25 Years Ago: Kyuss Release a Modern Rock Classic on ‘Blues for the Red Sun’
Kyuss were barely a blip on the radar with their debut, 1991’s Wretch, an album that suffered from dodgy production and only displayed flashes of their brilliance. But they became kings of underground metal with the follow-up Blues for the Red Sun, released just a scant eight months later in June 1992.
Granted, it was a small kingdom to reign over, as, despite the record’s groundbreaking grandeur, it didn’t even make a ripple in the mainstream, instead bubbling loudly within their scene. It was there that fans noticed something much different from anything else out there, and quite the contrast to Wretch. The main reason was the change behind the board in the studio.
“We just took a different approach altogether because we had our friend Chris Goss producing with us,” Kyuss guitarist Josh Homme said in a 1992 interview. “We had no clue how to get the sound we wanted to hear, so this time around we had his help because he understood what we were going for – and that’s really important.”
Goss came from the Masters of Reality, a heavy prog rock outfit out of New York. Having a producer who fronted a band named after the third Black Sabbath record led to easy comparisons between the low-end rumble of Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward and what Kyuss was doing – except to the band members themselves
“I don’t want to say I don’t like Sabbath, but it’s just not my bag,” guitarist Josh Homme said. “If Sabbath’s on the stereo or something like that, I won’t turn it off, but I don’t buy Sabbath records. Black Sabbath is a good band, but in my day, if you were into punk and you listened to Sabbath, someone’s gonna beat your ass – you know?”
“I don’t see any Sabbath influence in what we do,” drummer Brant Bjork added. “It just so happens that back in ’68 when Sabbath was forming and what they saw as a rock band is very similar to what we see here in ’92 as a rock band. I think it’s more of a coincidental thing than an influential thing.”
That might have been the case, or maybe Homme and Bjork were trying to save face in distancing themselves at the time, as it was hard to deny the Sabbath-like tinges on sludge-driven songs like “50 Million Year Trip (Downside Up),” album opener “Thumb” and “Molten Universe.”
Yet the incorporations of Sabbath – intended or not – were just one of the elements making Blues for the Red Sun such an important effort in retrospect. Take “Writhe,” a beefy, chugging track where a subdued John Garcia croons in a way similar to Glenn Danzig-like; there was nothing at the time that even sounded remotely similar. “Apothecaries’ Weight” lumbers along with Homme’s down-tuned guitar -- plugged into a bass amp for extra effect -- leading the way, rumbling over whatever is in its path. And the driving “Green Machine,” a frenetic, bass-driven number with Nick Oliveri pulling out a ridiculous solo on the instrument has more than an overtone of punk, which, at their core, is what Kyuss considered themselves to be.
“Punk rock is exactly what describes our music,” Bjork said. “I think we’re a bunch of punks playing rock music. We’re not hardcore by any sense and we’re not punker music, but I think we’re four punks playing rock, basically is what it is.”
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