19 April 2006

I think I gave these guys too hard a time

Kalas - s/t
Tee Pee Records
18 April 2006
4 stars

When reviewing a side project of a member of a favorite band, one of the most difficult aspects of the job is trying to keep an open and objective mind. While I had to deal with this a bit for my last review (see Witch), I think it proved to be much more difficult to judge the band Kalas. I definitely had no idea what to expect from this album as this band is Matt Pike (High On Fire) on vocals fronting bandmates more known for their punk and hardcore pedigree. In a case like this remaining neutral was difficult because my mind was already expecting certain elements behind the recognizable voice. So I've tried to put this together without drawing unnecessary and unfair comparisons.

I will admit that although I was a bit disappointed at first, the album has begun to grow on me after a couple listens. Some of the material is sub-par and feels like filler, but out of the nine tracks there are three definite killers. This probably would have been better as, say, a six song EP or something along those lines. The major problems I found were that often the vocals are too intense for the music. That isn't a problem on those three gems ("Godpills," "Pleasurable Prison" and "Voyager"), but it's noticeable in parts of the others. Also it seems like too many of the songs begin in the same manner: they move from a slow- or mid-tempo instrumental, build some momentum, the vocals kick in and then the song continue to move forward. it's true that many a song in general begins this way, it's just that on this album it a noticeable pattern emerges.

On the plus side, there is some sweet guitar weaving going on here and there. The instrumentalists definitely have a feel for one another and play well together, I just find that they're not as talented musicians as High On Fire. Then again, this is much more straightforward metal-rock as opposed to an intense barrage of sludge. The album production is fairly clean, nothing is drowned in the mix and there is still plenty to bang your head to and get your fist in the air about: all definitely positives in this case. I mean, what's more important in life than headbanging, summoning and surging? I can't think of much. So maybe I'm shortchanging these guys too much due to my biases, but I'd definitely recommend checking Kalas out.

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