Adventurous, Multi-layered Heavy Rock from One of Georgia’s Own
Review and photos by Michael Bradley
The Savannah, Georgia based “sludge” metal band Kylesa throws a lot at you, musically speaking. Two vocalists, two guitars and two drummers power their thunderous sound. Balancing out that thunder was an underlying bed of swirling, trippy, pulsing sound produced by enough electronics to land the Space Shuttle. The band recently wrapped up a summer tour in support of their latest studio release, Ultraviolet, and their pummeling show at The EARL on June 21st showcased their unique brand of adventurous heavy rock.
The electronic atmosphere that the band produced was a textural counterpoint to the heavy guitar/bass/drum riffing that defines their music. To produce that multi-layered wall of sound, guitarist and vocalist Philip Cope spent most of the show behind an elaborate stack of keyboards that housed a cacophony of stomp boxes, a theremin and a homemade guitar. Interestingly, the homemade guitar was made from an upside-down skateboard that had been outfitted with strings and a pickup which Mr. Cope used to trigger some of the atmospheric effects. Guitarist and vocalist Laura Pleasants alone had two separate, multi-pedal stompbox systems at her disposal.
If the sonic electronic/bottom-heavy mix of music wasn’t enough to blow your mind, the band projected a non-stop, swirling pattern of light over the stage and interior walls of The EARL, giving the venue a hallucinatory vibe. It reminded me of film footage from San Francisco’s legendary Fillmore Auditorium in the late 60’s…bodies swaying an moving under the psychedelic lights and music.
The set list was a healthy mix of material from all of the band’s albums except for their initial release, Kylesa. The aggressive, chugging “Tired Climb” from 2010’s Spiral Shadow started their set, highlighted by Philip Cope’s chanted/shouted vocal delivery. The back-to-back slammers “Bottom Line” and “Nature’s Predators,” had Cope and Pleasants trading both vocals and guitar riffs. The hypnotic “Long Gone” introduced the heavy, at times downright tribal rhythm of dual drummers Carl McGinley and Eric Hernandez, both of whom were hidden in the dark recesses of the stage. Rounding out the rhythm section was head-banging bassist Chase Rudeseal. Honestly, how that guy doesn’t end up with a sore neck after a show is beyond me, because he really leaned into it.
Taking in Kylesa’s music and stage show in one sitting is challenging, but peel away the multiple layers layers of guitars, drums, electronics, and flashing light and you’ll find a really talented and cohesive group of musicians.
Full Kylesa gallery:
There were three bands touring with Kylesa: the Georgia-based Lazur/Wulf, White Hills from New York City and the Toronto, Canada band Blood Ceremony. The trio Lazer/Wulf played frenetic guitar based instrumental rock, bordering on speed metal. The Canadian doom metal band Blood Ceremony was the surprise of the night. Not since the likes of Jethro Tull has anyone popularized a flute into a heavy rock format, but the mix worked surprisingly well, thanks to lead singer/keyboardist/flutist Alia O’Brien. Think one part Jethro Tull and one part Black Sabbath and you’ll get the idea.
Full Gallery Blood Ceremony:
White Hills delivered a trippy, late ’60s vibe with guitarist Dave W’s fuzzed-out guitar work and vocal delivery reminiscent of early Alice Cooper.
Full gallery White Hills: