|Hailing from Palm Desert, California, Kyuss (pronounced "kai-uss") have become a heavy metal Velvet Underground of sorts. Although they were widely acknowledged as pioneers of the booming underground "stoner rock" scene of the 1990s, the band enjoyed little commercial success during their brief existence.
Still, their combination of sludgy, down-tuned guitars (often played through a bass amp for maximum, earth-shaking intensity), spacey jams, galloping thrash metal rhythms, and organic drum sound has become the blueprint, often copied, but never quite replicated, by countless underground metal bands. Formed in 1990 by vocalist John Garcia, guitarist Josh Homme, bassist Nick Oliveri, and drummer Brant Bjork, Kyuss (named after a character from Dungeons & Dragons) began jamming at so-called "desert parties," in and around the isolated towns of the southern California desert. The band eventually built a local following, signed with tiny independent label Dali Records, and released their first album Wretch in 1991.
Under-produced and poorly financed, the album failed to capture the band's live sound and went completely unnoticed, but constant touring quickly earned Kyuss a legendary reputation as a ferocious live unit, as well as the respect of many fellow musicians. One of these, Masters of Reality singer/guitarist Chris Goss, decided to produce the band's next effort, and the collaboration resulted in 1992's stunning Blues for the Red Sun. Eventually hailed as a landmark by critics and fans alike, the album took the underground metal world by storm and established the signature Kyuss sound once and for all: the heaviness of Black Sabbath, the feedback fuzziness of Blue Cheer, and the space rock of Hawkwind infused with psychedelic flashes, massive grooves, and a sensibility for punk rock, metal, and thrash. Based on this sudden surge of interest, the band was signed to Elektra Records just as Dali was about to go bankrupt, and despite the loss of bassist Oliveri (he was replaced by Scott Reeder, formerly of Obsessed), the band continued building momentum.
Also recorded under Goss' guidance, 1994's Welcome to Sky Valley nearly matched the brilliance of its predecessor and saw Kyuss taking the novel approach of grouping the songs into three extended suites. But despite their creative promise and a growing fan-base, personal strife had already begin tearing the band apart, and drummer Brant Bjork departed by tour's end. After recruiting the jazz-trained Alfredo Hernandez to replace him on 1995's less-inspired ...And the Circus Leaves Town, a final rift between Homme and Garcia finally brought Kyuss' meteoric run to a disappointing halt. 2000's Muchas Gracias: The Best of Kyuss collected rare outtakes and live recordings, and effectively put a capper on the Kyuss legacy, but, after a period of relative silence, the band members gradually began making their mark in a number of significant projects. Garcia briefly worked with the forgettable Slo Burn in 1997 before reuniting with Reeder in the much more promising Unida two years later.
As for Josh Homme, discounting a short touring stint as rhythm guitarist for the Screaming Trees, he initially retreated into production and spent much of the late '90s collaborating with an impressive array of musicians on the eclectic Desert Sessions. Some of this material was later reworked into his next major project, the Queens of the Stone Age, which saw him paired with original Kyuss bassist Nick Oliveri, and at first, drummer Hernandez as well. Ironically, by their third release, 2002's Songs for the Deaf, they had already achieved larger sales than Kyuss ever did, while retaining the same amount of respect, both as critical and cult favorites. ~ Ed Rivadavia, All Music Guide