Kylesa is a metal band looking for the perfect beat.
On the backstage of the Black Cat on Thursday, the Savannah, Ga., troupe went hunting for it as if operating a food processor, pureeing its psychedelic metal at various settings.
At faster speeds, the band's distorted riffage was liquefied into a milky slime.
Slower, it was rotten porridge.
And . . . even . . . slower, it was churned back into sludge.
Plenty of daredevil metal groups hop tempos like passing trains, but Kylesa wasn't showing off. The band was always chasing the beat - like a jazz combo on some spiritual quest to find the great unfindable. Combine that with the quintet's misfit charisma, and who wouldn't want to follow along?
Co-piloted by Phillip Cope and Laura Pleasants on guitars and vocals, the band seethed through a 14-song set that culled heavily from 2009's "Static Tensions" and 2010's "Spiral Shadow." The pair traded barks and bellows throughout, but Pleasants sounded best toggling between her own groan and roar. You could hear her best during the "Running Red," a song with a refrain that sounds like Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" tying itself into a knot.
Like so many Balkanized pop genres, metal has splintered into numerous niches in the digital age. But in its 10-year run, Kylesa has mutated into something singular, melding the secret elegance of Sabbath, the low-end tremors of Kyuss, a touch of Pink Floyd psychedelia and the faintest whiff of Southern rock icons the Allman Brothers.
Maybe it's just the whole two-drummers thing. Seated behind their respective kits, Carl McGinley and Tyler Newberry thundered through the 14-song set, refusing to be drowned out by the towering amplifiers and racks of keyboards that flanked them. They reached peak rumble during "Said and Done," sounding more like an earthquake than two dudes playing drum rolls.
Meantime, Corey Barnhorst anchored the set with bass lines coated in a moss of distortion, while a projector in the back of the club sent trippy shapes floating across the walls. Surrounded by a capacity crowd slowly headbanging to the trudge of "Don't Look Back," the experience almost required Dramamine.
But clarity returned with the penultimate song, "Hallow Severer." After the band had dug to the song's gooey center, Barnhorst and Cope retreated to a pair of drum stations to thump along with McGinley and Newberry.
Pleasants took the lead, summoning a cosmic whrrrssshhh from her Gibson Les Paul, as if she had just flushed some galactic toilet.
When it was over, the band realized it had sealed itself behind a wall of keyboards, drums and amplifiers and was unable to leave the stage.
"We're stuck," Cope said. "Do you wanna hear another one?"