- Supa Scoopa and Mighty scoop
- 100 Degrees
- Space Cadet
- Demon Cleaner
- Conan Troutman
The common consensus among all is that Kyuss are the godfathers of stoner rock (I bestow sleep this honour) much as Black Sabbath wear the crown for heavy metal. I recall my first encounter with Kyuss being something along the lines of ‘Who the fuck are they?’ when seeing they were the opening act for Metallica on their 1993 jaunt through Australia.
In 1993 I was all about Metallica and still in admiration of the masterpiece that was the Black album. It was the first night of Metallica’s Sydney run of shows (Saturday March 26th or 27th if memory serves) when I experienced Kyuss in the flesh. Starved of usage of the massive in house PA at the Sydney Entertainment Centre the band had to impress with what they had and many walked away as Kyuss fans, though not I. I will not lie and say that I was impressed, and too many friends would dob me in if I did, with this hairy ensemble from Palm Springs. Sure the massive bass rumbling was ripping the roof off though my main memories were of Scott Reeder barefoot with a Rickenbacker bass sticking out of his hair and a shirtless John Garcia throwing the contents of his drink (beer) all over me. It would be two more years before I was converted and by then the band was on the brink of breaking up.
Starting their career in 1990 under the guise of Katzenjammer before settling on Sons of Kyuss the group recorded a self titled album limited to vinyl release (disc transfers are available) before changing their moniker to simply Kyuss (a character from Dungeons & Dragons pronounced Kai-uss). A second album would appear in the form of Wretch in 1991. A poor production did the group no favours and the album with its heavy blues rock would slip by unnoticed. Fervent touring and a reputation for a great live show would bring the group to the attention of Chris Goss of Masters Of Reality fame who produced next album, 1992’s Blues For Red Sun.
Blues For Red Sun brought the band accolades and respect and they were now the buzz band with video Green Machine getting heavy rotation on MTV’s Headbangers Ball. Kyuss, though, fell out the wayside of popular music at the time, being too metal for Gen X grungers and too punk for the metal crowd. Before touring began for Blues For Red Sunbassist Nick Oliveri left and was quickly replaced by ex-Obsessed bassist Scott Reeder.
1993 was a big year for the band seeing them going out on the road with Metallica and releasing third album once again with Chris Goss along for production duties. What the band did not know was they were about to record what many consider to be their career best and the benchmark used for all stoner rock bands since.
Welcome To Sky Valley is an entirely different beast to their previous recorded output. The songs are more expansive and the tracking on the compact disc makes it impossible to go straight to any favourite. The album is broken into three movements, the first two each with three songs each and movement three containing four songs – (later versions are more friendly with the 10 songs all separate).
Embracing more the direction of songs like 50 Million Year Trip(Downside Up) andFreedom Run from Blues For Red Sun the sound is less punk and more progressive, though still has its share of up-tempo rifferamas in the likes of 100 Degrees, Odyssey andConan Troutman.
Opening with Josh Homme’s mid-tempo sludge riff Gardenia shows the musical progression of the band with Scott Reeder’s bass style more jazzier in comparison to Nick Oliveri’s (and more prominent in the mix than on Blues For Red Sun) and Brant Bjork’s drumming much more diverse giving the songs more dimension. It’s not long before JohnGarcia’s Ian Astbury meets Jim Morrison vocal wail joins in the mix with opening couplet
One blow till I take ya’ down, take ya’ down
One smoke till your head spins around and around…
This in fact sums up the effect of listening to this album. Movement one continues with instrumental Asteroid before giving way to one of Kyuss’ catchier songs in Supa Scoopa And Mighty Scoop and its multiple false endings. Movement two sees the band throw in their first acoustic number, and closest song to a ballad in their repertoire, with the awesome Space Cadet. It is a measure to band’s songwriting that although the track goes for seven minutes that it feels over in about three. Demon Cleaner (the only single released from the album) rounds out the second movement in great fashion with its infectious groove laid down by Brant’s thunderous drums.
I am the Demon Cleaner
Madman of Encino
I am the Freedom Cleaner standing naked here to say
I’m the only way…
Movement three contains, in my humble opinion, probably the best song Kyuss ever wrote and recorded in the form of Whitewater. This seven minute plus journey is the epic of the album and last song proper before the joke lounge number Lick-Doo rounds things out. The faded in drums overlapped by a repeating guitar lick giving way to one of Josh’s patented spidery riffs with a rolling bass line beneath and finally the vocals
Your love and beauty has passed me by
Should I waste my time?
In your valleys, beneath your skies
I, I, I…I am home
One of the best things about the Kyuss sound is the mixing of John Garcia’s voice more as an instrument than a lead. Most vocals are the forefront of the mix making it the feature and at times drowning out the musicianship. The way this is mixed helps to not latch onto just the singer as the focus of the bands sound (his vocals would feature more prominently in later bands like Slo-Burn and Unida).
Brant Bjork would be next to leave the fold being replaced by the more jazz influenced Alfredo Hernandez for 1995’s swansong …And The Circus Leaves Town. This was the album that made me finally take notice of Kyuss, after catching the film-clip for One Inch Man on Rage one Friday night. Although held in higher stature to Wretch it still falls short of Blues For Red Sun and Welcome To Sky Valley in most peoples opinions (not mine!) and the band would split in October of that year. Josh, Nick and Alfredo would re-appear in the much lauded Queens Of The Stone Age who would go on to outsell Kyuss and the rest, as they say, is history. - Aaron Rodgers (FasterLouder.junkee.com)