Sound — 10
One of the most interesting bands I've heard... EVER, Kayo Dot is an experimental collective from Boston, Massachusetts led by Toby Driver (of maudlin of the Well fame). "Hubardo" is the newest release by them, and it is truly challenging and musically innovative on an otherworldly level. Though Kayo Dot's material has spanned multitudinous realms of sound, this double album is the heaviest record by far they have ever written. Black metal, noise, free jazz, ambient, sludge, and progressive rock are melded together to make a cauldron of the most ineffable proportions. All of the instruments seem to have stepped up their technicality by far, but especially Keith Abrams' drumming. The blast beats and fills littered with breaks and grooves push this album over the edge. I can't tell if it is jazz influenced grindcore drumming or a metal version of IDM played on live kit. Either way, the playing brings to mind The Dillinger Escape Plan, if that is any indication of its speed and ferocity. Also new to Kayo Dot's arsenal of sound is the presence of immediately heavy tracks, that crush right in instead of slowly and noisily building (there still is plenty of that, of course). In particular, the tracks "Thief," "Vision Adjustment to Another Wavelength," and "Floodgate" use this approach to great effect. All of the "non traditional" metal instruments used here are very well done also. Some may be turned off by the wide and ever changing vistas of sound on the album, but to me, it kept it from ever growing even slightly stale.
Lyrics — 10
The album's conceptual lyrics were written by Jason Byron, who is not actually a member of the band. Rather, he is a friend and longtime collaborator from back in the motW days (a band that he indeed was a key member of). The story is detailing what seems to be the fall of a meteorite and the consciousness bending epic journey that follows. "Hubardo" means "lantern" or "lamp" in Enochian, according to Kayo Dot's Bandcamp page. The lyrics really are incredible, and worth reading or trying to decipher. The vocals throughout the album are incredibly varied, covering the entire spectrum of metal vocals, as well as many melodic clean passages of voice as well. This diversity kept the album interesting for me the whole time, and was almost overwhelming in how well each style was executed. Overwhelming is a good adjective to describe the album overall, really.
Overall Impression — 10
The elusive perfect 10... I am giving it to this album for two simple, but profound reasons. As a lifelong music fanatic, I like to think I know what I consider artistic quality, innovation, integrity, and forward thinking composition. So the first reason, is that this album blew that perspective apart, in a shocking way. I still cannot cope with the fact that this record exists. The second reason goes along with it, but it is best summarized this way: if before I had heard this record, I had tried to describe my personal conception of a perfect work of art, everything I would go into is represented on this release. If you think a perfect score isn't warranted from reading this, I encourage you to purchase a copy and listen for yourself. Speaking of purchase, I want to point out what a shame it is this poor band can't even afford to release physical CD's of this album. So my desire to implore you to give them a listen only grows. They are truly worth it. Despite the album's perfect score for me, here are some potential negatives that could apply for other people going into it: 1. It requires a long attention span. - This is a double album spanning nearly 2 hours of music. It is incredibly dense and often abrasive. If you are unable to let an album "grow" for you or expect immediate appeal, you may be in for a big let down. Or maybe not. It appealed to me immediately, but it has taken a long time to gain some sense of understanding of the breadth of this music. 2. It is insanely heavy music. - If you utterly hate metal or can't stand a second of "screaming" music, then you likely won't enjoy "Hubardo." 3. It is a very experimental record. - If you want straight up metal, there are plenty of other avenues. This album contains planet-loads of metal, but also sections incorporating saxophone, trumpet, flute, violin, piano, synth etc. The fact that it still sounds cohesive despite all of these elements is a testament to it's achievement. If you can overcome those aspects, give it a try. I would buy this album again at any chance I found it, and give it to someone else so I could buy another. It is that good. Final verdict: If you love heavy music, and you love new and challenging sounds, you will not find another new release that will push you like this one will.