KYUSS Blues For The Red Sun (Dali)
KYUSS And The Circus Leaves Town (Elektra)
Kyuss were the band that later spawned Queens Of The Stone Age (the two groups shared guitarist Josh Homme and famously bearded bassist Nick Oliveri; the final Kyuss release was an odds-and-ends compilation entitled "Queens Of The Stone Age"). They played a distinctive brand of music trademarked as stoner rock, characterised by downtuned guitars played through bass amplifiers. (The booklet photo within "Blues For The Red Sun" depicts a huge bass cabinet sitting in the middle of a desert.) How best to describe Kyuss' music? Think of early Black Sabbath mass and density meeting up with the young ZZ Top's bluesy melody and harmony, hitched up with, if you can believe it, The Grateful Dead's propensity for productive improvisation. On "Blues For The Red Sun", widely held to be their best long-player, these elements combine to fantastic effect, random flights of awe-inspiring tunery emerging from the primeval murk as the band kick out interstellar white heat sheets of heavyosity. When firing on all cylinders (sample "Freedom Run"), it makes Queens Of The Stone Age sound like a pop group; Kyuss in comparison are the definitive article, spooling off awesome, jaw-dropping globs of dark metallic threat and foreboding. "Blues For The Red Sun" is brilliant, experimental, lead-booted music that dumps early Metallica in Death Valley with only circling vultures for company.
" And The Circus Leaves Town" is Kyuss' fourth album, originally released in 1995, and sabotaged on my vinyl copy by an abysmal, amateurish pressing that might as well have been mastered from cassette. It toes a more conventionally heavy metal line than "Blues For The Red Sun", the latter's more experimental, improvisational moments traded for concise, structured songs, many of which anticipate the direction Homme and Oliveri would follow on the first Queens Of The Stone Age album. Nevertheless there are at least two moments of greatness: "Catamaran" is a cover of the Yawningman (huh?) song, and it's fabulous, strange as it may seem to think of Kyuss eulogising over a boating trip, all rippling acoustic guitars and contrary melody, and the closing eleven minute "Spaceship Landing" is as close as the band graze rock opera, a momentous, almost progressive thing. But for my desert island, it would have to be "Blues For The Red Sun", an unjustly neglected hard rock classic.
KYUSS LIVES! / BLOODCARGO / BURDEN Manchester Academy, 5 April 2011
I don't normally go to see bands as heavy as the appropriately-named Burden, so their maelstrom of hair and unhappiness is initially pretty impressive. Either they play four very long, multi-part songs or most of their repertoire can be dovetailed seamlessly together without gaps.
The next band on stage are initially a bit confusing, to me at least. Arriving amidst much dry ice to the noise of what sounds like Satan's ceilidh, they make the kind of entrance normally restricted to headliners. Playing under a giant, prominently spotlit Kyuss Lives! backdrop, and featuring a bald, bearded bassist who, from my vantage point in front of the mixing desk, looks the spit of Kyuss bassist Nick Oliveri (although admittedly approximately 10% of the audience also looks the spit of Nick Oliveri), the muddle is compounded by the singer invoking us to "Scream for Kyuss!" and their first few songs being fairly decent second-rate Kyuss impersonations. It's only just ahead of the penultimate song of their well-received set that the singer declares "We are BloodCargo; we are from Norway", which for five seconds to me at least sounds like the most metal announcement in the (molten) universe. They are pretty good, too, it has to be said.
There's nothing remotely second �rate about Kyuss Lives! and no, they could not be mistaken for anybody else except Kyuss. Appending "Lives!" to their name in respectful honour of former member and current Queen Of The Stone Age Josh Homme's decision not to turn up to the reunion party, Kyuss Lives! are 75% of the lineup that recorded their first two (of four) albums, with new boy Belgian guitarist Bruno Fevery taking Homme's place.
Taking the stage to the strains of Holst's "Mars, The Bringer Of War", the massive reserves of self-confidence such a gesture implies are fully justified. Despite the absence of Homme or any material recorded during the last 15 years, Kyuss have resolutely failed to turn into their own tribute act. John Garcia sings like he's got rattlesnakes for tonsils and the band play like Black Sabbath rehearsing Kraftwerk tunes in a sandstorm. It's testament to Fevery's talent that they sound like the tightest, most together band I've ever heard, four people functioning as if connected to a single nervous system, especially during the spluttering false endings that (eventually) close "Supa Scoopa And Mighty Scoop". The setlist is heavy on the "Welcome To Sky Valley" album, with seven of its ten tunes played, but sadly light on material from their masterpiece "Blues For The Red Sun". The latter contributes the glam slam singalong of "Thumb", the blacklight psychedelia of "Freedom Run", the evening's astonishing highlight, and encores "Allen's Wrench" and "Green Machine". "50 Million Year Trip (Downside Up)" would've been nice, but sadly it wasn't to be.
Their set only flags when Garcia is forced to turn standup comedian to cover some equipment maintenance. Otherwise and elsewhere it's pretty much business as awesome from start to finish, completely and utterly the genuine article, a non-stop thunderous rumble. Josh's loss is our gain, and I find it hard to fathom how a fan of any of the band's multifarious configurations could be anything other than awestruck by Kyuss Lives!
Queens Of The Stone Age