Kyuss – Welcome To Sky Valley
Reviewing Sky Valley is almost unfair. What started from a growing underground scene in the California Desert in 1994 has grown to become folklore and even legend. Sky Valley is an album that defies limitations, and soars as perhaps one of the most iconic metal releases of all time.
10 songs, neatly organized into 3 movements, the instruction on the LP sleeve instructs listeners to “LISTEN WITHOUT DISTRACTION”. This is not so much a piece of advice as it is a commandment. The songs presented on this record exist on a near infinite number of planes, rhythms that are groovy and unfathomably heavy, extended jam sessions that seem to melt the minutes in mere seconds. This is the album where perhaps efforts to bring the Psychedelic aura into metal was finally mastered. To say that every song is a masterpiece is praise I rarely offer, and for a time, I wondered if it were ever possible. But understand me well, every song on Sky Valley is a masterpiece, from the furious “Gardenia”, to the immersive “Odyssey”, to the downright desert monolith, “Whitewater”.
What’s especially remarkable about Sky Valley (Aside from, basically everything), is the masterful balance of instruments. In “Whitewater”, a listener could be absolutely lost in the experience of the drums, the guitar, or the bass, all putting on a show that is, in the least cliché way possible, “Epic”. The song is downright huge massive. What a modern prog metal band might use 50 layers of guitars, vocals, and a constantly shifting time signature to accomplish, Kyuss pulls off with incredibly simple precision. It is 8 and a half minutes of sheer grandeur.
Another standout is the song “Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop”, why the name? I have no idea, I’m sure they don’t either. When Garcia introduced the song at Bizzare Fest in 1995, his explanation sounded more like an incantation than the English language, but that’s ok, because the song rocks. Absolutely and totally rocks. This is, if nothing else, the anthem of Kyuss. I’m going to try to avoid using “Massive” for the rest of this review, but rest assured, that the word could be used to describe pretty much everything on this record. The rhythm is a monster, and the guitar riff is its ever hungry gaping maw, with a demanding roar of absolute authority. About halfway into the song, it breaks into a nearly funk influenced psychedelic groove, it seems to end, only to come roaring back for more.
The song “Odyssey” opens with what might be a deceptively calm piece of guitar and bass interplay. What follows can only be described as a mythic explosion, pounding drums, driving bass, and searing guitars. Brant Bjork is a rare talent on drums, and makes the listener wonder if perhaps he has 4 arms, laughing at his mortal underlings and the inferior drummers of the world. This is a masterful guitar performance from Josh Homme as well (Who, oh by the way, went on to form Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures, in addition to organizing the Desert Sessions). If there was anything wrong with Kyuss, it was that the talent of the band was so immense, that there never quite seemed room for everyone to shine at once, with Sky Valley frequently showcasing the talents of Bjork and Garcia over Homme and underappreciated bassist Scott Reeder. This album is something that transcends what it is trying to do. It is massive, majestic, and as close to perfect as stoner metal will ever accomplish.
Dagg’s Rating: 5.0 out of 5