To Walk A Middle Course


Prosthetic, 2005

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Savannah, Georgia-based Kylesa confuses me -- and, frankly, I think this is a good thing.

Their latest full-length release, To Walk A Middle Course, defies any type of labelling by critics. A combination of doom metal with hints of thrash, and peppered with sounds influenced by Helmet, X and even Rocks-era Aerosmith, Kylesa write and perform music that is on their terms. There will be no shoving this CD in one particular genre, nor will there be any real way to compare them to any band before them.

Carving such a musical path is a challenge, albeit one that Kylesa -- guitarist/vocalist Phillip Cope, guitarist/vocalist Laura Pleasants, bassist/vocalist Corey Berhorst and drummer Brandon Baltzley -- prove they're capable of handling. If only the disc didn't seem to drift into the background while one was listening to it; otherwise, this disc's power could well have been unstoppable.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Make no mistake, To Walk A Middle Course is a worthwhile, though challenging, listen. It is challenging in that tracks such as "In Memory," "Train Of Thought" and "Welcome Mat To An Abandoned Life" take all the rules that one thought they knew about music -- metal in general -- and grinds them up like so much meat in a food processor. Styles are crossed like state lines, often several times within the course of one song. Yet Kylesa is able to make such shifts sound almost common, to the point that the listener almost fails to notice when the style shifts, say, from an homage to X to an almost stoner-rock groove.

But the one weakness dogging Kylesa throughout To Walk A Middle Course is determining how to keep the listener's attention throughout the course of the disc. I can't say I have a better grasp of how it could have been done in this case, but as I listened to the disc, I oftne found the music moving to the background as I went about my day. To be blunt, music this mentally challenging (and that is meant in a good way) demands that the listener focus almost all their attention on the sounds eminating from the speakers. Somehow, Kylesa needs to figure out that one step to fully realize their musical plans.

Interestingly enough, the closing track, the instrumental "Crashing Slow," turns out to be one of the most powerful on the whole disc. This isn't to take away from the vocal performances throughout this album, but it does give the listener the full range to appreciate where Kylesa is coming from musically. Maybe it was because this piece came after the drawn-out assault of "Phantoms" that it gave the listener a chance to catch their breath and regain their senses. And while I think it's a great way to close this disc, I could also argue for moving it to the middle of the track lineup.

To Walk A Middle Course is a disc that refuses to tread those well-worn musical paths while Kylesa utilizes all of the musical influences they have and make their own unique sound. They show some incredible power within these ten tracks, even if it sometimes seems like they're still one step away from true musical domination. If their next effort continues to build on the strengths you can hear on this disc, one can imagine that Kylesa is not terribly far away from that last step.

Rating: B-

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© 2005 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Prosthetic, and is used for informational purposes only.