Sky Valley


Elektra Records, 1994

REVIEW BY: Scott Floman


The best part about being a writer for "The Daily Vault" is that I get to tout bands that I love that not many people are aware of. I swear that this is the best band in the world that nobody knows about (or at least they used to be), worthy of being placed next to the mighty likes of Alice In Chains and Soundgarden as the best metal bands this decade has produced. Of course, like the above mentioned bands, Kyuss can't be easily pigeonholed with a label such as "heavy metal," since they are also true originals with their own unique sound. In a fair world this band would've been huge while the craven likes of Michael Bolton and Celine Dion toiled in obscurity instead of receiving Grammy Awards and making millions of dollars. Unfortunately, as we all know, the world is far from fair, and Kyuss broke up quietly in 1996 with little fanfare, as their muscular music was far too extreme and insular for the masses to comprehend.

I first noticed the band when I purchased the band's second album Blues For The Red Sun (I'm not familiar with their first; Blues is the album that started getting the band some attention, at least from some critics and a small underground following). This incredible album was aptly titled, its music conjuring visions of the scorched Arizona desert amidst speaker blowing chaos. The follow up, officially titled Kyuss but better known and more easily identifiable as Sky Valley (because of the sign on the album's cover bearing that inscription), was an even stronger outing. The album was delayed for almost a year due to record company complications, but my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Sky Valley proved to be well worth the wait.

Repeat after me: Kyuss kick ass. Worshiping at the alter of Black Sabbath, this band has an explosively raw sound built around mountainous, fuzzed out riffs, huge thudding bass lines, and colossal drums. This is no compromises, Sabbath inspired progressive metal by a tremendously talented band. Sky Valley is composed of three different parts, each of which are divided into several songs segueing into one another. It's not as snobbish as it sounds; the band simply wanted to dissuade listeners from skipping tracks, a good strategy since the album works best when taken as a whole.

The band blends an incredibly big sludgesound around mellower instrumental bridges that seem psychedelic in tone, and even throws in a catchy pop metal song with multi-tracked, echoey vocals. Kyuss also adds some melodic guitar passages and experimental dabbling; these are mere interludes from the bands bludgeoning metal assault. Just let the band carry you away in their awesome surge, their fuzzy, sludgehammer instrumentals giving way to John Garcia's bluesy bellow for earth rattling demonstrations of pure power. Clearly this is a band that has reached a symbiotic togetherness brought about through hours of endless playing, and producer Chris Goss (of Masters Of Reality semi-fame) captures the band's cavernous sound with a dirty yet spacious mix that is spot-on. The end result is a juggernaut capable of blinding fury and delicately intricate interplay, whose occasional songwriting lulls are part of the process of building an unstoppable overall groove.

This is a unit that can do it all, but thankfully sticks to pure power the majority of the time, since precious few bands around today can match the fierce force of this virtuostic ensemble. More expansive and progressive (and less song oriented) than its predecessor, Josh Homme still concocts the coolest fuzzed out guitar tone around, while Josh Reeder supplies deliciously deep bass cranked up to 11, and drummer Brant Bjork adds some terrific tribal stick work. The only proper response to being caught in the midst of an awesome Kyuss surge is headshaking (and headbanging) awe.

On the downside, though this is highly powerful stuff, it sometimes leans a bit too heavily on the instrumental noodling side for my liking, and the Spinal Tap-ish ending to part one is a bit embarrassing. Still, the bands pretentious tendencies are easily indulged, since when these guys get it going full throttle (which is more often than not), they make exhilarating and compelling heavy metal music that non-metalheads can also appreciate.

Special thanks to Dominic Giampaolo for letting us use his scan of the album cover. Please help us return the favor - visit Dominic's Kyuss home page!

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 1998 Scott Floman 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 Elektra Records, and is used for informational purposes only.