with Saviours, Red Fang
We all have musical phases from our past that we are now embarrassed by. For a long time, the part of my torrid musical past for which I felt the most shame was my pre-pubescent metal phase. Of course some of the bands I liked were actually good and I continue to listen to them today (seriously, you can't fuck with Slayer or Sabbath), but I had a very loose grasp on what "metal" truly. was. Along with Metallica and Megadeth (both of whom you can fuck with), I unfairly labeled a whole bunch of shit truly unworthy of the prestigious distinction of metal-I won't get into specifics, but I will say I had a rather impressive collection of Slipknot memorabilia. Now that the punk rock and ska (which should truly be the most shameful part of my musical past) I grew up listening to are not as endearing to me, the shame I once felt for metal has turned into unbridled enthusiasm. Within the vast realm of metal there are millions of possibilites. Wanna write music focusing solely on ancient Egypt, but deliver the lyrics with the guttural growls of death metal? Go nuts! How about writing fourteen minute songs with no vocals, but packed with soul-crushing sludgy riffs? Please proceed! Or do you just wanna blatantly rip off Black Sabbath or Slayer for your entire career? Well, that's perfectly all right too!
I guess that's a roundabout way of getting to my point, but here it is: I fucking love metal. Even though I've had my newfound fondness for metal for about a year, I haven't been to any metal shows in that time. This show changed all of that. The chance to see Kylesa, one of my favorite newly-discovered metal bands, play at a venue I had never been to a crowd I had no idea how to interact with seemed like a perfectly logical step in my progression into full metal immersion. When I arrived at V2 in Layton, conveniently located directly across the street from a Krispy Kreme, there was only one other person in the room. It was definitely awkward, and became only more so as the local band (whose name I didn't catch, though I did hear that they were from Eagle Mountain, UT) noodled around on stage for what seemed like an eternity, but was likely only twenty minutes. Finally, and after two other people had entered the room, they began to play. The singer growled a little bit as his band mates provided some pre-set theatrics and feedback, but as they got into their first song and began a synchronized headbanging routine, I felt the need to immediately leave the room. So I did. If you have seen the infamous music video of "Stick Stickly" by the horrible deathcore/crabcore band Attack! Attack!, imagine that, but in real life. I made my way to the Krispy Kreme, contemplating whether or not this whole metal thing was a mistake.
After my delicious sabbatical, I returned to the venue as Red Fang was setting up. They looked tired and road-worn, and rightfully so, as they explained their transmission had blown earlier in the day and they had literally arrived at the venue minutes before they took the stage. Red Fang has been getting a lot of praise for their brand of stoner metal, and rightfully so. Despite a hard and stressful day on the road, they fucking brought it. I hadn't really given these guys a good listen prior to the show, but their performance proved that I totally should've. Their entire musical style is a bit bare bones, but in an entirely good way. Red Fang delivered heavy, repetitive grooves held together by killer drumming and topped off with some great guitarwork that didn't seem like it should've come from a band that had been stuck on the road for half of the day. The band also delivered a bit of humor in their set when the drummer discovered that the colored lights pointed at the stage changed whenever he hit one of his drums and mentioned the discovery to his bandmates. More than once I caught him looking at the lights during the set with a smile on his face as they changed in time with his drumming.
Up next were stoner/thrash/doomers Saviours. I guess you can really through "stoner" in front of most of the metal I like, as heavy and repetitive things seem to fascinate the inebriated, but I digress. I'm not sure what it was about Saviours, but I really couldn't get into them. The vocalist/guitarist introduced the band thusly: "We're Saviours... or should I say, Sobers?" As tiring as it gets hearing bands complain about the quality of Utah beer, the dude did have a point: this show totally should've been at a bar, and probably in Salt Lake. I was surprised the show managed to draw about fifty people, but there's no doubt in my mind that if it were held at Burt's it easily could've drawn twice that number. Plus, alcohol just makes music better. Ever listened to Minor Threat while you're drunk out of your mind? It's a treat. Anyway, back to Saviours. They were good, but you could tell that the crowd's lack of energy and enthusiasm (which, again, could've been solved by alcohol consumption) was getting to them. It also didn't help that their songs were on the long side and seemed indulgent in places. There were a few people at the front of the stage who were really into the band, but the overall reception was a bit lackluster.
Saviours tore down quickly and Kylesa began to set up, hauling their two drumsets onto the stage first. If Red Fang's drummer thought the lights were amusing, Kylesa's pair of drummers would think they were awesome, right? Well, no. As Kylesa guitarist/co-vocalist Laura Pleasants took the stage, she sternly asked for the wacky stage lights to be turned off. The rest of the band set up quickly, and with little fanfare they tore into the first track from 2009's Static Tensions, "Scapegoat." Heavy, loud and demanding, Kylesa was bringing it full force, even if they did seem a bit agitated by the lights, which were replaced by wacky lasers and a fog machine that had been turned on at the behest of Saviours. The band then went into "Insomnia For Months," the second track from Static Tensions, and surely enough followed it up with the third track "Said and Done." The band played their 2009 opus in its entirety, barely stopping for quick breathers. Hailing from Georgia, the homestate of the similarly sludgetastic Mastodon and Baroness, it is unsurprising that Kylesa has a penchant for the same kinds of thick riffs and powerful drumming displayed by those bands. Static Tensions, though, proves that Kylesa is able to channel their powerful sound into different styles of songs without losing the intensity. While Mastodon and Baroness are getting progressivly, uh, progressive, Kylesa is keeping their heaviness in tact while expanding their sound. "Running Red" and "To Walk Alone," both featuring the vocals of Laura Pleasants at the forefront, are great examples of this and were great performed live.
After the band finished running through Static Tensions, the other vocalist/guitarist Phillip Cope finally greeted the crowd and promised them some Kylesa classics. I didn't stay for the entire set, but after seeing Static Tensions in its entirety, I felt no need. I had gotten everything I wanted out of my first post-pubescent metal show from Kylesa. I can't imagine all of the awesome music I missed while I was too smart/cool for metal, but this night made me even more enthusiastic to discover what I've been missing.