Brooklyn-based Kayo Dot seamlessly meld elements of progressive, atmospheric, and black metal with abstract electro-acoustic and modern chamber composition, as well as gothic rock.
They are all but unclassifiable except as an "experimental rock band." They're led by the only remaining original member: vocalist, composer, and multi-instrumentalist Toby Driver. Since their debut release on John Zorn's Tzadik label with 2003's Choirs of the Eye (recording as an 11-piece metal orchestra), Kayo Dot have undergone many evolutions in their musical approach. As early as their sophomore release, 2006's more subdued Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue, they'd been reduced to a septet. Kayo Dot's 2013 crowd-funded, double-length set Hubardo, recorded by Randall Dunn, signaled a return to the metal roots of Driver's previous band, Maudlin of the Well, and included its vocalist and lyricist Jason Byron, as well as violinist Mia Matsumiya. With the 2016 release of Plastic House on Base of Sky on the Flenser label, electronic music had become central to Driver's compositional method.
After the progressive metal-oriented Maudlin of the Well disbanded in late 2002, some of the group's members needed a change of direction. Toby Driver (vocals, guitar, electronics), Greg Massi (guitar, vocals), Nicholas Kyte (bass, vocals), Sam Gutterman (drums, vocals), and Terran Olson (keyboards, flute, clarinet, saxophone) formed Kayo Dot in early 2003. While Maudlin of the Well lived in the metal arena, Kayo Dot adopted a more modern classical attitude. Composition was strict and the band showed interest in playing concerts the way orchestras do, more formally and in more traditional venues. Guitars and vocals still drew from the world of rock and metal, but to stress that this was a new band with a new direction, concerts contained no Maudlin of the Well material. John Zorn's avant-garde and experimental-leaning Tzadik label issued the band's debut, Choirs of the Eye, in late 2003. In 2006 the group released the critically acclaimed Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue, followed by the chamber jazz-influenced Blue Lambency Downward in 2008. Arriving in 2010, the ambitious Coyote was a single narrative-driven, long-form composition in five movements that drew inspiration from artists like the Cure, Bauhaus, and Faith and the Muse, while 2012's Gamma Knife saw the group returning to the more extreme metallic style of its earlier works. The 2013 crowd-funded, conceptual, double-album Hubardo combined aspects of black metal, post-rock, jazz fusion, and chamber music, while 2014's Coffins on Io drew on darkwave and what Driver described as "1980s retrofuture noir" for inspiration. The reliably eclectic and primarily electronic Plastic House on Base of Sky, the group's eighth studio long-player, followed in early 2017. In the fall of 2019, the band released the Randall Dunn-produced Blasphemy, "based on an allegorical story" by current studio collaborator Jason Byron. Its concept involved three characters seeking a treasure that would eventually destroy them; its musical approach mixed blackgaze metal, melodic post-punk, and avant-prog. ~ David Jeffries, Rovi