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4 stars This is a very important album for avante-garde/ music.

This album, by definition, is a mammoth piece of history that celebrates everything Toby Driver and his fellow musicians have achieved, and what they have achieved here with this release. Hubardo, or "lantern", is an album that literally re-illuminates the band's past, as well as lights up their future.

Do not go into this album expecting another Choirs of the Eye, because that it not what this is. It is, rather, a collection of all the band's elements, including Jason Byron, and motW's sound. A haunting lyrical concept forms the frame that binds the songs to this album together; just reading them alone is satisfying in itself. But the musical elements are all there, and stronger than ever. Ethereal guitars, trademark vocals from Toby (and Byron), as well as the chilling horns that are so commonplace in motW music. This includes music reminiscent of Choirs of the Eye, as well as every motW/Kayo Dot album.

It did not, and probably will not affect me on the level that Choirs did, but I still take a step back and tip my hat to them regardless. This truly is an achievement and a milestone. Listen, please. It really encompasses the whole strange, beautiful strand of genre that Toby Driver and his crew innovated.

Report this review (#1028025)
Posted Tuesday, September 3, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars A lonely Poet and the Eye of Leviathan

Are you proud of yourself, Toby Driver? Are you satisfied with having me as your eternal and devoted follower, speechless in the face of HUBARDO's grandeur? If these questions were ever to reach Toby, I imagine the answer to them as follows: "Yes, we did it, we have transmuted the gleaming stone that fell from the moonless sky. Essence and forms blossomed beautifully from the eye of Leviathan and merged into this ever morphing sculpture of sounds. You can almost see it once you close your eyes, open your heart and let the ear follow the chisel."

In a way, HUBARDO encompasses everything that Toby Driver has ever done with maudlin of the Well, Kayo Dot and Tartar Lamb, but in fact it is so much more. It's an individual, conceptual work and while it obviously sounds like something made by Kayo Dot, it is more adventurous, dense and technical than anything they've done before. To be completely honest, it's impossible to describe an album with total playing time of almost 100 minutes, that flows like a poem and stirs the soul with whole range of emotions. A record that stupefies with passionate outbursts of experimental extremity, seamlessly evolving into haunting chamber rock passages or krautrock psychedelia. I can't even fathom out how avant-garde jazz and fusion, chamber post-rock, experimental black metal and psychedelic rock can be so beautifully blended together into a music that reaches and goes beyond any horizons; music that crushes boundaries and escapes any classification except for one: Art that comes to existence out of pure need of creation itself; need to channel the ephemeral creative fire into an immortal work. And, as if that weren't enough, HUBARDO boasts some of the most intriguing ambiance and lyrics I've ever encountered. Ah, so much could be said about this surreal, somewhat vaudevillian atmosphere, about this dreamy feeling of witnessing beauty and awe inspiring freedom. Freedom so moving and spontaneous, despite the staggering complexity of the music it gave birth to.

HUBARDO, the seventh album by the avant-chamber-rock/experimental metal band Kayo Dot, is the ultimate evidence that music is boundless. It's one of those rare pieces of art that are so unique and passion driven, that any attempt to analyze and deconstruct it backfires on the reviewer. Even though you may stay indifferent to the beauty of HUBARDO, you can't deny its singularity and sheer compositional genius of Kayo Dot. As far as I am concerned, I'm so deeply in love with this wondrous album, that I feel ashamed by the very fact of publishing this review. A review that will not do HUBARDO enough justice.

-- Originally written for Metal Music Archives --

Report this review (#1029548)
Posted Thursday, September 5, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars 4.9 Stars. The concept album FROM HELL

Hubardo has been one of those albums I have been planning to review for a long time. When I heard it last year I was extremely excited and terrified of this album in equal amounts. Kayo Dot are a band that change their style radically with every album they release. The only thing they all have in common is their ability to break new ground and just be very experimental in general, hence the Avant Garde genre tag the band has.

While Hubardo is also Avant Garde the main focus in this album is Extreme Prog Metal with a lot of leaning towards Black Metal. So anyone who allergic to grows/screams and brutal sonic attacks should avoid this album like the plague. The metal found here is almost as extreme as you can get, just for reference nothing in the entire career of Opeth comes anywhere close to the intensity levels found on this album. And please don't mistake this for a Meshuggah album either. This is not bone crushing, but its complete madness and like you are being dragged down to hell by the devil himself. It's not all extreme metal though, there are numerous of other genres that have been mixed in to add to the weirdness levels and a fair few songs have no metal in them.

Hubardo is a detailed concept album telling the story of the Eye of Leviathan which falls to the earth as a meteorite. A lonely poet takes the stone and becomes possessed by the stones demonic powers. It tricks him into taking the stone with him to a strange garden (which might be hell but its not clear) and drowning him once his task is done. There is no joy to be found on this album, only fury, madness or depression. There are some beautiful and delicate sections though which are very well done.

"The black stone" starts the album with death grows and a incredibly slow tempo that lasts 5 minutes. This is the only part of the album that I am not keen on as nothing much happens except for the continuous slow growling. It is important for the story though as it talks of the stone in space falling back to earth. The song gets very intense and strong at the end and is worth the 5 min of waiting.

"Crown-in-the-muck" talks of people finding the stone and being horrified by its evilness. Only the lonely poet is drawn to it. It begins with a moody instrumental which has no connections to metal, but instead has a more jazz fusion feel to it. It does however descend into black metal which gradually increases in intensity. The vocals are screamed with as much wrath and disgust as Toby can manage which is to represent the people's loathing of the stone. At the end the intensity has built to terrifying levels, but it is still tame compared to later songs.

"Thief" is the first song to introduce a style of song writing that will appear on many later tracks. Depending on your taste it will either sound brilliant or awful. This sound is a very chaotic and free-flowing style of Black metal which is difficult to describe. Most of the song is an instrumental with different sections stumbling one after another. It's only after repeated listens that you can tell there is a deeper level of songwriting going on and that it's not as chaotic as you would first think. Story-wise the poet has taken the stone and is running through the night to go back home.

The start of "Vision adjusted to another wavelength" is incredibly maddening and overwhelming. The poet is being fully enchanted by the stones power and the song perfectly expresses his insanity. I can't put into words how potent this is and it's not even the most intense song on the album! The second half (where the poet dreams of the stone as a seed and it sprouting) is much calmer and hypnotic, using many Eastern themes.

"Zilda Caosgi (To Water the Earth)" is my favourite song on Hubardo, it's another extreme metal song but it focuses less on madness and more on complexity and rapid time signature changes. The pace is extremely fast and does so many tricks while never de-railing itself. This is what I want Prog metal to be about, a massive rush that satisfies the heart and head. The story reflects the excitement as the poet uses a lightning rod and thunderbolt to blow up the stone and reveal the seed/eye that he dreamed about.

The following 2 songs are much quieter and are based on the poet's dreams. "The First Matter (Saturn in the Guise of Sadness)" has a regular and steady rhythm for the first 5 minutes. It's a catchy song and full of melancholy. While it is reflective its far from boring and there is a cool spacey sound created with the electric guitar to keep things interesting. The second half is much weirder, it's a oppressive tribal rhythm that is a challenging listen. They don't have to be metal to be disturbing.

"The Second Operation (Lunar Water)" is a very beautiful but sad song. The first 3 minutes is a delicate instrumental which has a lovely violin solo. The remaining 10 minutes are very minimalist and quite original. The disjointed song starts and stops for several seconds before beginning again. Whenever Toby sings other voices join him and echo his words. It's very captivating but it takes a while to appreciate. But once you do it's another big highlight of the album. The ending is particularly beautiful.

"Floodgate" is the last extreme metal song on the album, but it's by far the most intense and insane. For 7 minutes you are swamped with screams, grows, demented rhythms and other weird stuff that's indescribable and evil. The poet wakes up and goes to plant the eye in the forest.

"And he built him a boat" is the most accessible song on Hubardo and has no metal, but is more of a fusion between post-rock and the 10 minutes on "the second operation". The song does not change much over the 7 and half minutes but keeps at a regular pace with some post-rock instrumentals in-between. The song tells of how a river has sprouted from the eye and a boat is created from a tree for the poet to go down the river. Weird yes but it works!

"Passing the river" starts quietly with some vulnerable and delicate singing, before going into anguished cries of despair. I love how Toby has such a wide range of vocal abilities and can display so many intense emotions. Things then descend into full blown SunnO))) drone metal for several minutes. This is followed by a very strong and quite heavy instrumental. It finishes with delicate vocals again.

On "The wait of the world" the poet's river journey has reached its end and he finds the gates to the garden. But the gates do not open for him causing him to drown and haunt the gates as a ghost forever. The song itself is quite different to the rest of Hubardo. It's still very intense and has some incredibly crazy and bizarre instrumentals, but it's all in the structure of jazz-fusion and not metal. Think the second half of King Crimson's Lizard and make it heavier and weirder. It's a odd way to finish the album as many people have commented but I think it works. Mainly because it reflects the spirit if the album and the very dark lyrics right at the end.

While I am not keen on the first 5 minutes of the album, the remaining 95 is mind-blowing so I cannot give this anything less than 5 stars. This is a love or hate album and its extremity means many will go for the latter. However it is also one of the most progressive, inspired and well thought out albums I have ever heard. It's without question a masterpiece.

Report this review (#1047745)
Posted Sunday, September 29, 2013 | Review Permalink
1 stars I thank the lord this record finally is over. I have always thought that music should be wonderful to listen to, something to get inspiration and joy from and brighten the minds of the listeners. Even "Kayo Dot" perhaps has that effect on some people but not on me.

Kayo Dot is a modern American rock band that has been living for ten years now and "Hubardo" is their sixth record. The music you can hear here would I describe as some form of post rock and metal, but such strange music that it has gained the classification RIO/avant-prog. I hear nothing though that reminds me of other RIO-music such as beautiful Samla Mammas Manna or The Cardiacs. I went to the music with joy and excitement but wander home sad and disappointed. Kayo Dot's music is complex and the band features seven all time musicians and four guests. Among the instruments that are played I can mention keyboards, organs, saxophones, guitar, flutes, trumpets and violin. With all those instruments I couldn't be more than curious and expectant. First I will mention all the good things I can find in this music.

The music is intelligent and complex. They also have a totally unique sound and is not fixed in a genre. The participation of some odd instruments is nice such as the trumpet in the last song and the organ in the third or the violin in the seventh. On the second half of "Hubardo" it becomes noticeable that the singer actually can sing. One song was almost a nice one: "And he built him a boat" with a nice melody and good singing.

But it's not a secret I don't enjoy this album. It was much too long, the half would have been enough. It was dark all the time, never bright or glory. The vocals were screamy and terrible, such as monsters from a world below. All compositions were sad and they didn't affect me at all. Where it wasn't growl or screams the music was too slow and annoying in an other way. I feel like this band took som interesting and nice ingredients and put it in a awful mess.

Now when It's clear I don't like this record I must clarify others have embraced them greatly and the complexity and progressivity of this music is certainly interesting for somebody. But not for me. I give it one solemn star.

Report this review (#1048766)
Posted Monday, September 30, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars One hour, 38 minutes, 56.442 seconds of the most impossibly insane music one could ever hear, accompanied by a meaty Lovecraftian story of a poet (we'll call him Joe) who finds a meteorite (it's actually the eye of the biblical Leviathan), takes the damn(ed) thing home, gets charmed by its strange power, has a nightmare about watering the stone with blood and watching a gigantic holy tree (perhaps Yggdrasil?) sprouting out of the meteorite. Kids, this is why you shouldn't do drugs. And this is why you shouldn't take black meteors to your house either (no offense to African-American space debris).

Well, our hero Joe was inspired by this vision and he woke up only to see a poem about a seed written in his cottage. He tries to crack open the stone and find the seed in it only to have his chisel shatter in his hands. Dude climbs to his cottage's roof and tries to break the eye by throwing it on the ground to no avail. "Eureka", says the poet as a storm mumbles in the distance; he puts the stone on the roof again and fastens a LIGHTNING ROD to it (is it the rod of knowledge mentioned in the First Key of Enoch or is it one of the 19 pillars of gladness from the Fifth Key? Well, to those of you wondering what the heck I'm talking about, I'll explain it in a minute).

Useful information for all of you: usually, when there's a thunderstorm and there's a lightning rod near its area of effect, lightning tends to strike the lightning rod. As our excited poet Joe does a day-long funky naked dance near his cottage under heavy rain while Kayo Dot play the soundtrack, a lightning bolt hits the rod and the stone explodes. I bet you'll enjoy this, Joe: there's a seed inside what's left of the stone! And the words "Zlida Caosgi" are inscribed on it in weird glyphs! Be aware that that expression is an excerpt from the Fifth Key of Enoch, part of an Hermetic text by John Dee which was adapted by Anton LaVey into the final chapter of The Satanic Bible, which is curiously called The Book of Leviathan. Put your tinfoil hats on!

Our boy Joe takes a walk in the woods during new moon and decides it was a good idea to live in the forest. You know, to inspire him to write poems and cry like a lady and be a miserable solipsist. Whatever floats your boat, poet (you might as well build one later). Joe decides it's time to bury the seed and take a nice long nap. He wakes up and he's like "Oh shoot!"; turns out a ghost sneaked into the forest while Joe was sleeping and decided it was a good idea TO WATER THE EARTH with the poet's watering can. Now there's a stream of water sprouting out of the seed's mound! It's tasty and sweet, a dove baptizes him and flies along with the water's course, and the moon has grown into a crescent. What's not to like?

The stream widens enough in such a small period of time to form a river which leads further into the woods. Joe has no time to waste and builds a boat out of the trees around him. Apparently, nature decided it was a nice time to make sounds, so it started making sounds. Anyway, the moon is getting fuller and there's no time to waste; Joe hops on the boat and sets sail to wherever the heck this river is leading. I believe it goes straight into Hades, or Hell to those who might dislike the word Hades. Now, our poor Joe was so busy crafting his vessel he forgot he should have eaten something or cared a little bit 'bout his personal hygiene before boarding his floatable open coffin! GODDAMNIT JOE!

Now the moon is completely full, the stars are really bright and shiny (just like LAMPS), the river is doing the soundtrack to Joe's final voyage. As Joe forgot to purchase some sort of braking device for nautical vessels, he couldn't slow it enough to prevent him from crashing into the gate to hell at full speed, so he embraced his fate and attempted to die gracefully by giving the gate a nice hug. Unfortunately, it didn't go so well as Joe's body turned into mush.

All that was left was his ghost. Poor ghostly Joe then decided to take care of the garden near the gate to Dis for the rest of time. And that's it.

Well, I'm not going to say anything about the music as I'm too lazy to do that so instead I wrote 771 words about the album's lyrics. I'll give it a very strong 4/5. Also, Jason Byron kinda ripped off Robert E. Howard's short story titled "The Black Stone".

Report this review (#1049766)
Posted Tuesday, October 1, 2013 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
5 stars 'Hubardo' - Kayo Dot (10/10)

Although I've never concealed my love and passion for progressive rock, it's been a genre I've viewed through a jaded lens as of late. After all, let's face it: for every sterling artist making the genuine attempt to push the envelope and get daring with their sound, there are a hundred that prefer to piggyback on the accomplishments of those long past; many of the so-called 'modern' prog bands wouldn't be more anachronistic if they were babbling on about the Cold War and the rise of Disco music. It's a sorry state to be certain, but it makes a band like Kayo Dot feel all the more special and vital. Since Kayo Dot's start with 2003's "Choirs of the Eye", and their earlier incarnation as maudlin of the Well, Toby Driver and co. have been making some of the most interesting and adventurous music coming out of the prog rock and metal spheres. Although I haven't fallen in love with everything they've done- "Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue" never really clicked with me- I hold no reservations in calling Kayo Dot one of the finest experimental acts out there nowadays. Observing the ten year anniversary since the release of their debut, Kayo Dot have unveiled what is undoubtedly their most complex and majestic work to date. I've now spent nearly a month listening to it, and it hasn't lost any of its spark or excitement on me. "Hubardo" may very well be the most refreshing piece of work to yet come out this year. At no other point in 2013 has an album dared to compete with the pantheon of my most beloved albums, but "Hubardo" shows no signs of losing its steam. At the risk of sounding overzealous, those who have felt my same frustrations with recent progressive rock should look no further than Kayo Dot. It's not an easy pill to swallow, but adventurous listeners will find their efforts repaid tenfold. This is avant-garde metal at its finest.

Kayo Dot have locked themselves in a constant state of reinvention. From the start, the band is noted and defined for its dedication to change and progression. "Choirs of the Eye" immediately distanced itself from the idyllic sound of maudlin of the Well with a more sombre and jaded approach. With "Dousing Anemone with Copper Tongue" through to 2010's uncompromisingly bleak "Coyote", Kayo Dot began exploring sonic darkness in other ways, escaping the traditional confines of metal music completely. To the point where Kayo Dot had excised use of the electric guitar completely, Kayo Dot made a very surprising and pleasant leap back to metal with "Gamma Knife", this time sounding even less like classic maudlin of the Well, and more like a jazz-infused Deathspell Omega. Although "Coyote" was no slouch artistically speaking, the return to a fresh metal style has been quite the jumpstart for Kayo Dot; it feels like they have been revitalized in a way not heard since the debut. While "Gamma Knife" may have felt like it was only partially fulfilling Kayo Dot's potential with avant-black metal, "Hubardo" expands on the scope and ambition to a degree never before seen in a project by the band. At an hour and a half long, "Hubardo" immediately sets itself apart; more impressive still is the fact that Kayo Dot have accomplished a work of this length without any sacrifice to the consistency or quality of the music. Flowing seamlessly from jarring black metal to post-rock and trippy jazz fusion, I have difficulty recalling an album that manages to be so diverse, yet feel so tight and well- constructed.

Following a familiar Kayo Dot tradition, "Hubardo" opens up on a fairly mellow and deceptively quiet note. Even though the first four minutes of "The Black Stone" feel fairly loose and scattered, it builds a frightening tension that erupts masterfully in the rupture of the song's latter movement. "The Black Stone" also features the long-unheard growls of Jason Byron, best known for his harsh vocals on the Maudlin records. Clean guitars sputter alongside a frantic drumline and Byron's familiar growl, and though it doesn't start off conventionally heavy by the traditional 'metal' standard, it's dark as all hell and evokes a tension that feels like it's going to burst at any moment. Although "The Black Stone"s misleading overture creates a wonderfully dark emotional palette, it does tend to drag on a little longer than would have been optimal. Luckily, once "Hubardo" trespasses this arguable lowpoint, it soars and continues to hover at a level of relative perfection thereafter. By the end of "The Black Stone", Kayo Dot transcend a modernistic classical atmosphere and dive straight into a terrifying black/death metal chaos, the likes of which remind me of Australian lurkers Portal. "Hubardo" leaves a pretty indelible impression from the start, and even then, "The Black Stone" may be my least favourite track on the album.

While Kayo Dot albums of the past tended to focus on, and flesh out one particular style, "Hubardo" is notable for how diverse and varied it is. As "The Black Stone" should indicate to new listeners, there's quite a sonic range Kayo Dot choose to work with here. Their take on black metal- pregnant with saxophone and electronic interruptions- is arguably the most memorable aspect of the album, but there's just as much of the album that recalls their more mellow leanings. "The First Matter", "The Second Operation" and "And He Built Him A Boat" all capitalize on haunting ethereal beauty. Toby Driver's longstanding mastery of arrangement flourishes on these tracks, particularly on "The Second Operation", which features a stunning blend of violin, horn and synthesizer that nearly moved me to tears the first time I heard it. "And He Built Him A Boat" was the first track I heard from the album, and I was obsessed with it the first time I heard it. Arguably the most conventional and accessible piece on the album, "And He Built Him A Boat" shares a kinship with a lot of 'cinematic' post-rock; I'm thinking bands like Explosions in the Sky, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Mono. Although vocals have never been a strong suit of Toby Driver or the bands he's been a part of, Driver's voice is uncharacteristically strong here, and the accompanying choral arrangements are haunting as anything I've heard. "And He Built Him A Boat" ultimately gives way to "Passing the River", a longer piece that starts off echoing Radiohead more than anything, before diving into a hammered dulcimer and sax-infused metal climax. On the other side of the spectrum, Kayo Dot save their biggest surprises for their newly acquired black metal style. "Thief", "Floodgate" and "Zlida Caosgi" are all chaotic and multi- layered, easily rivaling the technical complexity of Gorguts, Deathspell Omega and any other band that have spent their careers building up this sort of calculated madness. "Zlida Coasgi" in particular may be my favourite song on the album, managing to balance heaviness, atmosphere, beauty and catchiness to a degree of perfection I don't think I've ever heard before.

Existing fans of the album may remark that I failed to mention "Vision Adjustment to Another Wavelength" when listing off the heavier tracks. I might explain that choice by saying that it deserves a pedestal of its own entirely. While "Zlida Coasgi" may be the track that I enjoy the most, it's "Vision Adjustment?" that makes up the album's most terrifying, leftfield and experimental moment. Frantic saxophones are mixed in with mind-blowingly weird electronic textures, inhuman screams and indecipherable guitar patterns, creating one of the weirdest things I have ever heard in my entire life. I'm not sure it can even be done proper justice in writing. Just listen to it. Listen to it. I'm pretty sure that song alone earns "Hubardo" its bread.

The album ends on a surprising note; while much of "Hubardo" has been passed between black metal and more ambient post rock, "The Wait of the World" closes the album with a psychedelic and very modern take on jazz fusion. As if Robert Fripp and John McLaughlin joined The Mars Volta and had some sort of lurid acid party, it evokes a feeling of eeriness and unease quite unlike the band's metal output. In case anyone reading this has heard it, it's a similar experience to Steven Wilson's own fusion freakout "Raider II" off 2011's "Grace for Drowning". Quite an unexpected way to close off an album, and an excellent one at that. As is the case with most albums deserving of a masterpiece, "Hubardo" excels just as much with regards to its execution as it does with the compositions themselves. While "Gamma Knife" felt a little low-budget productionwise, it feels like no expense has been spared in fulfilling their music this time around. While many albums this complex generally suffer from a feeling of being too sterile and focused on clarity, "Hubardo" sounds rich and organic, like a classic analog album if it was injected with precision and crystal clarity. With maudlin of the Well and even a lot of Kayo Dot's material, I was never overtly blown away by the demonstration of musicianship, but since they amped up the complexity with "Gamma Knife", Kayo Dot have been terrifying in this regard as well. Very special commendations go to the drummer Keith Abrams, who passes me as being a sort of metal-oriented Bill Bruford with the way he's able to intone every beat and hit with detail and texture. Abrams changes up his drumwork to accommodate whatever given style is happening on "Hubardo" at the time; he sounds well at home as a fusion drummer just as much as a metal drummer. Did I mention "Hubardo" has some of the most impressive blastbeats I've ever heard on record? Yes, there's that as well.

It would have been nice to have heard violinist Mia Matsumiya perform a little more on this album, especially since her showcase towards the beginning of "The Second Operation" is breathtaking. Listeners coming from a more distinctly metal background will note the unconventionally meaty presence of saxophones on the album. Daniel Means and Terran Olson offer a double sax attack, the likes of which I've never heard work so well in a metal context. Especially on "Vision Adjustment to Another Wavelength" and "Floodgate", it's difficult to imagine the music sounding so scary and chaotic, had the saxophones not been there.

It's uncompromising, rich, and for my money, it's an instant classic. I have long considered "Choirs of the Eye" to be one of my favourite albums ever, and a month into experiencing "Hubardo", I have to say that this one trumps their debut by a noticeable margin. Always pushing the envelope forward, it's my hope that this album gives Kayo Dot the exposure and attention they deserve. Even from the length alone, it's not an album that all prospective listeners will have time for, but I don't think I've heard an album this year that has created such an awe in me; only the new Gorguts and The Ruins of Beverast albums have even dared to compete. "Hubardo" is the sort of album that only comes around once in a while, and I won't even try to predict where the band goes next from here. Total mastery.

Report this review (#1052412)
Posted Thursday, October 3, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Hubardo is my first encounter with Kayo Dot and I think a pretty good starting point in general. Not that this is in any way a lot more accessible than their previous work or that they've gone pop or generic or anything. It simply feels more cohesive than the likes of Gamma Knife. There are still raucous, discordant walls of sound backed by intricate and rapid drumming which at first I found to be a little unbearable but as i listen more those parts grow on me. The reason is that they are not simply your run-of-the-mill death/black metal moments but are instead layered with all types of unexpected instrumentation (clarinet, horns, piano, synths, violin) and this adds a peculiar quality to the music and what it's trying to do. I perceive these instruments as noble intruders on an otherwise sombre and menacing torment which the screeching guitar and vocals are in constant battle with. It's this curious hodge- podge of jazz, post-rock, metal, folk, and God knows what else that makes me keep coming back to this absurdly wonderful record.

I am yet to properly read the narrative in the lyrics but the moods and atmospheres within the music give the listener a general understanding of what's going on, or at least the listener can interpret the events interestingly based on titles and sound. Lyrics have never been a big deal for me, and when I first heard the opening track I thought I'd need to know the lyrics to make the introductory song enjoyable but I don't. The broody, dark, almost doon-like sound of the vocals and accompanying instruments are all very enjoyable i themselves, like the whole LP.

Report this review (#1053401)
Posted Friday, October 4, 2013 | Review Permalink
Second Life Syndrome
1 stars Cacophony - "A harsh, discordant mixture of sounds". Yes, that is exactly the representative definition for this album. I don't think I could even call the majority of this album "music", as it is far more chaotic, random, and pretentious than any number of black metal bands. In fact, black metal is exactly what I thought I was hearing at first.

There is a point where avant garde becomes nothing more than nonsense. And that is my opinion of this album. Whether it be the nasty growling vocals (though there are some clean ones later in the album), the "white noise" effect where all the instruments are played so chaotically that they end up merging to form nothing at all, or also the non-collaborative nature of much of the the individual instruments, this album just becomes a complete mess of distorted guitars, crashing cymbals, and random, unremarkable violin. Looking at the list of the musical instruments used in this album is really a joy, as you feel like you are going to experience an eclectic masterpiece. In the end, all of the novel instruments are buried under noise, pure and simple. The band establishes no groove. They craft no melody. They don't even make a pleasant sound, for that matter. All of the musicians seem to be playing different songs. Noise: That is all they create.

I don't want to sound harsh, as I understand that many people love Kayo Dot. I understand that they are rather important in today's avant garde scene. More power to them. However, for my money and my ears, this is utter nonsense. I keep seeing this music called "complex". I'm not even sure that is true, honestly. It might be, but I can barely hear anything over the constant crashing of cymbals or the annoying guitars or the horrible vocals. Someone out there likes this, but it's not me.

Report this review (#1074807)
Posted Saturday, November 9, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Following the highly impressive Coyote seems like it would be a daunting effort, but I don't think anyone would have anticipated that this massive double album would be the result. The only thing that makes this listener hesitate to proclaim this album as Toby Driver's masterpiece is that his work just keeps getting better with every release. That being said, Hubardo seems to represent a culmination of all the styles Driver has experimented with throughout the years, both with maudlin of the Well and Kayo Dot. It offers a seamless blend of dark, bleak black and death metal, progressive rock, jazz-rock, and post-rock elements. The listener is introduced to the experience through the slow build up of "The Black Stone", with Jason Byron's vocals set against a sparse, bleak sonic canopy, which then explodes in a furious manner. The next four tracks feature some of the most technically jaw-dropping display of instrumentation you'll hear anywhere, from the wild metal and organ-driven ride of "Thief" to the precise, unrelenting "Zlida Caosgi". The album offers respite from the onslaught with "The First Matter" and "The Second Operation", tracks that are designated as the end of the first and beginning of the second disc, respectively. "The First Matter" offers spacey, Floyd-like textures as the backdrop to a quiet, slightly droning vocal. Mia Matsumiya makes her brief yet indelible contribution on the "The Second Operation", where Driver has managed to really deliver a poignant sadness with his vocals and the harmonies he wrote. From this one is led to the unmitigated brutality of "Floodgate", featuring death vocals and among the best drumming from Keith Abrams, who throughout the album delivers one of the most stellar performances in modern music. The album winds down with the excellent crafted, post-rock inspired "And He Built Him a Boat" and "Passing the River", which starts quietly, builds up to a fierce crescendo, and gently ends with one of the most powerful moments of the entire record: the vocal of "he gave himself to the river" is goosebump enducing. Before concluding, also want to give massive kudos to guitarist Ron Varod for executing this vision so wonderfully with his playing. The record ends with an oddly whimsical, almost Canterbury-esque track, "The Wait of the World".

This is one of those albums that will stay with me for many, many years. One of those rare instances where I don't have to hesitate one second about awarding 5 stars, for me this is easily a masterpiece of progressive rock, a masterpiece of metal, and perhaps the masterpiece of Toby Driver's incredible and illustrious body of work.

Report this review (#1078956)
Posted Tuesday, November 19, 2013 | Review Permalink
Retired Admin
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.

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Posted Wednesday, November 27, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is an entrancing album, in the way only Kayo Dot can. The sound and aura of it is quite beautiful, even when it gets heavy- to me, it feels like the sound of the forest & river that is meant to be portrayed in the narrative (which centres around a strange meteor falling to earth, which a single poet obsesses over). The songs which capture this most clearly, of course, are those which have elements of post-rock, or of ballads, to them- particularly The First Matter, The Second Operation, And He Built Him A Boat, and parts of Passing the River. The other side of this album reflects more Toby Driver's black metal (at least I think it's black metal?) roots, particularly on the first few tracks, where most of the growling/screaming is located. The first track, The Black Stone, is particularly free-form. I admit, black metal & growling are not styles I am a fan of, but these tracks are growing on me. The 'odd track out' almost is the last track, the particular brand of jazz influence & all the horns is quite unusual for this band.

Aside from the growling, & rambling heaviness in some of the tracks which doesn't appeal to me, the other negative factor for this album is the length- it's quite long, and it can be quite difficult to sit down to for one listen. However, overall it is an excellent work. 4 stars.

Report this review (#1100621)
Posted Friday, December 27, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is the pinnacle of everything Toby Driver has ever done, this is the one. If you are just getting into Kayo Dot then this is where to start, also if you're a bit hesitant to buy it after the somewhat underwhelming Coyote and Gamma Knife, just do it, its better in every way, more cohesive as a whole. Firstly, the songs are more structured here than they ever have been in previous Kayo Dot releases. Some of these melodies are so pronounced that they get stuck in my head from time to time. This does nothing to the creative process of Kayo Dot, and the songs still feel like free form expressions that came straight from the mind and then onto the album. Kayo Dot has always felt like that to me, like if some being was to say "let there be music" we would get something like Kayo Dot, minimalist discordant sounds that somehow fit together perfectly. The album has everything, from pounding metal, to bleak atmospheric passages, to the perfect melodies and the harsh shrieking from Toby Driver, and it all works perfectly. Only weak moment is the opener, and it still fits, Crown in the Muck is where it all really starts, and it never ones losing steam after that. 5 stars, buy this album.
Report this review (#1126004)
Posted Sunday, February 2, 2014 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars I should have done my homework before picking this one up. I'm not a big fan of Avant Metal although there are exceptions including the mind-bending "Choirs Of The Eye" by this band. Their latest "Coffins On Io" is far from Avant and has become my favourite by them. Anyway this particular recording is quite long at close to 100 minutes and very bleak. There are a few styles of music at play here but the extreme stuff I find very difficult to enjoy.

"The Black Stone" is what I call getting off on the wrong foot when it comes to my tastes. We get experimental sounds and more as spoken growly vocals join in. This continues for about 6 1/2 pointless minutes. Then the tempo picks up as the vocals stop but the growls are back before 9 1/2 minutes but more sung than spoken. "Crown-In-The-Muck" is melancholic and I like the tone of the guitar and also the drum work. It picks up and horns are added. Vocals after 4 minutes and they become extreme about a minute later as this becomes the focus. "Thief" is drum and vocal dominated and it's uptempo. It does settle back with random drum patterns, laid back clean vocals and more. Horns join in as well and I like how dissonant they are 4 minutes in. "Vision Adjustment To Another Wave Length" features a chaotic soundscape with vocals that yell throughout. Not a fan. "Zlida Cao Sgi(To Water The Earth)" has some impressive instrumental work but with lots of growly vocals. "The First Matter(Saturn In The Guise Of Sadness)" is my favourite track. This sounds so good with those relaxed vocals and atmospheric sound. Just a great sounding tune.

"The Second Operation(Lunar Water)" is a sparse track overall as it opens with keys as horns join in softly. The violin becomes the focus then reserved vocals take over around 3 minutes in. Backing vocals and some creepy violin follow. A calm with vocal melodies after 6 minutes. "Floodgate" is a heavy duty onslaught with growly vocals. "And He Built Him A Boat" is the other tune I like. It's ANATHEMA-like circa the "Judgment" era. Guitar expressions and drums lead the way before it calms down with reserved vocals, a beat and more. Some cool lyrics in this one. "Passing The River" has a beat with guitar as laid back vocals arrive. It kicks in hard at 3 1/2 minutes then calms right down with distorted guitar. Drums join in and we get chaos after 6 1/2 minutes as the horns scream and the sound picks up. Another calm 9 minutes in as the laid back vocals return and this continues to the end. "The Wait Of The World" is completely different from the rest as they turn this into a jazzy mode with lots of horns and it's uptempo. Again the heavy and calm are contrasted until it feels like they simply jam for a long time with plenty of horns before a calm returns just before 10 minutes.

Many consider this KAYO DOT's best but I have to disagree. Still if your into extreme Metal that is adventerous with some variety you really need to check this out.

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Posted Saturday, August 29, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars Hm, this is odd. After the acclaimed Choirs of the Eye and the work of predecessor band maudlin of the Well left me cold, I'd largely ignored Kayo Dot as being a group who, whilst clearly competent, weren't quite to my taste. However, on giving them a second chance on Hubardo I find that either they have changed, or I have changed; this time, their combination of avant-metal and quieter moments works somewhat better for me. Perhaps this is because both sides seem to have been honed to something a bit more cohesive and targeted, the metal portions putting me in mind of a black metal band who's listened to too much Sunn O))) and Blut Aus Nord, and the quieter bits rumble about in the sort of space between post-rock and goth that Swans sometimes visits. Either way, finally Kayo Dot have captured my attention and I will be interested in exploring more of their stuff in future.
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Posted Monday, August 15, 2016 | Review Permalink
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
5 stars In Hubardo, Toby Driver returns to the extreme avant-prog metal roots that he embraced with his prior band Maudlin of the Well. The reason that Driver revisited the heavy sounds of the early days of Kayo Dot and his prior band was because he felt that a lot of the avant metal that was being produced was not deserving of the accolades that it was receiving, that it wasn't quite challenging or imaginative enough. So, he rips out all of the stops for this one and creates a monster of an album.

There are two discs to this album, and pretty much all of the first disc is dark, chaotic, heavy, extreme and loud. But, it is also obvious that the tracks are not your typical, run-of-the-mill extreme metal. It is definitely not accessible music at all, but highly imaginative and well-produced metal at it's finest. Right away, starting with "The Black Stone", the Kayo Dot listener will know that she/he is in for craziness. This 10 minute track is heavy and harsh, yet complex and brilliant. Layers of bass and guitar pile upon growling and extreme brass along with harsh vocals by Jason Byron, formerly from Maudlin of the Well. "Crown-in-the-Muck" is a bit lighter in feel, but still as dark as the previous, but then layers of brass come in building a foundation for layers of guitar to join in later. Vocals come in half way through with a combination of growling and yelling, sometimes at the same time, sometimes separately. "Thief" is a very interesting delve into an almost speed metal/avant punk sound, then, true to Kayo Dot, it turns into what could be a free meter piece. Vocals are more tonal here, but there is a use of some odd modes. "Vision Adjustment to Another Wavelength" begins abruptly with shouting and is joined by a choir of harsh vocalist styles that are layered on top of brass, drums, bass which come together in a cacophony of noise. Halfway in, a flute takes the song in a complelty different direction turning to a free form jazzcore along with growling vocals. "Zlida Caosgi" as keys and guitars play around almost playfully, suddenly it is destroyed by layers of loud guitar, and then things calm again turning this into a track that has a returning riff that almost sounds like a standard metal tune except it continues to rely on the synths to create some nice textures. The outlying track on this first disc is the last one, "The First Matter (Saturn in the Guise of Sadness)". This one is strikingly different from everything else we have heard on this album up to this point. The music is quite atmospheric sounding very much like something that could have fit comfortably on Ulver's "Blood Inside" album. The vocals are quite beautiful here, but the melody is definitely non-standard.

On the 2nd disc, the "mellower" mood continues with "The Second Operation (Lunar Water)". A standard meter that consists of simply a hypnotic keyboard pattern with a violin playing the melodic part starts it all off. At 3 minutes, things get quite ambient, but with lots of dissonance. Several singers provide an avant-garde style chorale. This one also sounds a lot like Ulver especially when the vocal parts become surprisingly beautiful, yet remain very non- standard. The 2nd disc ends up being the softer side of the album, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of places where everything gets extreme, however, the harsh vocals appear a lot less on this half. However, "Floodgate" will prove that anything can and does happen as this track literally re-opens the floodgates of heaviness, harsh vocals and extreme prog. This track is followed by "And He Built Him a Boat" which once again steps back for a calmer sounding track, not much like anything the band has done before since it is the closest thing to a standard style than anything else on the album, but a great track nonetheless. The calm side continues at first on "Passing the River" which starts out as a study in restraint and dark, complex beauty. The last half, however, turns into a churning, wailing guitar solo which occassionally gets interrupted by outbursts from the rest of the ensemble turning it into metal shoegaze and jazzcore combined. The album ends with complex and epic "The Wait of the World" which pretty much brings everything together in one 14+ minute track.

Many have said this is the heaviest of all of Kayo Dot's albums, and that is the truth. There are plenty of impenetrable sections on this album, especially on the first disc. However, there is a lot of style that Kayo Dot listeners will be used to on the album also as most of the 2nd disc is a bit less chaotic, but still quite complex. Some have said that this is a good album to begin with if you want to get into Kayo Dot's discography, but, even though it is a masterpiece of avant- prog metal, it would not be the one that I would recommend, unless you do like extreme music, even then I would approach it with caution and stick with "Choirs of the Eye" as a beginning point for exploring the band. However, I still consider this one of the band's best albums even with it's harsh tracks. You have to listen closely and concentrate on the music, otherwise it may just sound like noise, but it is not an album to just listen to casually. For that reason, not everyone will be able to handle it's abrupt changes from harsh metal to ambiance. But for those that are willing to explore and are adventurous, this is an essential album.

Report this review (#2530127)
Posted Monday, March 29, 2021 | Review Permalink

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