It might sound unlikely, but working in the music press can be surprisingly frustrating. The reason for that is simple, really – most bands believe that what they’re doing is unique enough that they couldn’t possibly be forgettable or mistaken for any other band. The problem is that, at a certain level, the name of a release can be mistaken for a band’s name and has the potential to throw listeners who are otherwise unfamiliar with a band down a very deep rabbit hole. Take New Jersey’s Kirkby Kiss, for example; the band’s Ouroboros EP bears a similar name to an Australian metal band (as well as to a character on the new Disney+ Loki series) and all of those aforementioned entities like to play around with imagery focused on a snake eating its own tail. When you don’t know what you’re looking for online (other than the band having nothing to do with Loki or Disney+) doing research can get pretty confusing. After figuring out that the name of ˆthis band is actually Kirkby Kiss my moment of clarity was significant and suddenly brought everything into focus. The music can be jarring and off-putting (which, again, further facilitates confusion) but, after one learns what they’re absorbing exactly, this band (and their EP, by extension) becomes far easier to absorb.
As soon as needle catches groove and “I Meant It” opens the A-side of the Ouroboros EP, the shock that listeners will feel from the song will be nearly tangible. There, the assault begins in earnest after a sample of Tim Robbins’ voice from The Shawshank Redemption opens the cut and guitarists Michael Shepherd and Mike Ramirez., drummer Frank Burdynski and bassist Roxy Murray all begin to just unload an absolutely unrelenting assault which will make listeners recoil (which might look a little funny – if it happens when somebody’s wearing headphones) – but the real coup de grace on top of that caustic torrent is singer Natale Amato. From top to bottom, Amato presents an unending series of vitriolic salvos on listeners which are simultaneously heart-wrenching (check out lines like, “When I said I love you/ When I said I’ll never leave you/ I meant it”) and ear-bursting. Listeners will need to go online to confirm lyrics because the tone of the song renders the lyrics almost unintelligible but, after listeners have decoded them, the song and the performance of it is completely inescapable. Without that knowledge, it would be easy enough to walk away from the music but, after listeners have internalized it (and they will – the music and the sound of it leave no choice) there is no going back – the caustic stew and the other sludge which comes with it will hold listeners enthralled. The side continues in exactly the same manner with “Desire” and “Running,” (yes, this 7” features three cuts on one side – two on the other) before finally allowing listeners the opportunity to gasp for air.
The energy and exertion required to make it through the A-side of this EP is unbelievable – but, when the needle lifts, no one listening will be able to stop themselves from flipping the record over for more.
…And, on the B-side of this 7”, the hurt just keeps hitting listeners. “Progress” opens the side and may actually cause listeners to heave a sigh of relief as the descending chord progression which opens the song carries with it a clear calming effect, but that effect is shattered when Amato begins to “sing” (deciphering lyrics is impossible) and the song shifts slightly to become a hateful thing. The song itself is only about two minutes long but the shift from one movement to the next is so dramatic that it makes the song seem exponentially longer somehow; by the end, listeners will already be prepared to collapse all over again – but will discover that they won’t have the opportunity to do so, because the B-side still has one more number in it, and it happens to be the title track.
Now, to its’ credit, “Ouroboros” title track features the most readily understandable vocal performance on the 7” – but the catch to that is that it’s also incredibly soul-crushing. Throughout “Ouroboros,” Amato tempers lyrics which details “moments of reflection” with obviously awful conclusions about “complete unravelling” drawn before finally shrieking, “I’m just a human being” as some semblance of a conclusion. That conclusion broaches more questions than it answers, really, but the song ends and the needle lifts thereafter – basically stating that, whether it’s complete or not, this EP is over.
After running front-to-back with the Ouroboros EP, there’s little question that listeners will be hungry for more – even though the EP has left them completely exhausted, in the end. They’ll be left exhausted as a result of the presentation of the songs, but they’ll still be hungry for more because the music is a little short on content; by the end, it’s unlikely that anyone will be able to say they discovered the truth and nature of Kirkby Kiss from this EP – just that there is an ample amount of fury in it. It’s for that reason listeners will want more; they’ll want to know what more is in this band. A future release will definitely require a strong-handed producer who is capable of refining the band’s fury, but that addition may prove to illustrate that Kirkby Kiss is capable of realizing something which actually tempers the sounds presented here. [Bill Adams]
Kirkby Kiss’ Ouroboros EP is out now. Buy it here, directly from the group’s bandcamp page.