Kylesa

support Sierra
author AP date 12/01/14 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

Still reeling from Saturday's festivities, I notice the adjustment of tonight's concert start time in a comment to a post in the Facebook event too late to arrive in time to watch all of Jagged Vision's performance. But the two songs they still have left on their setlist as I trot in convince me to stream their debut album "Harvest Earth" (which was released on New Year's Day) off Bandcamp, and as an apology for my late arrival, you can expect a review of that effort to surface in the coming days. As for this article: it will thus begin with the first band to have signed with the Retro Futurist label (the second was Jagged Vision), stitched together Kylesa's Laura Pleasants, Phillip Cope and Carl McGinley last year.

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest

Sierra

Sierra, from Kitchener-Waterloo, ON; fashion themselves stoner-prog, and I am inclined to agree with this opinion based on the songs airead tonight. The set sways between contemplative, doom laden musing and classically disposed hard rock, reminding me in turns of bands as diverse as Procession, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. Musically thus, Sierra boast the sort of versatility needed to establish a recognisable identity in the rapidly populating heritage rock movement. But the songs themselves never quite cross over into extraordinary terrain, hovering just by the border. There are lengthy instrumental jams of course, that betray the trio's flair for psychedelia as well, and it is especially in these more entrancing moments that the musicianship and volume are able to compensate for Sierra's slight lack of imagination when it comes to penning a song. They seem up for the task though, and while the performance leaves a lot to be desired in terms of something, anything to look at, there's a mature and professional air to the way guitarist/vocalist Jason Taylor, bassist Robbie Carvalho and drummer Ky Anto carry themselves on stage, each immersing himself in a private little jam. Good stuff, but a little underwhelming.

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Kylesa

Kylesa, on the other hand, are anything but. From set initialiser "Scapegoat" to wrapper "Running Red", there's a voluptuous energy to the performance that I had not anticipated, with vocalist/guitarist Laura Pleasants and newly added bassist Chase Rudeseal bursting about with glowing intensity. Abstract visuals are projected onto band and stage, and together with vocalist/guitarist Phillip Cope's spaced out histrionics with the theremin, they contribute a trippy atmosphere to the proceedings, especially during the psych-sludge piece "Unspoken", which endeared me so on the band's most recent album "Ultraviolet" and continues to endear me now.

As is customary within the sludge metal genre, the volume has been cranked to a punishing level, but not so as to obscure the infectious grooves, dual vocals or scintillating drum work that characterise Kylesa's music. Speaking of the percussion: I've said it before, and I'll say it again: this band's unorthodox decision to include two drummers in their line-up is a winning formula, and particularly so considering that both - Carl McGinley and Eric Hernandez - are veritable prodigies. The rhythm section is thus never dull, the two percussionists both amplifying each other and the level of detail in Kylesa's music. They rarely play in full parallel, the subtleties in the tom-toms in particular adding texture that is subtle and striking at the same time, as paradoxical as that may sound.

But above all, the presence of two drum tracks in marriage with Pleasants, Cope and Rudeseal's heavily downtuned instrumentation makes the Kylesa live experience almost unnaturally heavy. And I lap that shit up. Kylesa aren't the lightest of propositions on record, but in concert, songs like "Hollow Severer", "To Forget", and especially the classic "Said and Done" in the encore, are pushed into absolutely monolithic proportions. Small wonder then that the 200-strong audience is headbanging in ecstatic unison during virtually every song. The only thing that nags me tonight is that Kylesa seem to lack the tiniest bit of enthusiasm, betrayed eventually by Pleasants' assessment that it sure doesn't sound or look like we want to hear more songs once "Running Red" concludes the ordinary set.

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Setlist:

  • Scapegoat
  • Unspoken
  • Hollow Severer
  • Tired Climb
  • Bottom Line
  • Quicksand
  • To Forget
  • Long Gone
  • Unknown Awareness
  • We're Taking This
  • Running Red

--Encore--

  • Don't Look Back
  • Said and Done

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