Kayo Dot – Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike – If there’s one thing you know before you hear a single note of a new Kato Dot album, it is that things are going to be (more than) epic. New York’s Kayo Dot are indeed an undefinable band, a band led by the always busy, always rewarding – often unexpectedly so – composer Toby Driver. We’re told “the stark frailty of the human condition is the overall theme running through the veins of Kayo Dot’s tenth regular studio album”. Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike is an emerse album, an expansive album, a sprawling, brooding churning musical multiverse, very much a more is more album (Toby Driver is equally as capable of less is more with his other musical projects) or indeed with the realm of Kayo Dot). Once again there’s all kinds of things in here, they’re sounding a little like classic Voivod right now, well no, Kayo Dot never really sound like anyone else, their blend of dark avant-garde metal and epic epic prog is uniquely widescreen, Kayo Dot are a very big band in every sense. They can be harsh, they can be very heavy, the thing they have that sets them apart from most epic metal bands though is their soul, it is an important point to make, Kayo Dot always drip with soul.
This is a band who understand their craft far more than most, this is not your usual paint-by-numbers extreme metal, this is properly composed, considered, everything for a reason, never too obvious. The album opens beautifully with the first moves of The Knight Errant, that delicate placing of those opening notes, must admit those cookie monster extreme metal vocals are a little bit of a turn off, if you feel the same fear not, they don’t dominate things throughout the album, is it Toby’s former band-mate Jason Byron? When the voices come together, it really does work, Toby does have a wonderful voice himself, and when the growls are there they do always come with those undercurrents and counterbalance nuances, the wild flowers growing through it all, those illuminated details, those dark, often melancholic undertones that anchor it all.
We’re told this latest album has been recorded with the original line-up of Toby Driver’s previous band Maudlin Of The Well. He also recorded the new tracks in the same location as the very first Maudlin Of The Well tape. “In a way, Kayo Dot are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of the landmark double album Bath/Leaving Your Body Map and the 25 years since Maudlin Of The Well’s inception” – there is a sense of a glance both forward and backwards here, maybe a nod towards a harsher or heavier approach than there has been on some of the more recent Kayo Dot recordings. Theirs really is a “complex musical multiverse” and there are more than a few reasons why the progrock community who tend to avoid extreme metal love this band (and indeed everything Driver and his friends do).
Hey look, this latest album is a massive as anything Kayo Dot have done, there are bits here, like the mountainous light and shade of Void in Virgo that touch the highest of the band’s expansive highs – you have t o admire the way Toby Driver, whatever life may throw at him, never ever compromises. This latest album maybe takes a little time before it really really truly opens up and lets you in, yes, it is an impressive piece of dark avant-garde metal. but when you really do get in there, when you let it really open up then Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares is far more than just avant-garde metal. Toby Driver and Kayo Dot have delivered again, it took us a little time this time, you need to stick with it, you maybe need to go back (to the well) more than obce before you really really get it this time but stick with it. This is a massively impressive album, they always deliver. Always. (sw)