Phillip Cope and Laura Pleasants — the creative force behind metal band Kylesa — flourished as songwriters on 2010’s Spiral Shadow. They could always deliver massive riffage, but the band had learned to counter it with some restraint; slower, more distinct songs. Cope and Pleasants took their initial sound, kept tweaking it, and the results were captivating.
Kylesa’s latest offering, Ultraviolet, is similarly rewarding and a natural progression for the band. The methodical tempo of Spiral Shadow returns, though there are even more compositional frills this time around, which might disgruntle some headbangers looking for a rawer form of metal. Cope’s production beefs up the dual drums of Carl McGinley and Eric Hernandez, giving Ultraviolet a dense sound that brings out the dynamic flares of the album: the loud parts louder and the soft parts are, well, less loud.
“Unspoken” is an early highlight, showcasing Pleasants’ new-and-improved lead vocals. Her melodic range has seemingly doubled, but she retains the smokiness that’s made her one of the coolest women in heavy metal. Pleasants and Cope trade off on the mic like old times, yet Ultraviolet feels like her album. Her bloody screams on “We’re Taking This” are a perfect counterpoint to the singing, not to mention the borderline dream pop on closer “Drifting”. Kylesa doesn’t waste a single passage anywhere, and consequently, there’s great flow to the record. “Steady Breakdown” summarizes all these traits, giving Pleasants a chunky riff to curl her voice around before ending with a hit-and-run guitar solo.
Ultraviolet falls in line with rest of the band’s catalog in that it’s tight, front to back, but it might be their most direct record as well. Kylesa have morphed into a heavy metal powerhouse — one which continues to produce satisfying records that defy immediate classification.
Essential Tracks: “Unspoken”, “Steady Breakdown”