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Music / Kayo Dot

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The band's lineup circa 2003.

Kayo Dot is an eclectic band from New York, NY (formerly Boston, MA). They are most frequently classified as Avant-Garde Metal, Progressive Metal or Progressive Rock, but as their style varies widely from release to release, it is very difficult to pin down. The band is a Spiritual Successor to maudlin of the Well, which generally tended to be Progressive Death Metal.

You can stream basically everything Kayo Dot has recorded, as well as quite a lot of band leader Toby Driver's other work, at their Bandcamp. (This includes, but is not limited to, several soundtracks he has composed for various media projects; most of maudlin of the Well's output; In the L..L..Library Loft, a Kayo Dot album in all but name that was released under his name due to Executive Meddling; the side projects Tartar Lamb and Tartar Lamb II; and two further solo albums that were actually intended as such, Madonnawhore and They Are the Shield.)


  • Toby Driver - Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Clarinet, Keyboards, Piano, Cello, Bells, Double bass, Tuba, Percussion (2003-present)
  • Greg Massi - Guitars, Percussion, Vocals (2003-2006, 2021-present)
  • Jason Byron - Lyrics, Keyboards, Percussion, Various Instruments (2021-present)


  • Patrick Wolff - Woodwinds, Keyboards
  • Nick Kyte - Bass, Vocals (2003-2006)
  • Sam Gutterman - Drums, Vocals (2003-unknown)
  • Terran Olson - Keyboards, Woodwinds (2003-unknown, 2010-2013)
  • Mia Matsumiya - Violin, Keyboards, Guitars, Viola (2003-2013)
  • Ryan McGuire - Bass, Double bass, Keyboards (2006-unknown, 2008-2012)
  • Tom Malone - Drums (2006-unknown)
  • John Carchia - Guitars (2003-2006)
  • Forbes Graham - Trumpet, Euphonium, Guitars (2006-unknown)
  • D.J. Murray - Unknown (2003-2006)
  • David Bodie - Drums, Percussion (session) (2010-2012)
  • Tim Byrnes - Trumpet, Synthesizers, French horn (session) (2010-2014)
  • Daniel Means - Guitars, Woodwinds, Keyboards, Bass (2010-unknown)
  • Kim Abrams - Drums, Bass (2012-unknown)
  • Ron Varod - Guitars, Keyboards (2012-2021)
  • Philip Price - Drums (2019-2021)
  • Leo Didkovsky - Drums (2019-2021)


  • 2003 - Choirs of the Eye
  • 2006 - Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue
  • 2006 - Kayo Dot / Bloody Panda (split)
  • 2008 - Blue Lambency Downward
  • 2009 - Champions of Sound 2008 (split with Pelican, Steve Bredsky, and Zozobra)
  • 2010 - Coyote
  • 2010 - Live in Bonn, 2009
  • 2010 - Stained Glass (EP)
  • 2012 - Gamma Knife
  • 2013 - Hubardo
  • 2014 - Kraków (live, split with Tartar Lamb II, recorded 2011)
  • 2014 - Coyote - Live on WMBR, August 31, 2010
  • 2014 - Coffins on Io
  • 2016 - Plastic House on Base of Sky
  • 2019 - Blasphemy
  • 2021 - Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike


  • An Aesop: Hubardo’s could be summed up as something these lines: “True Art is powerful and important enough that it is worth following one’s muse wherever it requires one to go in order to create it.”
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The fate of the main character in Hubardo, as he dies and becomes a ghost watching over the Garden of Eden.
  • Avant-Garde Metal/Avant-Garde Music: Depending on the release. To oversimplify matters a bit, Choirs of the Eye, Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue, Gamma Knife, Hubardo, Blasphemy, and Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike are their metal releases, though not every song on each of these qualifies as metal.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Hubardo means lantern in the Enochian occult language, and "Zlida Caosgi" means "To Water the Earth".
  • Black Metal: An influence on some of their recordings (mostly Gamma Knife and Hubardo).
  • Boléro Effect: They are very fond of this trope. Some particularly good examples occur in “The Antique”, “The Manifold Curiosity”, and “Passing the River”.
  • Breather Episode: The metal albums frequently have these, such as "A Pitcher of Summer" and "Wayfarer" on Choirs of the Eye and "The First Matter (Saturn in the Guise of Sadness)" and "The Second Operation (Lunar Water)" on Hubardo. Then inverted with the next track, "Floodgate", which places Deathspell Omega/Gorguts levels of dissonance in between a couple of fairly chilled-out tracks.
  • Character Title: Hubardo and Blasphemy are both named after characters within their stories.
  • Concept Album: Hubardo is a concept album about ... well, it's complicated, but part of it has to do with a mad poet and an incoming meteor. The band has explained the concept:
    In the story, a meteor falls to earth, and lands on the outskirts of a small town. All the townspeople think the meteor is an abomination, except for the lonely poet, Hubardo, who falls in love with the meteor and secretly takes it home to possess. That night, he has a dream that a tree grows from the meteor, as if the meteor is a seed, “watered with blood from a watering can.” He wakes and tries to crack open the meteor to see if there is a seed inside, but can’t crack the meteor with force, so he attaches a lightning rod to the meteor and brings it up to his roof, where a bolt of lightning strikes it and opens it up, revealing a seed. Upon the seed are inscribes the words “To Water The Earth” in the Enochian language (Zlida Caosgi). He takes the seed into a grove, buries it, and waters it with a watering can. The next morning, he sees that a river has grown from the seed, so he builds a boat and travels down the river in the boat. He comes to the gates of the Garden of Eden, where he dies and becomes a ghost that haunts the Garden forever, and causes more seeds to fall in more towns to enchant more lonely poets across the world. The story is an allegory for personal alchemy - it’s about following your passion or obsession to the very end, even if it kills you. The poet’s name is “Hubardo” because he is the lantern that shows us this truth.
    • Coyote is also a concept album with lyrics composed by a friend of the band, who suffered from (eventually terminal) breast cancer, and Coffins on Io appears to be a concept album as well.
    • Blasphemy tells a story of three greedy characters whose search for a sleeping girl of great power leads to their self-destruction.
  • Darkwave: Coffins on Io could be considered an example.
  • Darker and Edgier: In general, they're this to the relatively idyllic maudlin of the Well (at least when they perform metal, though some of their non-metal releases are also fairly dark and edgy).
  • Epic Rocking: As is mandatory for a Progressive Rock band, many of their songs are very long. "Stained Glass" is the longest, at twenty minutes long. "___ On Limpid Form" isn't far behind, at eighteen minutes.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Plastic House on Base of Sky spells out Phobos, the larger moon of Mars and the Greek god of horror.
  • Gainax Ending: Hubardo, as explained under Concept Album.
  • Genre Roulette: Nearly every album and in some cases every song has a different sound. The only other band that can rival them in this trope is probably Ulver.
  • Goth: Coffins on Io again, showing heavy influence from goth rock.
  • I Am the Band: Kayo Dot is basically Toby Driver and whoever happens to be working with him at the time.
  • In Name Only: Inverted with Toby Driver's solo album In the L..L..Library Loft, which is a Kayo Dot album in all but name. Then Zig-Zagged with Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike, which is really a maudlin of the Well album in all but name (meaning that this trope is played straight for Kayo Dot and inverted for maudlin of the Well - but then, the distinction between the two acts has been murky at the best of times).
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: Quite often, though it's most pronounced on Choirs of the Eye, where the vocals are generally placed very low in the mix to give the impression that they're coming from far away.
  • Jazz, Jazz Fusion: Some of their works qualify as jazz fusion ("The Wait of the World" is an excellent example), and Blue Lambency Downward also has been compared to free jazz. Toby Driver himself disputes this, though, on the basis that one important characteristic of jazz is almost completely absent in Kayo Dot's music: improvisation. However, a case can be made that improvisation is not universally central to all jazz subgenres, and some subgenres feature comparatively little to no improv. Take Jazz Fusion: Mahavishnu Orchestra's works were tightly composed, which drew criticism from jazz purists at the time, while much of Miles Davis' fusion output was heavily edited in the studio. Frank Zappa's jazz fusion material (most famously Hot Rats, Waka/Jawaka, and The Grand Wazoo) is also tightly composed; comparing studio and live performances makes it clear how meticulously Zappa arranged his material. One could make a similar argument of third stream, a fusion of jazz and Classical Music exemplified by works such as Davis and Gil Evans' Sketches of Spain and Charles Mingus' Let My Children Hear Music, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, and Epitaph; though these works often feature improvised solos, they occur within the framework of tightly arranged compositions, and thus they feature comparatively less improv. Lastly, big band music, exemplified by artists like Glenn Miller and the Count Basie Orchestra, relies almost entirely on written compositions and arrangements and rarely features improv at all, but it's still (usually) classified as jazz.
  • Kind Hearted Cat Lover: Toby Driver, to the point where he dedicated a song to his cat.
  • Last Note Nightmare: Shows up sometimes. "The Manifold Curiosity" is probably the best example; it builds from pleasant chamber music to an almost impenetrably heavy, dissonant post-metal section that ends on a scream. Inverted with "The Antique", which starts like "The Manifold Curiosity" ends and ends with a passage worthy of Sigur Rós or Radiohead's electronica phase.
  • Lead Bassist: While he plays a number of instruments in the studio, Toby Driver most often plays bass when performing live.
  • Literary Allusion Title: "Epipsychidion" is named for a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley that advocates free love; Shelley also informed his publisher that he wanted it to be circulated only to "the esoteric few".
  • Longest Song Goes Last:
    • Choirs of the Eye closes with the 14:41 "The Antique".
    • Blue Lambency Downward ends with "Symmetrical Arizona", clocking in at 10:50.
    • Downplayed with Gamma Knife, which ends with the 6:46 Title Track, which is only six seconds longer than the next-longest song.
    • The double album Hubardo finishes its second disc with "The Wait of the World" (14:22).
    • Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike ends with "Epipsychidion" (13:12).
  • Magic Meteor: The Black Stone from Hubardo.
  • Man of a Thousand Voices: Toby Driver can do everything from high pitched falsetto to baritone crooning to Perishing Alt-Rock Voice to multiple types of Metal Scream, and everything in between.
  • Mind Screw: In both musical and lyrical terms. Blue Lambency Downward might be the best example; it's weird even by Kayo Dot standards.
  • Mood Whiplash: Maybe not to the same extent as maudlin of the Well, but they still do this a lot. Hubardo is crammed with examples. Gamma Knife is another example, with three dissonant, almost Black Metal-ish pieces bookended by subdued, elegant Progressive Rock.
  • Musical Pastiche: The trumpet solo on "The Wait of the World" sounds like it was beamed in from In a Silent Way or Bitches Brew. Other parts of the song resemble compositions by King Crimson or Magma, the last of whom unmistakably influenced other Kayo Dot compositions as well ("Abyss Hinge 2: The Shrinking Armature" sounds more than a bit zeuhl-influenced, for example).
  • Mysterious Waif: The title character of Blasphemy.
  • New Sound Album: Basically, all of them!
    • Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike, however, is notable for being, to some extent, an Old Sound Album, as it's a throwback to the style of maudlin of the Well. No surprise, since it was recorded by motW's original lineup! However, it still has elements of recent Kayo Dot albums on it as well.
  • Post-Rock: An influence on some of their material. Choirs of the Eye is in some respects very dense Post-Metal.
  • Progressive Rock/Progressive Metal: Depending upon the release.
  • Purple Prose: Most of Jason Byron's lyrics.
  • Revolving Door Band: See all those people above? This is actually a primary reason for the Genre Roulette they exhibit from release to release; the music is composed to match the strengths of whomever is in the band at the time, which naturally changes with the lineup.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Violinist Mia Matsumiya was the band's only female member for her tenure with it.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Depending on the mood they're going for they will use clean vocals or any of about a dozen different styles of Metal Scream. Toby Driver almost verges on Man of a Thousand Voices territory in some parts.
  • Spiritual Successor: To maudlin of the Well. Especially on Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike, which was recorded with the original maudlin of the Well lineup (at the same location where Toby Driver recorded the band's first tape, no less).
    • The mixture of chamber music and post-metal they pioneered on Choirs of the Eye and Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue has become massively influential in post-metal circles, to the extent that a few other artists arguably qualify as spiritual successors to Kayo Dot. Two examples of acts bearing unmistakable influence from Kayo Dot (though both are original enough not to qualify as clones) include Victory over the Sun (especially on Century of Hands and A Tessitura of Transfiguration) and Ode and Elegy.
  • Subdued Section: Most of their heaviest songs have them.
  • Uncommon Time: As is almost obligatory for a progressive rock band, they use this fairly often. "The First Matter (Saturn in the Guise of Sadness)" has an example towards the end of the song, while "The Wait of the World" uses it to increase the syncopation of the song. Another example is in "The Antique", which uses it throughout to maintain an unsettling feel. There are also "Aura on an Asylum Wall", which is mostly in 5/4, and "Amaranth the Peddler", which jumps all over the place. This is far from a complete list; for example, nearly every song on Hubardo uses this at some point.
  • Villain Protagonist: The three protagonists of Blasphemy.
  • Word-Salad Horror: Their lyrics sometimes cross into this. In particular, a couple songs on Plastic House on Base of Sky seem to be about a Serial Killer.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Many of them. Just listen to the monologue at the end of "Marathon".