In 2010, with the release of Spiral Shadow, Kylesa made a fairly bold statement: they were going to legitimize sludge-metal. Using suicide highway riffs as a platform rather than a crutch, the Georgia natives made one of the most derivative genres into something completely intoxicating, successfully having water go down like wine. Spiral Shadows was Metallica covering Coheed and Cambria, an album of all excess, hooks removed, making it feel ambitious and pop oriented while being so decidedly in opposition to those things. Kylesa made a name for themselves by locating the beauty in the drone.
On Ultraviolet, Kylesa’s recent release, the band goes back on that promise for most of the album, making it an above average metal record and really nothing more. The changing of the guard is right there on Ultraviolet’s opener “Exhale”, the most generic song Kylesa has ever released. Following the lead of Carl McGinley’s satanic death march drumming, there is really no rest on the track, but you sit there during the assault, waiting on a punchline. It is such a jarring experience simply because of how banal it all feels. By the time Phil Cope, one of the bands two singers, is screaming, “There is no validity/On any actuality”, he might be trying to say this song is intentional subversion of expectations, but he takes too long to get to the point for anyone to care.
The rest of the album isn’t as straightforward, and there are some sneaky-good metal reinventions to be had. “We’re Taking This”, for example, discards the most aggressive and sludge-iest progression on the album for a drowning, vocal swallowing pit of Laura Pleasants madness. It’s really the only moment on the album that pulls the rug out from under you, something Kylesa used to flawlessly pull of two or three times on one track, and it shows they still have some truly inventive chops.
One of the oddest, and oddly appealing, songs on the album is “Steady Breakdown”. Probably the band’s most overt tribute track ever, “Breakdown” is Kylesa kneeling at Black Sabbath’s feet. It never really breaks away from the source material, but there is also no real reason to. By this point, it’s become clear that Ultraviolet is not Kylesa’s follow up to Spiral Shadow. It’s their thank you note to the metal gods who let it happen.