Sludge-Metal Guitar God Ignores His Ax, to Our Detriment

Kalas is Matt Pike's new outfit, and for the Bay Area quintet's nine-track debut, he wields his ax only on a single cut ("Frozen Sun"). Instead, Pike's primary role is lead vocalist here, which is kinda fucked-up. Think about it: The dude from Asbestos Death, Sleep, and High on Fire—a modern-day guitar god whose fusion of hardcore, sludge, and Sabbath has placed him in the same pantheon as Ginn and King Buzzo—is merely singing. Of course, Pike is a powerful screamer, and his shredded croon actually takes center stage in Kalas's fairly melodic fusion of groove-laden stoner fuzz and metalcore aggression, which isn't caked with the weed, mud, and fog of HoF (much less Sleep's Dopesmoker). Sure, Kalas's twin guitarists, Paul Kott and Andy Branton (the latter formerly of Econochrist and Samiam), do unleash some serious riffs, albeit steeped in that thin, clean, straight-edge sound, one aligned with Pike's lyrics, which pass on the mythological for the political. But Pike's greatness ultimately lies in his mountain-plowing ax work, and several of these jams would feel far more dynamic and way heavier if that six-string were strapped to his chest for the entire disc.

 
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