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Kyuss / Queens of the Stone Age

Kyuss / Queens of the Stone Age

Passing the torch - 85%

iamntbatman, November 18th, 2009

Kyuss decided to kick off their final release (of new material, anyway) with an homage to their most obvious musical reference point and influence: Black Sabbath. This split with Kyuss offspring Queens of the Stone Age kicks off with the former covering perhaps Sabbath's most well-loved song, "Into the Void" then goes on to showcase an extended Kyuss original as well as the debut three tracks from Josh Homme's then-new band.

The "Into the Void" cover is signature Kyuss. Thicker-than-molasses guitar over fluid, snaking yet powerful bass. Garcia's vocal performance is a bit more restrained than we're used to but it works well in the context of the song. We're also treated to some added percussion during the song's lengthy guitar solo. This version of "Into the Void" is everything I expect out of a good cover: a degree of respect for (and similarity to) the original but with prominent stylistic touches by the band doing the cover. These touches abound throughout the track and showcase exactly why Kyuss and the other early stoner metal bands were said to have spawned a genre, rather than simply played tribute to one.

Kyuss' other contribution to the split, "Fatso Forgetso", which is split into two parts, is classic Kyuss and possibly the best thing put to tape by the band since Sky Valley. Brant Bjork's more energetic drumming is still sorely missed from the early days of Kyuss, but the drums throughout this two-piece suite are definitely competent. Reeder's bass playing, as always, is fantastic and littered with interesting fills. Homme's guitar work, especially during the solos, takes on a character more similar to that in his playing in Queens of the Stone Age, with a sort of unsettling, creepy vibe instead of the full-force psychedelia of earlier Kyuss. The second "phase" of "Fatso Forgetso" is faster paced and more energetic than the first, recalling songs such as "Allen's Wrench" and "100 Degrees." Garcia's vocals are excellent, especially toward the end of the second "phase" where he sounds like he might pass out from over-exertion.

The second half of the split introduces Homme's new project, Queens of the Stone Age, to the world. The band has always been more experimental than Kyuss and this is showcased even on this first release by the band. The QOTSA tracks also feature a revolving lineup of musicians, a precedent that would set the pattern for the band for the duration of their career. Homme's vocals are much more subdued than Garcia's and are definitely a love-them-or-hate-them affair. The first track is an early version of "If Only" which would later appear on QOTSA's debut album. It's one of the better tracks from that album and is just as good here. The second two tracks are exclusive to this release. "Born to Hula" has some great riffing going on and ends with some pretty strange guitar solos and what sounds like some sort of organ but is likely a heavily treated guitar. Closing track "Spiders and Vinegaroons" is instrumental and features some guitar noodling over ambient soundscapes and a really primal drums-and-handclaps beat. It's fairly interesting but goes on a bit too long without much in the way of dynamics, at least until the unexpected nearly hip-hop drum beat comes in to dominate the track about four minutes into the song.

Strangely, this split has much rawer production than previous Kyuss releases (with the possible exception of their debut). We aren't talking LLN raw, though, so they should be acceptable by all but those who demand only pristine, crystalline production. The vocals on the Kyuss tracks are particularly buried, which doesn't do Garcia's vocal abilities justice. Otherwise, the instruments are fairly well balanced on both sides of the split.

This is recommended to a pretty wide group of people: Kyuss fans, Sabbath fans who want to hear an interesting yet faithful cover of one of their favorite tunes, Queens of the Stone Age fans who would like to hear the band in its embryonic state and generally to metalheads who appreciate stoner metal but don't like QOTSA but would benefit from hearing the transition between the two bands. The releases loses some points for the production as well as the somewhat misstep that is "Spiders and Vinegaroons."