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KAYO DOT

RIO/Avant-Prog • United States


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Kayo Dot biography
Kayo Dot is a New York based avant-garde rock and experimental metal group which formed in 2003 after several members left Toby Driver's previous project, Maudlin of the Well. Kayo Dot has been subject to several line-up changes, although the constant members are Toby Driver on bass, lead vocals, guitar, clarinet and keyboards, and Mia Matsumiya on violin, viola and vocals.

The band released their debut composition, 'Choirs Of The Eye', on John Zorn's label Tzadik in 2003. This album captures atmospheric metal with avant-garde overtones with an evocative and sincerely experimental approach. 'Choirs Of The Eye' continues the combination of metal and atmospheric compositions which maudlin of the Well are known for, and is a good entry point for new listeners.

The band's 2006 follow up, 'Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue', combines a more avant and less metal overall sound, and features over an hour of guitar based compositions with less frontal vocals and a higher emphasis on atmospheric textures and avant-garde playing.

In 2008, they released their third LP, 'Blue Lambency Downwards', which features several shorter compositions bookended by two ten minute pieces. This album is the least metal of their output, and is made up mostly of drum textures combined with string sections and clarinet playing. The connection of metal within a typical sense is gone from the band's sound, replaced by an occasionally aggressive and consistently freeform sound.

Kayo Dot's overall sound has become less metal based since their formation, and it is advisable that metal fans start with their debut. Kayo Dot is recommended to listeners of avant-rock, experimental and atmospheric music, fans of maudlin of the Well and anyone interested in a unique combination of metal and experimental textures.

The current line-up consists of Toby Driver, Mia Matsumiya, Terran Olson, David Bodie and Daniel Means, who all play several instruments.

'.With Kayo Dot I try to constantly discover new ways of being "heavy" and "dark" without resorting to the same old cheap tricks that so many other "heavy" and "dark" bands rely on. In that case, we are the most metal band of all'
-Toby Driver

(Biography by Joel G, Australia. Replaces original bio written by useful_idiot)


See also:

- Maudlin of the Well
-...
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Kayo Dot official website

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Dowsing Anemone with Copper TongueDowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue
Robotic Empire 2006
Audio CD$44.87
$6.25 (used)
Coffins on IoCoffins on Io
Flenser 2014
Audio CD$9.31
$13.03 (used)
Choirs of the EyeChoirs of the Eye
Tzadik 2003
Audio CD$8.98
$8.99 (used)
CoyoteCoyote
Hydra Head Records 2010
Audio CD$8.95
$6.98 (used)
Blue Lambency DownwardBlue Lambency Downward
Hydra Head Records 2008
Audio CD$7.21
$4.78 (used)
Kayo Dot - Hubardo (2CDS) [Japan LTD CD] DYMC-218Kayo Dot - Hubardo (2CDS) [Japan LTD CD] DYMC-218
Indies Japan
Audio CD$34.56
$39.00 (used)
Gamma KnifeGamma Knife
Limited Edition
Antithetic 2012
Vinyl$15.15
$22.53 (used)
Stained GlassStained Glass
Limited Edition
Antithetic 2012
Vinyl$14.99
$28.92 (used)
BLUE LAMBENCY DOWNWARD(2CD) +bonusBLUE LAMBENCY DOWNWARD(2CD) +bonus
DIW Records (JAPAN)
Audio CD$30.99
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KAYO DOT shows & tickets


  • Metro Gallery on 21 Jan 2015
  • Ithaca Underground Presents: Kayo Dot on 23 Jan 2015
  • Roadburn Festival 2015 on 9 Apr 2015
  • Kayo Dot at The Stone, New York City on 26 Aug 2015
  • Kayo Dot + Tartar Lamb at The Stone, New York City on 27 Aug 2015
  • Kayo Dot + Stern at The Stone, New York City on 29 Aug 2015

KAYO DOT discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

KAYO DOT top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.27 | 285 ratings
Choirs Of The Eye
2003
3.68 | 141 ratings
Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue
2006
3.52 | 86 ratings
Blue Lambency Downward
2008
3.84 | 148 ratings
Coyote
2010
3.51 | 45 ratings
Gamma Knife
2012
3.93 | 80 ratings
Hubardo
2013
4.02 | 32 ratings
Coffins On Io
2014

KAYO DOT Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.80 | 5 ratings
Live In Bonn
2010
4.50 | 2 ratings
Kraków
2014

KAYO DOT Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

KAYO DOT Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

KAYO DOT Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.06 | 16 ratings
Kayo Dot / Bloody Panda Split
2006
3.94 | 42 ratings
Stained Glass
2010

KAYO DOT Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Coffins On Io by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.02 | 32 ratings

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Coffins On Io
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Kazza3

4 stars Kayo Dot is one of those bands known for changing their tune with every album, but arguably never more so than with Coffins on Io. The band's pre-release description of the album as "80s retro-future noir? Blade Runner... a good record to put on while you drive across the desert at night under a toxic, post-apocalyptic atmosphere" is absurdly accurate- this is a dark, openly 80s influenced record, with little of the usual post-metal and jazz influenced sounds more familiar to the band's listeners. Much has also been made of it being probably the most accessible Kayo Dot album, with the emphasis being placed squarely on Driver's greatly melodic and clean vocals, a shift away from the trend of vocals on earlier KD albums being merely another part of the instrumental soundscape. The instrumentation is usually greatly restrained, in the tradition of 80s pop, and is often straightforward on the surface, being rhythm & riff-driven, albeit in a dark and twisted way. The songs themselves are almost always characterised by shorter vocal sections (some- 'Offramp Cycle'- even in verse-chorus form!) followed by long instrumental vamps, which are usually repetitive and feature little to no soloing, additions or changes, meaning they sometimes overstay their welcome. The biggest exception to that latter point is the highlight & centrepiece track 'Library Subterranean', in which the vamp upon a synth-drenched riff continually shifts and builds to a sax solo.

If previous Kayo Dot albums have been too obscure and difficult to get into for you, or you're a particular fan of dark, minimalist 80s pop a la Peter Gabriel, try this one out. A fantastic and atmospheric, if slightly flawed, album.

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 Choirs Of The Eye by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2003
4.27 | 285 ratings

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Choirs Of The Eye
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat

5 stars This album is incredible. Original, intense, very dynamic. This is not music that just anyone can appreciate. It is not accessible by any means, you really have to grow into it and appreciate it's importance. It is considered one of the most important post metal albums ever.

Toby Driver, the founder of this band, is trying to define modern classical music through post rock music. I really appreciate his vision. This is what I would imagine new classical music should sound like. It is very important to him that electric guitar is a seminal part of modern classical music. I have to agree. Why is it that in order to be considered classical music that you have to shun the new instruments of today? This is music that needs to be explored, and is being explored by several pioneers including Kayo Dot, Godspeed You Black Emperor, A Silver Mt. Zion, Mogwai, Mono, Sigur Ros, John Zorn and so many others. Kayo Dot however doesn't just concentrate on the guitar, but it fuses the guitar into the "orchestra" to emphasize it's importance.

Like I mentioned earlier, this is not an easy album to listen to. But when you get to the point that you can appreciate what is going on here, listen for the dynamics in this music, how it doesn't have to follow the typical patterns of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, break, chorus. It is music that is free, that has many liberties, and that is the best way to express oneself.

Now this formula works very well on this album. You get a lot of interesting things going on, the instruments are all important and easy to pick out throughout the album, the lyrics can be hard to understand though, even in the quiet passages. However, it works on this album somewhat better than it does on Kayo Dot's later album "Blue Leniency Downward", which is still an innovative album, but harder to follow because of the similarities of the tracks and the tendency on that album to not concentrate so much on individual sounds, but to rely on the entire sound as a whole. So, for that reason, I like "Choirs of the Eye" so much better, because there is more of a variety in the sound here.

Just a warning here before you check out this album though. It can get quite loud at times. The vocals sometimes reach high emotional levels in that screaming and growling occasionally exists here. But that is all part of the dynamic and the freedom that exists in this music. Anyway, this is highly recommended if you are looking for music that breaks the boundaries of modern popular music. It is actually an attempt to merge the sounds, but it tends to lean more on the avant garde style of modern classical music, so expect dissonance. But don't worry, there is a lot of resolve too. If you want something challenging and different and if you love post rock/post metal, then this is something essential that you should be listening to. Great stuff. Masterpiece. 5 stars.

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 Hubardo by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.93 | 80 ratings

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Hubardo
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Billy Pilgrim

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.

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 Hubardo by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.93 | 80 ratings

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Hubardo
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Kazza3

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.

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 Choirs Of The Eye by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2003
4.27 | 285 ratings

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Choirs Of The Eye
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The first album from KAYO DOT after the end of Toby Driver and company's other unique creation Maudlin Of The Well. Unlike that band this is a lot more experimental and well... strange. It's less about juxtoposing diverse genres side by side and more about mangling them up into an appropriate fusion. The result is something that I like better as it sounds more refined. Not sure what the influences are here but to me it sounds like a fusion of Krautrock, black metal, abstract classical and some freak folk with occasional avant-jazzy horns. Basically a complex and highly layered atmospheric experience that sounds like nothing else i've heard.

This is one of those albums that you have to be in the right mood for. If you're not then it's jarring and irritating. There have been times I tried to listen to this and had to take it off immediately. If you are in the right frame of mind, this is a satisfying listen. The music is so airy and free that it's like a ride on the ethers. In fact i feel kinda like a little dandelion seed that has been whisked away from the parent plant and aimlessly directed in the gentle wind with intermittant violent eddies taking me on a different course. I can't say I like to listen to this very often but when I have the urge to take a musical journey of the avant-garde then this is one that can take me down the rabbit hole.

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 Hubardo by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.93 | 80 ratings

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Hubardo
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by HolyMoly
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl and Canterbury Teams

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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 Hubardo by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.93 | 80 ratings

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Hubardo
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Padraic
Special Collaborator 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.

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 Hubardo by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.93 | 80 ratings

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Hubardo
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Second Life Syndrome
Collaborator Post/Math Rock Team

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.

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 Hubardo by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.93 | 80 ratings

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Hubardo
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by steve2603

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.

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 Hubardo by KAYO DOT album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.93 | 80 ratings

BUY
Hubardo
Kayo Dot RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

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.

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