Saturday, February 14, 2009

KYUSS: WELCOME TO SKY VALLEY


Kyuss. If there is ever such thing as a quintessential, all encompassing stoner metal band, this would be it. They are driven by their influences from the past: Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Trouble, And Saint Vitus. What makes them unique is the ever present desert sun that permeates their sound and a strong penchant for biker metal a la Motorhead. They combine all of these influences into a sound that is all theirs and has fueled tons of imitators throughout the years. If there is such a thing as no holds barred, balls to the wall, acid burned, hippie biker metal, Kyuss is it. Kyuss came out with their first album in 1991. They released four albums throughout their career, and split apart in 1995.

Their hands down best effort of the four is "Welcome to Sky Valley"(1994). All of their releases are formidable, but this one is their best in my opinion. The teamwork, musicianship, and songwriting here are at their peak. John Garcia's gravelly yet melodic vocals are in top, ferocious form here, and guitarist Josh Homme's guitar work is outstanding, with his exotic tunings and mind-blowingly heavy guitar playing driving every track. Add to it one of a kind, trippy yet heavy drumming of Brant Bjork, the solid, melodic, fuzzed out bass-playing of Nick Oliveri, and the high gloss yet so heavy and bottom ended that your ears bleed production of Chris Goss(of The Masters of Reality) and you have the best stoner metal album ever made.

The album is actually only three tracks, with three songs making up the first two tracks and four making up the last one. The songs bleed seamlessly into each other. The only break you get is after one entire song cycle has completed. "Welcome to Sky Valley" is relentless and beautiful at the same time. There is a strong balance between melody and heaviness here, with nice spacey improv sections rising from the dust that remind me of the trippy sun and acid drenched jazz fusion of the 1970's classic Miles Davis album "Agharta". The lyrics, or what you can make of them, are incredible. They don't make too much sense, nor are they supposed to. "Welcome to Sky Valley" is best appreciated listened to all the way through with no interruptions, and on some really good speakers or headphones. You must kick back and soak the whole thing in...then you will be hooked. I cannot recommend this album enough.

I saw Kyuss live at a little club called The Midnight Sun in downtown Jackson, MS in 1994 when this album came out. Five dollars to get in. They put on a killer show. They had a gigantic incense burner and smoke machine going with Egyptian music playing in the background before they came on...the tiny, cramped place was filled with smoke and trippy lighting then Kyuss came forth and melted my brain and damaged my hearing for days...what a show! These guys were rigged for larger venues but they played the smaller clubs like The Midnight Sun as well with equal intensity. The heaviest live performance I've seen in a small club ever.

After Kyuss' breakup, gutiarist Josh Homme went on to form Queens of the Stone Age, drummer Brant Bjork joined retro stoner rockers Fu Manchu, and vocalist John Garcia formed Slo Burn, Unida, and Hermano. All of which you should check into as well.

Here's "Demon Cleaner" from "Welcome to Sky Valley". I know I've posted this one before, but not in the context of a review. Beside, it's the only video they made from this CD.



And here's the synapse-melting "Gardenia", the opening song from the album.







Gardenia - Kyuss

2 comments:

Karswell said...

One of my all time favorite albums too. Nice blog!

Steve Smith said...

Thank you. What a coincidence...I enjoy your blog too. As a matter of fact, I just discovered it yeaterday and am preparing a post about it as I write this.