By Allison Stewart
Savannah, Ga., rocks harder than you'd think. Hard enough, at least, that proggy metal band Kylesa is probably only the seventh or eighth sludgiest band in town, and that's not even counting its neighbors Baroness.
In business since 2001, Kylesa has just released its fifth and best full-length, "Spiral Shadow." It's a game-changer -- the kind of album that makes underground underachievers into, if not the next Mastodon, then at least the sort of hipster favorites who get asked to play Bonnaroo.
The band's new disc is heavy without being particularly thrashy, rhythmically complicated without being math-y. Thanks in great part to an ambidextrous lineup that includes two drummers and three singers, one of them guitarist Laura Pleasants (in metal, mixed-sex lineups are a thing of unicorn-like rarity), Kylesa has always been a musical shape-shifter, but "Spiral Shadow" broadens the band's dynamic, and in the process expands its reach.
Pick a hard rock or post-punk subgenre, and you can find a "Spiral Shadow" song that incorporates it somehow: prog, shoegaze, crust punk (that dark and dirty outcropping of traditional punk), psych, ambient.
Kylesa's resemblance to a sludgier Built to Spill cannot be overstated (it's heard to best effect on the trippy, majestic opener, "Tired Climb," an arena-metal lighter anthem if ever there was one).
The album's best track, "Don't Look Back," buries its irresistible, '90s alt-rock-style melody under a thick slurry of guitars and effects, imploding the boundaries between pop, psychedelic rock and metal so effortlessly it's as if they were never there at all.
Recommended tracks: "Tired Climb," "Don't Look Back," "Distance Closing In"