Kayo Dot - Moss Grew On The Swords And Plowshares Alike

27 Oct 2021 - Gene

Experimental, Progressive, Avant-Garde, Goth | Prophecy Productions

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If Kayo Dot set out to make a nostalgic-tinged throwback to earlier influences, to years gone by, then the successor to Blasphemy has managed this blind and bound. In fact it has achieved so much more.

Kayo Dot’s records have always scanned to me like the score of dense independent psychological film. The best kind, the kinds that play on the imagination of the audience. Subverting expectations at a whim; bold, garishly original, defiant, all the while carrying on the sleeve emotional touchstones to which we can all relate. Always only hinting at the great mystery that will cause it to all make sense. Dense with brilliant energy. Understanding that peels away like an onion, layers connecting back together hints to hermetic puzzles hidden in plain sight. Kayo Dot had always managed to be frenetic and measured all at once. Subtle in intent yet direct in delivery. Always on the cusp of complete rock brilliance yet never satisfied enough to stay long on one note.

Moss Grew On The Swords And Plowshares Alike, recorded as so many recent greats: in isolation, clearly remains at home in the avant-garde camp, for what sort of album begins mid-scene? There is no pithy preamble. They really throw you into it, as if picking up where they left off. It is that, and a good deal more. In some ways the Kayo Dot sound remains, in cuts like ”Void In Virgo” the moody goth bits transition seamlessly into the catchy choruses. The gritty growls erupt from blackened prog and something blackgaze-adjacent. There are just so many ideas at play all at once. This is classic Kayo Dot MO but refocused under a specific aesthetic, a certain era or two in music a lot of us came up on.

Regardless of the focus, this is even more of a genre-melting chameleon act than usual. Here you have the requisite doomy bass and Theremin sounds, now with the goth-influenced stuff, there you have black metal stylings. There is even a dose of death metal in there, and a splash of hardcore. Elsewhere, the grandiose organ and theatrics of mounting feedback saturate the sonic palate. The deft drum breaks and guitar work, incredible-as-ever, is still prevalent.

Everything ties back into the core Kayo Dot sound. No one would mistake this for anything else. But so much more is going on. And more importantly, it is all put together insanely well. Everything seems to have stepped up to an unreasonable degree. The guitar, the drums. Now, the vocals, traditionally versatile, abstract, didactic (Giant Squid comes to mind), is where things have become most interesting. See the growl on ”Spectrum Of One Color”. Not only that but the myriad of vocal styles on this record is just awesome. It would all be majorly unsettling if it wasn’t for the masterful pacing of it all.

Listening to Moss Grew On The Swords And Plowshares Alike is like looking back in time. I can still remember the first time I heard Wildhoney, for instance, how it captured a special moment in my youth, now largely lost to memory but ever heavy on the heart. It is like looking back while firmly planted in the present. Relistening to Disintegration now after all this time, with matured perspective. So this is a remarkable record. Wildly creative. Incredibly well executed. Dense, moody, nostalgic, loud and slightly schizo. Will please old fans and capture new ones working backward now through the catalogue. If I had started here I would be happy. I don’t think I could have asked for more from this record. This is a ten!