These days, it's ironic that rock music is as fueled as it is felled by gimmicks. Rare is the band that simply shuts up and shows up to play, sans pretense, without overthinking it and with undeniable soul. California-based band Kyng are one of those bands. Their latest album, Breathe in the Water, recorded in Texas with Machine (Lamb of God, Clutch, Miss May I), is frontloaded with the type of impassioned vocals that erupt from the depths of the gut, unforgettable blues-soaked riffs, and pulverizing rhythmic clap. Everything about Kyng is real — what you hear is what you get. Studio trickery, tools, and marketing agendas be damned! The music and band are legit — nothing more, nothing less—on Breathe in the Water, which is the follow up to 2014's well-received Burn the Serum.
The band also embodies an admirable and noble DIY ethos, touring minus a crew, rolling up their sleeves and putting their hands in the rock 'n' roll earth. These are practices which further inform the organic nature of the music.
"I'm not here to appease anyone. It's going to feel good, when I record it and play it live," frontman Eddie Veliz said about his music. "We just want it to be purely honest. We always want to keep the integrity of Kyng. We are not the party band. Although we can hang, we realize that the art of serious musicianship has been lost. Everyone wants to be funny and make comedic music videos. If that works for them, awesome. But it's like Super Bowl commercials. It's like bands follow that same format. Everything has to be funny. No one wants reality or to be a real artist. We do."
Breathe in the Water and Kyng are driven by Veliz, as he is the main songwriter and creative force behind the band. The yin to his yang is Pepe Clarke Magana, who hails from Juarez, Mexico. Their shared love is '70s rock — they take influence from icons like Black Sabbath, Van Halen, and Grand Funk Railroad, all the while distilling it into their own unique, modern take on rock. You might even get a contact high from the stoner influence — think Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age— thanks to the melodic girth which is omnipresent in the music. The band is rounded out by bassist Tony Castaneda.
"There was a lot of depression coming from the entire band," Veliz admitted about the writing process for Breathe in the Water. "We are a three-piece. So, if someone is having a bad time, that energy seeps into the area and the people around them."
Life was essentially coming at Veliz from all angles and he used the record as a cathartic experience. It's one that fans will undoubtedly relate to and find comfort in. But from that negativity came something incredibly positive and that's the album.
Veliz furthered, "I was in and out of an extremely toxic relationship and my brother passed away about two years ago. Then I was on the road. I never got that chance to mourn properly. When I wrote this record back in 2015, I was in that toxic relationship and mourning phase at the same time. There was some ugliness and sadness in my life. But the music itself made up for my sadness and the disarray in the lyrical content. It helped."
For Magana, Breathe in the Water is a "back to basics record." He noted that "it has its heavy moments and it's our influences and our experiences applied." What else makes Breathe in the Water hurl itself to the front of the pack? It's the songs themselves.
"Pristine Warning" is built on a slab of riffs that are heavier than granite. The song explores the notion that we, as people, should be helping one another and how it feels when to be rejected after extending an olive branch. Magana sums it up, saying the track "demonstrates both frustration and aggression."
Meanwhile, "Closer to the End" is tribal and primal at times, thanks to its percussive thrust. Try expunging this track from your brain after you turn it off and you'll fail epically. It embeds itself in your brain, just like any good earworm will. The song captures the idea of what it's like to be on a sinking ship on many levels. "It's like shit's fucked up and it's bad, but I hope I get out of this fairly unscathed," Veliz said about the song's meaning. "It doesn't end on a high or a low note, making it super realistic. "
"Breathe in the Water" is a potent jam, both sonically and lyrically. Veliz isn't overtly political in his music and while this isn't a necessarily political song, his eyes were opened to things around us, namely the headline-grabbing Syrian refugees that were trying to make their way to a better place, only to drown in the process. The image of the little boy found face first in the sand shook all who saw it to their very core. Veliz explained how the visual impacted him, saying, "I took a hard look at at what surrounds me, rather than just focusing on what's going on in my life."
"Follow Blindly" is another barnburner and it fires on all pistons. While Kyng are not anti nor are they pro organized religion, the song addresses a friend with super religious nature.
The band gets in touch with its more contemplative side on "Show Me Your Love." It's a roller coaster ride and "It takes you very low with the melody and lyrics, then the riff pulls you up, creating this dark and light contrast, reminiscent of Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin," Veliz explained. It's not your typical love song, either. As Veliz revealed, "That is the first major downer on the record. That song is about my brother and for my brother, and wondering what was in his mind when he was dying."
Kyng weren't afraid to go so deep that they reached marrow on Breathe in the Water. It's heavy, both sonically and lyrically, without having to scream in your face to get the point across. That's what makes it a fully actualized piece of art and the band's definitive statement to date.