Kylesa: Ultraviolet

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Kylesa: <i>Ultraviolet</i>

There’s a very good chance that Kylesa’s Ultraviolet is the best metal album of 2013. Sure, debating “best” and “true” and various other superlatives and definitions is about 40 percent of the daily conversational diet for metal fans. And, sure, there are tons of metal albums that get released, and when you first listen you get so swept up in the visceral rush that it’s easy to think “OMG THIS IS THE BEST EVER.” And yeah, it’s only May. But there’s something about Ultraviolet—mainly its unapologetic willingness to be almost exactly as sonically adventurous as it is heavily aggressive—that makes it stand well apart from the pack. Which, in this current New Golden Age of Really Good Metal Albums, is really saying something. It’s also a metal album that, unlike many of its genre counterparts, only reveals more with each additional listen … and it does so without losing any of its ability to kick your ass every single time.

Ultraviolet finds this Savannah band—with its crust-punk roots, its two drummers, its theremin, its skateboard guitar and its guitarists’ aircraft-carrier-deck-sized collection of effects—not only hitting its stride after a series of increasingly impressive releases, but also using that momentum to make a pretty convincing statement that metal is only made better by rejecting rigid genre norms. The result is an album that may not just be the best metal album of 2013, but perhaps the best punk album of 2013 and the best psychedelic-rock record of 2013 as well.

“Quicksand” is where it comes together in the most accessible and pummeling manner; although the track is the album’s penultimate one, it jams in earworm guitar melodies, drenching noise, propulsive percussion and a sense of haunting atmospherics into a wholly unique sound. “Unspoken” treads a similarly dark path (and, to these ears, even revisits the same riff), but explodes into something far more forceful and ultimately quite different. “Vulture’s Landing” is part kaleidoscopic riffage, part noisey dirge; “Grounded” recalls the Sword in its opening guitar figures, but blossoms midway into this swirly, psychedelic crunchiness. “We’re Taking This” is an angry, slow-moving punk anthem, as thick with dynamics as it is with sonic murkiness … you guys, there is just a lot going on with this album, and all of it is in service of the band’s brave approach toward heavy music. In the end, Ultraviolet may not be the best metal album of 2013, but it’s definitely the 2013 metal album you’d most be a fool to ignore.