Maudlin of the Well were one of the most brilliant and tragically overlooked metal bands to ever walk the earth. They only made three albums, all of which are somewhat difficult to find now, and thus the band’s brilliance seems to have gone mostly unnoticed, even among avid metal fans. However, all is not lost. Continuing under the name Kayo Dot, the mad, eccentric genius of Toby Driver and the rest have continued to push the boundaries of music farther than ever before.
If you are lucky enough to have heard MotW, but haven’t gotten here yet (in which case shame on you, but that’s ok), this is something very different. While Maudlin were more of an eclectic progressive death metal type band (think Opeth, taken to the next level), this album mostly diles down the metal influence, and draws more from post rock, and avant-garde jazz and classical music. The songs are long and epic, ranging from tranquil moments of beauty, to crashing walls of noise. This is best exemplified in the opening track, “Marathon”, which effortlessly goes from peaceful melodies to impentrable blurs of distortion. While music such as this could potentially seem messy and disjointed, these guys weave everything together so perfectly, the changes are so gradual and natural, you hardly even think about it. The use of additional instruments, such as horns and violin (the latter of which is contributed by Toby’s lovely girlfriend Mia) add even more the insanely dense textures of sound.
“A Pitcher of Summer” is about the closest thing to a “normal” song you’ll get here. At about 5 minutes, it’s only about half the length of the rest of the songs, and is generally much simpler, and more melodic. It’s mostly acoustic, with the occasional electric guitars rising from the fog, with Toby’s gentle and mournful vocals hanging over like a ghostly haze. “The Manifold Curiosity” is worth a mention as well, with a buildup so gradual you never see it coming until it’s right upon you. Beginning soft and atmospheric, with swirling patterns of violins and acoustic guitars, it finally erupts into a maelstrom of metallic noise in the final minutes. Toby’s grindcore-ish vocals mimic that of a tortured soul screaming from the depths of hell. I could easily be swayed into believing that the band’s intentions in making this song were to lull the listener into a state of comfort, and just when you’re drifting into a peaceful sleep, you’re suddenly jarred awake, and get the living crap scared out of you. Pretty cool, I say.
Because Amazon unfortunately doesn’t carry MotW’s albums, I feel compelled to discuss Toby Driver a bit more. In addition to being an insane composer, he also has one of the most incredible voices I’ve ever heard. Here, his vocals are used a bit more minimally, but once you hear Maudlin, you hear the full range of what he’s capable of. He can go from the gentlest, indie rock type vocals, to frightening growls and screams. It’s rare that a singer can conform so perfectly to so many starkly contrasting styles.
Anyway, while Kayo Dot are not for everyone, they are a must-hear for those who want something interesting and unusual. And, even moreso, I recommend hunting down all 3 MotW albums, as they are all beyond stellar (I believe you can still get them on Kayo Dot’s website, and maybe Amazon will get them one of these days). Either way, hunt them down by any means necessary. More people really need to hear this band.
As for me, I have yet to buy Kayo Dot’s sophomore release, or Toby’s solo album, but from what I’ve heard from each, it sounds as though he won’t run out of cool ideas any time soon.