an assortment of tracks culled from the band’s back catalog. It’s not a massive, quickly thrown-together, best-of set though; but rather a twelve-song collection of unreleased material and alternate versions of existing tracks. Over the course of a year, the band combed through old songs, covers, live sets, and B-sides; gathering the ones they felt would fit together well. They rerecorded some, remixed others, and added whatever finishing touches it is that people who employ a savant-like attention to the details do. (Some time during the mid-‘00s, I saw these guys nearly lose their collective cool and walk off stage when an equipment malfunction prevented their per-recorded song intros from playing.)
The previously-released songs, which only amount to three, are easy to spot, as the names have been marked as such. “110 Degree Heat Index” becomes “111 Degree Heat Index,” while “Between the Silence and Sound” and “Bottom Line” each get an “II” tagged on the end. None of them have been altered too significantly, but the differences are noticeable. “111 Degree Heat Index” has a subtle disparity from the original. That is, that it’s played with a higher tuning than the version that first appeared in 2004, on the No Ending/110 Degree Index EP. “Between Silence and Sound II”, from 2006’s Time Will Fuse Its Worth has been rearranged, with further emphasis placed on the psychedelic parts. And the longtime crowd-pleaser “Bottom Line II” is played quite a bit faster than it was on 2005’s To Walk a Middle Course, falling more in line with the punk-like aggressiveness of their live set.
Surprisingly, some of the most impressive moments of From the Vaults come in the form of cover songs. Paying homage to the pioneers of the sludge metal movement, Kylesa attacks Buzzov*en’s “Drained” with a thunderous intensity. Rich bass lines, pounding percussion and scorching guitars traverse in sync, as Laura Pleasant’s vocals eschew Disembodied-ish gradations. This leads right into “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” a song from Pink Floyd’s second album, and a regular inclusion in Kylesa’s set list. They damn-near stake ownership of the song; keeping intact the trippy-ness of the original but amplifying it into a full-on heavy, stony, sludge opus.
The album is rounded out nicely with a couple of instrumental tracks that are staples of their live show. One of them is “Drum Jam,” an out-of-print B-side from 2009’s Static Tensions, that showcases the dual drum arrangement that has become the backbone of Kylesa’s signature sound. As well, there are few songs that were previously instrumental-only but now appear with the welcomed addition of vocals. "Paranoid Tempo," named so, because it uses the same tempo as Black Sabbath's "Paranoid," has been updated with lyrics and Kylesa's signature multi-vocalist stamp.
The record is a great representation of the band’s different styles from early on to present day, that will placate not only avowed collectors but newcomers seeking a perfect example of what these genre-hopping heavyweights are all about. For a collection of songs that weren’t originally recorded as such, From the Vaults, Vol. 1 plays like another great album in Kylesa’s already impressive catalog.
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