Kyuss – Welcome to Sky Valley 30th Anniversary Review

Band: Kyuss
Album: Kyuss [Welcome to Sky Valley]
Label: Elektra Records
Genre: Stoner rock/Stoner metal
Release Date: June 28th, 1994
For Fans Of: Queens of the Stone Age, Sleep, Alice in Chains

More likely than not, the average person on the street has heard the music of guitarist Josh Homme. Before he formed the world-famous rock bands Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal, and others, he was a founding member of the legendary stoner rock progenitor, Kyuss.

Homme formed the band when he was 14 years old, and their shows would become a sort of urban legend in Southern California rock circles. They would drive for miles out into the desert and perform for small groups using gas-powered generators to power their equipment. Homme famously would combine his uniquely psychedelic guitar style with the use of bass cabs for live shows, creating an unmistakable thunderous sound that would be a Kyuss staple. Their breakthrough would come in 1992 with their sophomore full-length, Blues for the Red Sun. By the next year, they were opening for Metallica on an Australian tour, and touring the States extensively. In 1994, Kyuss would release their magnum opus. Often distributed as a self-titled but referred to colloquially as Welcome to Sky Valley, the official name of the album is still a point of contention. The album itself was met with glowing critical response and is retrospectively considered a foundational stoner rock album.

Kyuss’ distinctive style is hallmarked by downtuned guitars, dry distortion, prominent flat-wound bass work, infectious grooves and droning vocals. The opening track “Gardenia” feels cataclysmic, as the roar of the guitars mimic the sound of a muscle car’s engine. This song, written by drummer Brant Bjork (later of Fu Manchu fame), is probably my favorite Kyuss song, and it’s an absolute monolith, with some of my favorite riffs ever. Instrumental “Asteroid” is massively dynamic, beginning with an airy bass and building to an explosion of crushing riffs. “Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop” features some of the band’s best grooves, before the electric “100°” melts faces with an earth-shaking groove. “Space Cadet” is the ballad to end all ballads, an expansive journey with Garcia’s intimate singing complemented by ethereal clean guitar, wonderful acoustic guitar and masterful acoustic bass. This song is the centerpiece of the album, and it is just gorgeous, with Kyuss’ masterful songwriting on full display. Follow-up single “Demon Cleaner” is the only Kyuss track to have a music video, and the song itself is one of their most melodic.

The beginning of the third movement returns to heaviness with a gorgeous bass lead on “Odyssey”, before a massive riff carries us away into groove city. The loose and playful “Conan Troutman” feels like a nod to their previous outing, Blues for the Red Sun, with the traditional rock structure and crunchier tones. “N.O.” is a nod to bassist Scott Reeder’s previous band Across the River, with Kyuss paying homage to their contemporaries in the desert rock scene, played in Kyuss’ iconic style. The closer “Whitewater”, again written by drummer Bjork, is another monolithic track with a tangible feeling of resolution, which I absolutely love. This track and “Gardenia” feel like mirrors of each other, bookending the album with some of Kyuss’ best riffs. The hidden track “Lick Doo” is a goofy ditty that reminds you these guys were barely 21 years old when this album was released, which only adds to their legend.

Ultimately, Kyuss would only release one more album to mixed reviews before breaking up. Rumors of a Kyuss reunion have circled for almost 20 years now, but with nothing concrete arising since 2010. Each member of the band would go on to play in many notable projects, retroactively making Kyuss a sort of supergroup, and Welcome to Sky Valley still stands as their triumph. Widely considered one of the most important stoner rock albums, and one of the best rock albums in general, Welcome to Sky Valley remains a cult classic for stoner fans.

I said before in my Agalloch retrospective that I reserve 10/10s for albums that have personal meaning to me, and Welcome to Sky Valley is no exception. Granted, it wasn’t a 10/10 on first listen- it took a few years of growing on me to reach that point- but it remains a legendary album nonetheless. I first heard Kyuss and Welcome to Sky Valley in 2019, during my first semester of college. My best friend in high school, whom I had gotten into metal just a year beforehand, discovered this album and quickly sent it to me. Sky Valley’s bone-dry distortion, warm atmosphere, and desert theme latched itself to my psyche and immediately developed an association with home for me. It quickly became one of my favorite stoner albums, and with how often I revisit it, it eventually took the top spot. Re-listening to this album over and over for this review just deepened my appreciation for it, as each spin I hear new harmonies and new hidden details, and that’s the mark of a legendary album for me. It’s a moving and complete experience, best heard all the way through all at once, and Welcome to Sky Valley is a gift that keeps on giving.

Rating: 10/10


  1. 1. Gardenia
    2. Asteroid
    3. Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop

  2. 4. 100°
    5. Space Cadet
    6. Demon Cleaner

  3. 7. Odyssey
    8. Conan Troutman
    9. N.O.
    10. Whitewater

Total Playing Time: 51:55