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Instructions: listen without distraction.

An album by Kyuss, the seminal stoner rock band. Also called simply Sky Valley and, inexplicably, the Sky Valley Original Soundtrack.

Track list:

  1. GardeniaAsteroidSupa Scoopa And Mighty Scoop
  2. 100 DegreesSpace CadetDemon Cleaner
  3. OdysseyConan TroutmanN.OWhitewater
  4. Bonus Track (Lick My Doo)
Released: June 28, 1994 on Chameleon / Dali Records.
Produced by Chris Goss and Kyuss.

Many Kyuss fans will point to Blues For The Red Sun as the band's best, but this one usually comes in a close second (it's my personal favorite, at least). The stylistic growth since Blues is clear — the unusual indexing (ten songs spread over only three tracks) might seem to represent a stab at a Pink Floyd-style concept album — but the good old desert-parched sound is still there. After all, most of the band were still teenagers even when this, their third album, was recorded.

Ten seconds into the opening riff of Gardenia will probably tell you if this is your thing: it's the rawest, heaviest slab of noise Kyuss ever committed to tape. But in spite of being so heavy, there's no anger or imitation angst to be found – just white-hot energy screaming to be let out.

On to Asteroid, a slow, plodding instrumental beast that changes gears between quiet brooding and full-on metal, and leads into Supa Scoopa And Mighty Scoop, which bears a distinct echo of Tony Iommi. Guitarist Josh Homme gives us a Children Of The Grave-style 6/8 opening, with a classic riff that suddenly crashes to a halt and mutates into an even more classic 4/4 one, and gives the band an opportunity to pull the amusing (but annoying) trick of giving the song six or seven false endings.

The second triad starts with the hyperactive and much-too-short 100 Degrees, and then a Planet Caravan-esque interlude in the form of Space Cadet. Much of the album may be so-called "stoner rock," but this song sounds genuinely baked out of its head. And then there's Demon Cleaner, a song made semi-famous by Tool during their live set a few years back, in a version that was then spread around the Internet by Napster. The low quality of the live MP3 doesn't really permit you to hear the complex tribal rhythms and Eastern-influenced melody of the original, or the bizarre and unsettling lyrics, but either way, it's a true hidden gem that cruelly escaped becoming a radio hit.

(Noder's Note: If you can find me a higher-quality version of the Tool cover than the MP3, you'll be my hero for eternity.)

In the last cluster of songs we have another superfast opener (Odyssey) followed by another Sabbath-like song, but this time it's a loud, riff-driven number called Conan Troutman. Then the band returns to a blues-inflected style on N.O., with an almost swing feel thanks to some guitar parts contributed by Fatso Jetson guitarist Mario Lalli. The album closes with the nearly ten-minute epic Whitewater, which at first is propelled by another crushing bass-amped Josh Homme riff, but then veers off into a noisy but on-tempo jam session, a little like the middle section of the Floyd's Echoes. Finally, don't miss the bonus track, the silliness of which must be heard to be truly believed.

If you like heavy rock at all, or even if you're a heavy rock aficionado who has somehow escaped the clutches of Kyuss, by all means check out this disc. And if you like this disc, there's plenty more Kyuss waiting around the corner for you.

Thanks to cdnow.com for refreshing my memory.

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