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Kayo Dot - Hubardo CD (album) cover


Kayo Dot



3.98 | 127 ratings

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4 stars When the writing of this album was complete and the recording was about to begin, Kayo Dot let it be known that their next album would be a monster. Fans had learned to expect the unexpected from this eclectic combo: it's sometimes hard to believe that Dowsing Anemone, Blue Lambency Downward and Coyote are all the work of the same band. Although the group's compositional imprint can be detected on each of these albums, stylistically they're very different from each other. Since Kayo Dot is still a working band at the time of this writing, and we don't yet have the benefit of hindsight, only later will we really know where these albums fit in their overall creative vision, which is still expanding and developing both vertically and horizontally. If anything, Hubardo feels like a career recap, a return to the roots, and a bold step in a new direction all at once. All this, plus the daunting album length of 100 minutes, has led fans to expect great things from this release. While the excitement of its release (and of the live show I saw last week) has not died down yet, I think it's safe to say this album will be seen as one of Kayo Dot's crowning achievements when all is said and done.

Its strengths are many. After two albums and one EP of relatively downbeat and pensive music, this album marks a welcome return to the roaring rock sound of their first two albums, not to mention those of their predecessors maudlin of the Well. The deep, thick guitar chords that helped make Choirs of the Eye and Dowsing such an intense listen are back, as are the livelier tempos and screaming squall of their most free-blowing moments in the past. The album also benefits from a fleshed out storyline, wonderful artwork, and a lean, mean ensemble of virtuosos including leader Toby Driver, Daniel Means, Terran Olson, Ron Varod, and Keith Abrams.

On the down side, the extremely wide spectrum of styles on this album can often be a distraction. Songs go from one extreme to the next with very little middle ground to ease the transition. For example, the album goes from the placid tranquility of "The Second Operation" straight into the furious tech/death metal of "Floodgate" without too much rhyme or reason that I can detect. The pacing of the album is also kind of strange -- it starts out sounding like a tech/death metal album for roughly the first 30 minutes , then it sounds like a post-rock/goth album for the next 30, and then ends up as a post-rock/fusion album for the remainder, with only the "Floodgate" interrupting this pattern. It's definitely an intriguing idea to pace an album this way, but as of now, it mostly leaves me confused. It's a good kind of confusion, but I can imagine a less sympathetic listener being turned off by this overt display of "how different can we make each song sound?".

Each song is its own universe of complex combinations of ideas, don't get me wrong -- I don't mean to reduce the whole album to three homogenous chunks. Even within the songs I casually described as "tech/death metal", there are strange shifts and myriad influences ranging from jazz to King Crimson. And the last two lengthy tracks, "Passing the River" and "Wait of the World" are perhaps the least easy to pin down, with elements of post-rock, Canterbury fusion, drone metal, and... as I said, it's hard to pin down. These are probably my favorite two tracks at this point, and they end the album on a very high, if puzzling note.

Kayo Dot is a band I've followed since Choirs of the Eye, and each album has intrigued me to the point that even thought I may not "get it" all the time, I am filled with a hunger to explore their world and understand it better. I won't pretend that I understand and love every note or even song on Hubardo, but like all of Kayo Dot's work, it rewards dedication and patience, and it may take me another ten years to fully appreciate it. Its sheer originality and wealth of ideas makes it a work to be reckoned with - even if you may not like it at first.

HolyMoly | 4/5 |


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