Long before their coronation as Queens of the Stone Age, a group of high-school kids from Palm Desert, CA, crafted some of the most unique, influential and underrated groove metal ever recorded. They were known as Kyuss.
I first heard Kyuss (pronounced ki-es) in 1992. I was listening to college metal station WSOU (Seton Hall University) when a song called “Green Machine” came on. The thickness and ferocity of the guitar riffs and the raw, melodic vocals immediately commanded my attention. I had to know more about this band. So I went to my college radio station, WBMB (Baruch College Radio), and dug through the stacks and boxes of promo CDs until I tracked it down—Kyuss, Blues for the Red Sun. I also found their first, less-polished album, Wretch, and it turned out that “Green Machine” was actually the poppiest track on either record. All of the other songs were more intense, more psychedelic and wholly unlike anything I’d heard before.
Kyuss were like some brilliant hybrid of Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd. I began playing them frequently on my classic rock/metal show, The Wolf’s Lair, along with several other bands I’d recently fallen in love with, including a Sabbath sound-alike by the name of Sleep and the ’70s/sci-fi-inspired acid rock band Monster Magnet. I didn’t realize it at the time, but these were the originators of what would later come to be called stoner rock. When Kyuss released their masterpiece Welcome to Sky Valley in 1994, I was first in line at the music store. That night I ate a handful of mushrooms, locked myself in my room, stuffed a towel under the door, sparked a joint, put on my headphones, turned out the lights and was dragged by my ears into one of the most vivid, spiritual trips of my life—one that took me soaring over mountain ranges and floating down rivers, ending in tears of revelation.
Kyuss had changed my life.