Image by Adam Thirtle
One of the most innovative and enigmatic bands in the North East, Kylver return this month with their second album, The Island, another awe-inspiring feat of technical wizardry. Consisting of Jonny Scott on guitar, James Bowmaker on bass, Barry Mitcheson on drums and Neil Elliott on Hammond organ and keys, the four-piece have made their mark since the release of their debut album, The Mountain Ghost in May 2015.
“We’ve all played in bands together for many years, so Kylver was a chance for us to go a bit overboard with all the different types of gear we’ve accumulated,” explains Jonny. “There’s no restrictions, we like to challenge ourselves, and that’s what makes it fun.” The challenge has certainly paid off, as Kylver have meticulously crafted their own blend of instrumental progressive rock, mixing elements of doom, metal and post-rock atmospherics, punctuated with dramatic Hammond organ tones and interesting time signatures for seamless and spectacular results.
In lieu of lyrics and vocals, Kylver created a story behind their debut The Mountain Ghost, with the four tracks telling the tale of a spirit who torments a village nestled in the shadow of his mountain home. “So many people grasped onto the concept, and the story allows you to invest in the music further. With the new album, the story was written along with the music then fleshed out: we’d written one song and Barry and myself said it made us think of pirates, James said it made him think of a space voyage, and throughout the writing process we kept joking that the album was about space pirates if anyone asked. We tried to reign in the pirate idea and make it…cooler.”
We do our own thing and we’re not going to label our music as something we’re not just to fit in
The Island is a mind-blowing epic, with the aforementioned concept just as awesome as the music that soundtracks it. The island in the title is the mythical Hy-Brasil, part of an Irish folklore which states that it is only visible for one day every seven years but still unreachable. Kylver’s tale follows a privateer ship whose crew are hired to find the island, but are shipwrecked in a storm, represented by the ominous squall of opening track The Great Storm of 1703 with thunderous drums and sinister Hammond tones marking impending doom. “There’s one survivor who is washed up on the island’s beach,” says Jonny. “The island is said to be a portal to another dimension in space, and he finds the portal,” (marked by dynamic third track, Monolith, which starts as quietly foreboding before building into a theatrical cacophony of doomy riffs). “He’s then transported into space and meets a higher race of intelligent beings whose wealth of knowledge is too much for him to comprehend, so they have to erase his mind and transport him back. He arrives back on the morning before the ship sets sail, and from then on his life is stuck in a perpetual loop, with the same events happening over and over.”
This may seem rather outlandish, but it’s very much in-keeping with the prog rock tradition, and Kylver have the musical chops to pull off such a grandiose concept. Prog Magazine agree – having heaped acclaim upon The Mountain Ghost, the band found themselves nominated for a Progressive Music Award in the new band category. With Spotify album listens coming from as far as Malaysia and Costa Rica, and physical orders sent to America and Australia, Kylver are proving prog is not a dirty word. “Prog rock was very much killed by punk and went through a phase of being looked down upon. Someone asked if we were doing ourselves a disservice by calling ourselves ‘prog’ – well what else are we? We do our own thing and we’re not going to label our music as something we’re not just to fit in.”