Kyuss – ‘Welcome to Sky Valley’

Kyuss are widely considered the pioneers of the stoner/desert rock sub-genre that came out of Palm Desert, California in the early 1990’s. The sub-genre’s characteristics often entail tuned-down guitars (traditionally in ‘C standard’ tuning), heavy distortion and gut-clenching melodic hooks. Kyuss as a band were able to fully realise these characteristics and channel them into their third studio effort, which to this day, remains one of the greatest stoner rock records ever crafted.

The key to the glorious heavy sound Kyuss are able to achieve is through guitarist Josh Homme and his love to tune down guitars two whole steps and plug in to several bass amps. The sound generated from this setup is thick and sludgy and opens up further riffing and soloing techniques as the guitar strings are looser, allowing more experimentation with string bending. Fuse this sound with the growls of John Garcia, the varied drum beats of Brant Bjork and the deeply melodic bass licks of Scott Reeder and you have Kyuss.

Lyrical prowess takes a backseat here to make way for the exceptional psychedelic stoner blues soundscapes. Opener “Gardenia” urgently forces Homme’s distorted axe down the listener’s ear canals, with a riff reminiscent of “Green Machine” from the band’s previous record. Instrumental “Asteroid” opens with a subtle, catchy riff before exploding into a gauntlet of distortion. The middle section comprises of random guitar flickers and an array of cymbal taps before catapulting back into the main hook of the track.

This is an example of various points in the record where Garcia (rightly so) sits back and let’s the other members jam, resulting in some tasty instrumentals. The multi-layered acoustic riffs of “Space Cadet” show a more mellow side to the band, yet are helped along by Garcia’s echoed, fish tank vocals providing a nice backdrop to the guitar noodling. “Demon Cleaner”, with its brilliant drum beat intro, soon makes way for one of Homme’s greatest displays of riff-writing. This track is perhaps Kyuss’ finest moment, a point when the band truly mastered and honed their craft.

“Odyssey” follows with a truly thought-provoking guitar riff, soaked in flange and phase effects creating some provocative visual imagery of space and psychedelia. “Whitewater” closes the album and is equally as cool and slick, fading in with a perfect symphony of light guitar melodies and suave drums. Long sections of experimental guitar noodling follows, reaffirming that the core strength of Kyuss’ sound lies in the extremely adept hands of Josh Homme.

Favourite track: Demon Cleaner // Least favourite track: Conan Troutman

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