Review: Kayo DotMoss Grew on Swords and Plowshares Alike

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Hey all, our v gud Discord fam Darth wrote up a guest review of the new Kayo Dot joint. For your health! [Roldy]

Toby’s back and ready to get real weird with it in the way only Kayo Dot can.

It feels almost cliché to open any Kayo Dot review (and I’m sure all but a few of the ones for this album will, mine included) with how genre-defying Toby Driver’s outfit is, how it refuses to be classed or shoved into any drawers. I did briefly discuss this matter with a fellow writer and he said that while yeah it is trodden out, it’s one of the band’s key characteristics. And there is really no arguing that. Every release feels like a brewing and bubbling concoction of progrock, goth, jazz, some metal, and whatever else is left on the shelf. Similar ingredients—but their ratios vary wildly and thus does the end result.

My introduction to Toby Driver’s body of work was actually 2018’s They Are The Shield, a solo album of his which I got for my dad, a classic dad if you will, with a love for jazz, maybe a bit of prog rock here and there, definitely not metal though. Moss Grew On Swords And Plowshares Alike I would not get for him. I did however preorder it for my own grubby hands, straight away, as soon as the first singles dropped.

On Kayo Dot’s last album, Blasphemy, the dominant flavor of the brew seemed to be goth rock; this time it’s taken on a heavy doom metal tinge with Mr. Driver’s voice reaching into registers one has not heard from him in a long while, not really since 2013’s Hubardo. Right off the bat, the album wastes no time getting going. “The Knight Errant” almost sounds like there should have been a song preceding it. It also sets up the world of the album. While Blasphemy was very much a concept album, heck they straight up based it on a novel, Moss Grew is a bit more freeform and moreso meanders around in the world it’s set up.

The press release mentioned something of the frailty of the human condition, and in all honesty, I had a hard time making a lot of sense of the high-concept stuff. The world of Moss Grew is dying but it’s not so much post-apocalyptic as just ‘post’ in general. The end came not with a bang but a whimper; the brave knight of old is long dead. His nemesis the dragon still flies around but you kinda get the feeling the dragon’s heart’s really not in it by now. Even the grim reaper himself has passed on, Death is dead. With this background the album’s lack of stringent narrative seems more like another worldbuilding decision than an omission. There are no more stories left to tell, it’s all epilogue now.

From here on, the throttle is eased off a bit as “Void in Virgo”, the album’s first single, harkens back more to Blasphemy‘s goth rock-influenced sound in general, but it does so without feeling out of place on its successor. “Spectrum of One Colour” is a highlight for me, the bassline is just infectious and sticks around while hell breaks loose in the rest of the song. Is that a hint of synthwave in the vein of older Perturbator stuff towards the end? It might be. Also the vocal layering is amped up to 11, really showing off the sheer variety in the vocals. “The Necklace” even shows hints of atmo-BM with ethereal harsh vocals soaring over some soft and spacy guitars, though not without fervor in the drum department. “Epipsychidion” is a worthy climax to the album, going once more all in on the heavier flavors before terminating in a 4-minute wall of droning as silence finally settles on the dying world.

Moss Grew on Swords and Plowshares Alike drops today, October 29th. Check it out on Bandcamp.

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