Although they claim to be no mere "side project," it's hard to figure out just when Kalas members Matt Pike (of High on Fire and Sleep legend), Andy Branton (Econochrist), and Paul Kott (Cruevo) will find time away from their other musical concerns to, say, go on tour -- but then again, few side projects manage to deliver such a distinct-sounding and well-realized debut album as this one. Yes, Kalas clearly rely on the guiding footprints of Neurosis for inspiration (not surprising given their Bay Area origins), devising a similar sense of foreboding minor-key mystery with their songs' deep dynamic contrasts. Representative examples like "Monuments to Ruins," "Things Done and Undone," and "Mother's Tears" utilize mournful, gently plucked melodies to set up bone-crushing riffs (and vice versa) -- but then subtract any notion of Neurosis' industrial/electronic tendencies and shirk the mid-2000s obsession with epic song lengths in exchange for leaner songwriting. The resulting material is therefore not only far more organic in nature but, when coupled with the band's carefully thought-out arrangements, almost helps render these nine tracks into one fluid tapestry from start to finish, like movements of a single 50-minute piece of music. Also worth noting is that Pike only picks up his Les Paul for one number, the album highlight "Frozen Sun," elsewhere stepping out as band frontman for the first time in his career. Granted, he'll never be a Freddie Mercury, but longtime followers won't fail to recognize the unprecedented emotional range displayed by his unholy howls, nor the impressive caliber of his lyrics. These find him conjuring up wildly vivid fantasy imagery throughout -- even when tackling real-world issues like the war in Iraq ("Media Screws") and heroin addiction ("Pleasurable Prison") -- a feat most recently accomplished by the Hidden Hand's Wino, but not many others. Together with the evocative music that supports them, the lyrics help to imbue Kalas' debut with a surprisingly fresh musical outlook, so here's hoping this group really doesn't become a one-off side project.
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AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia