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Kylesa (May.07 issue) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Clark   
Between Silence and Sound
Definitions Don't Apply For Savannah's Kylesa

With its historic landmarks, beautiful downtown squares and notorious St. Patrick's Day buffoonery to offset the city's quaint charms, Savannah, Georgia doesn't seem to be the kind of place likely to spawn a thriving heavy metal scene. Yet a modest but active and creative underground subculture of heavy music has been cooking there for the past several years, and its most notable participant is arguably Kylesa.

Image Like many noteworthy combos flying the metal banner in these early years of the new millennium, Kylesa draws from an array of dizzying musical sources, none of which, directly, involve the blues, which is interesting only since metal traditionally got its sea legs as a heavy, amplified, hippie-fied interpretation of the blues. Nowadays it's more likely that later punk and metal subgenres like thrash, hardcore, doom, crust, prog and sludge will inform a nascent band's style. It's a new urban mutation of art-rock, in a way, and so the impact of the Savannah College of Art and Design on the city's alternative sounds cannot be underestimated.

Kylesa guitarist and vocalist Laura Pleasants moved from North Carolina to Savannah in the mid-90s to attend SCAD, eventually graduating with a degree in photography and graphic design. Her art can be seen on the covers of Kylesa's split 12-inch with Cream Abdul Babar from 2003, and their out-of-print split 7-inch with Momento Mori; one of her paintings also graces the cover of Kylesa's most recent CD, last year's Time Will Fuse Its Worth. But the art we're most interested in at the moment is the art of Kylesa's intense, sprawling music and the scene that birthed it.

Kylesa (pronounced Ky-less-ah, the name is a deliberate misspelling of a Buddhist term meaning "anything that would hinder one from reaching enlightenment, or a state of nirvana," Pleasants says, "like greed, aversion, delusion, negative things like that,") sprouted in 2001 when Pleasants, who had only been playing guitar since age 18, teamed up with three former members of fellow guitarist Phillip Cope's band Damad - of which only Cope still remains in the Kylesa camp. "They had a huge influence on this town," Pleasants emphasizes about Damad. "I think the heavy music scene started with Phillip's old band. And now, yeah, there's a healthy amount of heavy bands, bands that kinda have the Savannah sound.

"There's heavy guitars, a little bit of sludge, a little bit of punk, a little bit of metal, and definitely the use of effects, for sure," says Pleasants. She's describing not only her own band's sound, but also the characteristics many of her fellow Savannah bands share. "And Savannah's a small town, man, so we're all good friends with each other and stuff." Among the local noisemongers are Baroness, who will split an upcoming full-length CD with Unpersons, a Savannah band that Pleasants tells me is largely defunct, on At a Loss Recordings. Then there's Blacktusk, and Chronicle A.D. ("a little more punk, but definitely in the same scene," Pleasants notes) and Circle Takes the Square, whose vocalist and guitarist Drew Speziale, a onetime SCAD schoolmate of Pleasants, designed the cover of Kylesa's second album, To Walk a Middle Course.

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