Release DetailsLABEL Prosthetic
RELEASED ON 3/22/2005
To Walk a Middle Course
posted on 5/2005 By:
I love to find an album that makes me squirm a little when I have to tell people about it. Chances are, the tougher it is to answer the ubiquitous “What style is it” and “Who does it sound like” questions, the greater the potential for me to really dig it. I love plenty of music that fits into neatly discrete genre boxes, but there has always been something alluring about bands that flout labels. In effect, that unconventionalism is at the heart of all heavy music right? Savannah, Georgia’s Kylesa certainly believe so. Formed in 2001, following the demise of Damad, the band made a conscious decision not to allow genre boundaries to influence their creative direction. Not only did this lead to a style influenced from unique bedfellows, a few of whom include DRI, Nausea, Black Sabbath, Neurosis and Kyuss, but it also influenced the band structure itself. They have eschewed the traditional role of front man, instead splitting the duties between three of the four members. Kylesa merge styles and string together vocal lines in a way that seems chaotic but retains the air of a casual self confidence.
Covering such diverse ground often results in an all or none response, and it’s probable that a single spin of To Walk a Middle Course will either have you diving for the stop button or cranking the album in your car for a week straight. It may take a few listens to become comfortable with Kylesa’s overlaying of metal, hardcore, crust, and sludge, but in the end it’s a lot like that set of clear plastic sheets of diagrams of the human anatomical systems that you thought was the coolest part of your parents’ encyclopedias while you were using them to plagiarize your way through Middle School. To Walk a Middle Course is the band’s first effort on Prosthetic Records, and benefits from good production from Alex Newport. Fans of the band’s last effort, No Ending 110 Degree Heat Index will appreciate the improved recording as well as the fact that the band has continued in the same songwriting vein.
The triple threat vocal approach is much of Kylesa’s charm. All three singers, two male and one female, use different approaches and contribute dual vocals and trade lines in a manner that is both complimentary and contradictory. Tracks like “In Memory” and “Shatter the Clock” are riff heavy headbangers, while “Welcome Mat to an Abandoned Life” and “Motion and Presence” have a more atmospheric approach. I like how each song slides into the next, giving the album a nice continuity. It’s a little surprising, given my praise of the vocal work, but one of the stunners on To Walk a Middle Course is the album closer, the instrumental “Crashing Slow”, a song that’s hazy, spiraling melodies are hypnotic belie a weightier mood, giving the song a vibe a lot like its name.
This is an album that isn’t for everyone, but that is part of its allure. I appreciate Kylesa’s integrity as a band doing what feels right for them. Their style may alienate some listeners, but the band has a chameleon-like quality that will help find them a home among adventurous music fans across the spectrum of heavy music.
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