When an album possessing the title held by the one above appears, the process mentally materializes instantly: band needs to fulfill contract, doesn’t have a legit album to put out. Band then looks back over catalog, cherry-picks one-off songs they tossed to some various artists comps, maybe an uninspired cover or two, contacts old friends they put out a split with to see if they’d mind having their half of the split basically excised from the larger scale release (and the public consciousness, for that matter). Wham, bam, instant “rarities” collection composed of previously released material.
This is very much not the route Savannah, GA metal giants Kylesa chose to take (we’ll let studio oddities like “Bass Salts” and “Drum Jam” slide here) for From The Vaults, Vol. 1. Perhaps realizing that their current career path, most recently displayed by 2010’s fantastic, increasingly psyched-out Spiral Shadow, wasn’t all that conducive to the crust-indebted hardcore punk and metal that originally put them on the map, the members of Kylesa decided to have one more go of their older sounds with the tricks they had learned over the years. This meant dredging up old instrumentals that never reached completion or the lyric-writing stage, or re-recording older songs that they thought they could just do better. Kylesa didn’t just go into the vault advertised in the album title, they damn well went to the back corner of the sub-basement.
And somehow, the final product turned out better than some bands’ actual albums. “Inverse” rides a furious cycle of riffs while co-vocalist/guitarists Phillip Cope and Laura Pleasants engage in an apparent contest of who can shout over the other, resulting in a track that satisfies on a very visceral level. “Between Silence And Sound” from 2007’s Time Will Fuse Its Worth and “Bottom Line” from 2005’s To Walk A Middle Course each get a “II” slapped on to their title and re-recorded versions placed on the tracklist here. Each of these versions are injected with extra doses of energy, vitality, and downright proficiency, indicating the years of experience finally catching up with the ambition this band has possessed all along. Much like “Don’t Look Back” on Spiral Shadow, “Paranoid Tempo” is the outlier here, an extremely poppy (by Kylesa standards) punk blazer that shoots off into a psych-tinged bridge and culminates in a bash-till-the-end finish. The collection reaches its conclusion with a pair of covers, first of Buzzoven’s “Drained,” which is completely ripped away from its original owners and repossessed by Pleasants, and of Pink Floyd’s “Set The Controls For The Heart Of the Sun,” which is given exponentially higher amounts of metal heft and wah’d out soloing.
From The Vaults, Vol. 1 is a surprisingly heartening collection, in that its main goal isn’t just to make these songs available, but to improve on them, to realize their potential when they just couldn’t lock it down before. There’s exactly one brand new song to be found here. “End Truth” continues down the path started by Spiral Shadow, filled with solemn incantations from Cope, wilderness-roaming clean vocals from Pleasants, and an instrumental that walks the line between the brutal heaviness represented by much of this collection and and clean precision. It, and the rest of From The Vaults, Vol. 1, is a statement of purpose, that Kylesa is a band that respects and acknowledges its past while still pushing into brave new territory.