Heavy metal can get overbearing; the relentless aggression grows tiresome and wears on the listener. So when a band like Kylesa comes around — one that can pummel and drift meditatively, often within the same song — they’re embraced. They’re adapting a genre built on strict principles (downtuned chords, ominous tones) to a new set of rules. Surprisingly, Kylesa’s odds-and-sods compilation, From the Vaults, Vol. 1, is a cohesive document of the quintet’s inimitable metal. These rarities span their entire career, but they’re assembled as a proper full-length, with sensible track-sequencing and flow.
The allure of a Kylesa song is its unpredictability. Even in the band’s early, more punk-rock days, the arrangements morphed and mutated unexpectedly. Based on its chorus of shouted vocals, “Inverse” fits well with this punk era. Its choppy chord progression seems simple enough — but suddenly, Laura Pleasant’s lead guitar completely alters the pace. No more choppiness. No more shouting. This is the “meditative drift” movement of the song. Such transitions from heavy to contemplative are executed with a very Pink Floyd-ian elegance. On that note, Kylesa also covers “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”, turning Roger Waters’ meandering space epic into bludgeoning doom metal. Other forays into pure doom, such as “Drained”, work crushingly well. The duality of power and restraint is Kylesa’s strength.
This is a rarities comp, so the duds are forgivable (“Drum Jam” closes the album with a pointless drum solo; “Intro” and “Bass Salts” are aimless 57-second interludes). The remainder is a tight package of nine unreleased tracks. New listeners should start with the proper LPs, Static Tensions and Spiral Shadow, then give From the Vaults a spin. It’s the essence of Kylesa.
Essential Track: “Inverse”, “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”