If you were to take the time to compare all of today's heavy metal bands to metallic elements, Kylesa would undoubtedly be mercury: fluid, malleable, often captivating yet very capable of doing its own damage.
The Savannah, Ga., outfit is one of the bands pushing the boundaries of what's come to be known as "heavy metal" music, but vocalist/guitarist Phillip Cope said the band's tweaking of the genre is just what comes naturally.
"We're writing from our gut," Cope said. "Whatever comes out comes out."
Kylesa formed when Cope and the members of his former band, Damad, added guitarist and co-lead vocalist Laura Pleasants to the lineup. Since then, it has been a group set on standing out from the metal crowd.
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The group is one of several Georgia metal bands, including Mastodon and Baroness, who have produced some of the most distinctive, melodic and ambitious metal of the past decade, earning mountains of critical praise and piquing the curiosity of many nonmetal fans looking for artists not afraid to take risks.
"I think metal is probably one of the more adventurous forms of music right now," Cope said. "Bands are almost kind of expected to push in new directions."
Evolution has certainly been something Kylesa hasn't shied away from in its career. Originally dubbed by many as "sludge metal" on its first eponymous release, it continued to add different textures to its pummeling riffs with each passing release. Through a frequently shifting lineup, it even added a second drummer for its third studio album (2006's Time Will Fuse Its Worth), an element that continues to ramp up the rhythmic thunder of its live shows.
The latter portion of the band's discography only revealed Kylesa's style and gained the band an even larger fan base. 2009's Static Tensions and 2010's Spiral Shadow showcased a firmer grasp of both instrumental and vocal melody and a tighter embrace of sounds like psychedelic rock, prog-metal and shoegaze without sacrificing its edge.
With the recent release of the band's sixth album, Ultraviolet, Kylesa further blurs the lines of the genre that claims it. Ultraviolet may be the band's most accessible work to date. It puts Pleasant's often-ethereal vocals more front and center and sometimes takes sharp lefts onto Alt-Rock Avenue, whether it's the Smashing Pumpkins-esque riffage of Quicksand or the throwback post-punk of Low Tide. Of course, there are still tracks like We're Taking This and the album-opening Exhale that contain a feral overdrive and remind listeners Kylesa still has a firm grasp on its roots.
Cope said he's used to hearing people say some of Kylesa's newer music isn't truly "metal," which he completely understands. He said regardless of what boundary the band pushes next, the music may not always be your typical heavy metal, but it will always be "heavy."
"There's always going to be something sort of heavy to what we do and there's always going to be some form of experimentation. That's our roots," Cope said. "Whatever you get at the present moment may not be what you get down the line, but it's honest."
IF YOU GO
Kylesa, White Hills, Blood Ceremony, Lazur/Wulf
When: 8:30 p.m. June 9
Where: Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Ave.
Tickets: $12 advance, $14 day of show. Available at (859) 309-9499 or Cosmic-charlies.com.