Kylesa at the Rock and Roll Hotel

Kylesa, the sludge metal outfit from Georgia, perform at the Rock and Roll Hotel in DC. Photo: Kylesa, Rock and Roll Hotel

WASHINGTON, July 30, 2013 —When Kylesa was blasting away at their loudest and most bludgeoning during their recent appearance here, it was hard to imagine how exactly the first floor concert space of the Rock and Roll Hotel was going to contain them. This happened most of the time during their set. While they extract a tune now and then, for the most part this is a band more concerned with methodically obliterating each and every member of their audience.

Fortunately, everyone in the audience was more than willing to allow Kylesa to do just that. It’s the unspoken contract they signed with the band as soon as they entered through the front doors to the stage of the Rock and Roll Hotel.

This band from Georgia has always been one of the preeminent sludge metal bands from the South, which has been one of the primary territories for the genre for the last decade or so.  When one of their former drummers left the band in 2006, instead of just trying to replace him, Kylesa instead decided to double down on his absence and incorporate two drummers into their sound space.

This isn’t an uncommon practice in metal circles, but it’s still quite rare and creates a blurring, mind-bending sound within the confines of the venue the size of the Rock and Roll Hotel. In a venue like this, the band literally envelops the audience in a dense, deafening cocoon of sound.  The percussion doesn’t so much come at the audience—the placement of the drummers doesn’t allow for that. What happens instead, with the drummers placed at an angle, amounts to an effect where an immense wave of sound seemingly pings off the walls of the venue, coming at the listeners from both sides instead of just hitting them straight on.

The phrase that’s used a lot when discussing a band’s album is “it’s not the same as hearing them live.” It’s plausible that some variation of that phrase has been used for almost any band and usually it seems to be used to justify liking the band live while possibly detesting their studio output. In some cases though, the phrase was invented to describe bands much like Kylesa. Their latest album Utlraviolet is a really strong and is a good approximation of what they do, but it doesn’t quite prepare anyone in the audience for the kick of the dual percussionists.

Having two drummers is both a hook for their live show and kind of a catalyst for everything else Kylesa does. The band does a number of other cool things besides just bludgeoning the audience with percussion that feels like twin hammers hurled by Thor.

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Kylesa is generally categorized as a sludge metal band and that is normally what their fan base comes to hear. But that’s really just the exterior of this band. Their shell is the meticulous, heavy metal sound that trudges through each song. But during all of this hammering, the band offers a substantial taste of psychedelic in the process. They’re still a heavy band, true, but they incorporate a consistent flow of twisting and winding guitar work that has an utterly dark, trippy feel to it that feels much like being stuck in some fantasy forest designed by H.R. Geiger.

Adding to this trippy feel, Phillip Coe and Laura Pleasants occasionally decide to intertwine their respective vocals on a given song. Whether they’re alternating howls during the verses or simply winding out an echo effect, this is the aspect of the band’s creative mix really hits the audience head on and becomes the major focal point for their sonic output.

Kylesa is a band that pushes the boundaries of their genre, making them into an absolute must see live band for true blue, die-hard metal fans.

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Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer.  He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years.  Currently he lives in Vienna, VA.   He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.

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