Blues For The Red Sun (Dali í92) Rating: A
The quintessential ďstoner rockĒ band. Actually, stoner rock is a silly name for music thatís so heavy (my idea of stoner rock is Pink Floyd), but the band did manage to help create an entirely new sub-genre of heavy metal by taking Black Sabbathís big riffs and adding the grime of grunge along with a trippy, jam-based vibe. The end result is a dirty, raw sound thatís both explosive and laid back. The unique Kyuss sound is built around mountainous fuzzed out sludge riffs (Josh Homme), huge thudding bass licks (Nick Oliveri), colossal yet dexterous drumming (Brant Bjork), and (on 7 of the albumís 12 songs) the bluesy bellow of John Garcia. Kyuss throws in some melodic guitar passages and experimental dabbling, and these improvisational interludes provide welcome breaks in the action. We all know whatís coming next; the bludgeoning rhythm section kicks in, the intensity skyrockets, and the band surges forward with an earth-rattling demonstration of pure power (man, I get pumped up just thinking about it). Iím not familiar with their supposedly far inferior first album Wretch, but this second installment was the one that started getting the band noticed, at least by critics and the underground community. Producer Chris Goss (Masters Of Reality) brings out the best in the band, who have seemingly reached a symbiotic togetherness brought about by endless hours of playing together. The end result is a massive juggernaut thatís capable of blinding fury and delicately intricate interplay, and despite occasional lulls in the action (and a lack of variety), this album has an unstoppable overall groove. Blues For The Red Sun is aptly titled, its music conjuring visions of the scorched Arizona desert amidst speaker blowing mayhem.
Welcome To Sky Valley (Elektra í94) Rating: A
This follow up, officially titled Kyuss but better known and more easily identifiable as Sky Valley due to the sign on the albumís cover bearing that inscription, was arguably an even more impressive outing than the awfully impressive Blues For The Red Sun. Delayed for almost a year due to record company complications, Welcome To Sky Valley proved to be well worth the wait. This is no compromises, Black Sabbath inspired progressive metal by a tremendously talented band. Welcome To Sky Valley is composed of three different parts, each of which is divided into several songs that segue into one another. Though itís inconvenient not to be able to play individual tracks like the pulverizing opener ďGardeniaĒ all by its lonesome, itís not quite as snobbish as it sounds; the band simply wanted to dissuade listeners from skipping tracks, which is understandable since the album works best when taken as a whole. The band blends an incredibly big sludgesound around mellower instrumental bridges that are psychedelic in tone, and they even throw in a catchy pop metal song with multi-tracked, echoed vocals (ďDemon CleanerĒ). More expansive and progressive than its predecessor (and less song oriented), Josh Homme still concocts the coolest fuzzed out guitar tone around, while new bassist Josh Reeder supplies deliciously dirty and incredibly heavy bass and drummer Brant Bjork adds terrific tribal stick work. They still meander a little too much for my liking, but when these guys get their monster jams going full throttle they make truly exhilarating and compelling heavy metal music.
ÖAnd The Circus Leaves Town (Elektra í96) Rating: B+
Although this was a step down from its two mind-blowing predecessors, this was still a mighty fine finale, as the band broke up due to a lack of recognition following its release. A criminal condemnation of the consumer market, seeing as how these guys were one of the best bandís out there, an extraordinarily powerful unit that could easily rival the likes of Soundgarden and Nirvana, though they fell short of those bandís in the songwriting department. Then again, Kyussí strength was in playing rather than writing, so the bandís focus on more structured songwriting here simply isnít as interesting as the spacious explorations in sound offered on their previous attempts. It doesnít help that John Garciaís vocals are too far back in the mix, or that new drummer Alfredo Hernandez isnít quite as impressive as Brant Bjork (who was also a key songwriter for the band). These quibbles aside, the bandís unwavering intensity and virtuosic musicianship provides thematic links to previous records, and more than a few songs here surge as only Kyuss can. So, even though this enigmatic farewell didnít quite kick me in the face like the molten meanderings of what came before it, this album should still please the stoner set who like their ďfar outĒ music to really rock out. After all, though thereís really nothing here that the band hasn't done better before, the band flexes enough muscle to let listeners know that whatever that special it is that makes groups great, this band had it in spades. Note: Although they were criminally overlooked in their day, Kyuss are now justly revered as highly influential pioneers who paved the way for many a stoner rock band who followed. Note #2: Homme recruited Hernandez (and later, Oliveri) and formed the far more commercially successful and also great but far different Queens Of The Stone Age in 1998.