Since forming in 2001 in Savannah, GA, Kylesa has released a string of recordings, including five albums and three splits. They quickly accelerated their success from the start of their first show, opening for Mastodon. Additionally, they are well known for their sludge metal sound, composed of airy clean guitars, prominent female vocals and creative riffs. With the release of Ultraviolet, the band’s hard work has paid off as it is arguably their best work to date.
To start, this album has many aspects that make for an entertaining listen. Generally speaking, the musicianship is extravagant. There is variation, creativity and thoughtfulness in the guitar riffs and bass lines. One example is the track “Unspoken,” which begins with a soothing, clean riff before building up to a distorted guitar sound with a memorable chorus. Another highlight is the track “What Does It Take,” in which the tempo is sped up considerably while a storm of distortion is provided by the guitars and crunchy bass. A third track to spotlight is “Exhale,” which contains elements of several different kinds of genres; the dual female and male vocals provide a crust punk edge, while the sludge riffs add a noticeable metal influence.
The best thing Ultraviolet has going for it, though, is the female vocals provided by Laura Pleasants. They are well-executed, and it’s obvious that she is one of the most talented singers in the sludge metal genre. In “Steady Breakdown,” most notably, her gentle and harmonious voice sings alongside beautifully played clean guitars and mid-tempo drums.
There are also some negative aspects that might turn off some listeners. First off, the production on the entire album isn’t really the best; while it’s not horrible, it sounds purposefully unpolished and muddy in places. Additionally, some tracks are rather slow, uneventful and monotonous. The song “Low Tide” is a prime example, as it stretches on for quite some time without much memorable quality.
In summary, Kylesa’s Ultraviolet is a worthwhile listen for any fan of sludge metal, doom or hardcore punk. While it may not be a perfect album, the negative qualities aren’t so bothersome and are often overridden by the amazing songwriting and vocals.