There are few better genres through which to engage in obsessive rarity chasing than metal. Limited edition split singles are common practice, as are odd compilation tracks. Ditto collectible import EPs — lord only knows how much cash the most devoted Boris fans have dropped over the years. This isn’t true across the board, of course, but even when vinyl sales were at an all-time nadir, metal bands were still pressing seven- and ten-inch EPs as tour-only treasures, not too different than your average indie rock band’s method of operations, but often demanding higher prices once supplies grow thin.
Savannah’s Kylesa, now in their eleventh year as a band, have released five excellent studio albums in escalating quality, 2009′s Static Tensions and 2010′s Spiral Shadow among the best metal albums of the aughts, though that only scratches the surface of how much material they’ve put to two-inch tape. There are a handful of singles, a trio of split EPs, an early double seven-inch release, several odd covers, and that’s only the music that actually made it onto wax. As the band preps for their sixth full-length, to be recorded sometime in 2013, Kylesa have assembled an album’s worth of outtakes and rarities titled From the Vaults, Vol. 1. And yet, for a collection of unreleased or alternate material, there’s a cohesion to the compilation that’s fairly rare for a collection of this nature. Singer and guitarist Phillip Cope called it a “labor of love,” and the outstanding end result makes that apparent.
The flow of From the Vaults feels much like that of a proper studio effort from Kylesa, or more specifically, it’s structured fairly closely to that of 2006′s Time Will Fuse Its Worth. It’s bookended by a brief intro and a closing “Drum Jam,” and in the middle are 10 slices of crunchy, visceral psych-metal that by and large holds up to much of the band’s best material. “Inverse” sears with white-hot intensity and a Bolt Thrower-inspired streamlined ugliness. “111 Degree Heat Index,” an alternate take of earlier single “110 Degree Heat Index” finds a little more groove in its punch, while “Paranoid Tempo” ultimately comes across more like a much heavier take on post-punk than strictly metal, putting it in a similar category as “Don’t Look Back” or “Unknown Awareness” in the band’s mellifluous ability to beef up outside aesthetic approaches.
From the Vaults contains one entirely new track, titled “End Truth,” which is melodic in a way many of the earlier outtakes aren’t. It shows the group’s Pink Floyd influence even more than their metal heroes, though while I’m on the topic, the other most notable inclusion on this collection is the band’s cover of Floyd’s “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” which has long been a live staple for the band. A powerful song to begin with, it becomes a fearsome beast in Kylesa’s hands, even as Laura Pleasant’s vocals take on a far more serene quality than the throat-burning screams of a track like “Scapegoat.” With a compilation of this nature, it’s easy to survey the band’s development and evolution over the years, and with Kylesa, the progression is not so much one of delineation as it is expansion. Once a metal band with some awesome tricks, Kylesa has grown into something much more complex and continuously exciting. As a standalone release, From the Vaults is brimming with amazing material. As a harbinger of the future, it’s a sign of amazing things to come.