Yatra‘s new album Blood Of The Night is a doomy riff odyssey that bristles with attitude and was nearly very awesome.

Release date: January 31, 2020 | STB Records | Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram

There’s so much goddamn stoner doom coming out these days that sometimes it feels like we’re drowning in it, and a lot of it isn’t exactly amazing or innovative either. It seems most of those bands are still worshipping at the altar of Sleep, sucking the genre dry with mediocre renditions of songs that could easily have been on Holy Mountain. Yatra’s new album, Blood Of The Night, gave me hope – from the opening few seconds of “Sorcerer”, I could feel this bristling energy, this ruthless heaviness, a crushing darkness, things I value so highly in music. However, throughout the course of the album, I found myself getting frustrated, because Yatra have something that could’ve been amazing, but just isn’t quite there. They have a good, solid, enjoyable album on their hands, but to make it great, I feel like they missed the mark by a few small things.

Straight out the gate, Yatra establish that they are not here to fuck around. “Sorcerer” begins with a crushingly heavy intro, complete with feedback and creepy noises. A satisfying sense of unease surrounds these first few riffs, and the addition of surprisingly death metal vocals is a refreshing twist on classic stoner doom. Being harsh, there’s no melody to the vocals, but the guitar line implies it, which ties the two elements together and creates depth. Yatra bring the chorus of the song back later, but sped up – very Black Sabbath, and very cool.

The first three tracks are all rippers: simple, satisfying riffs, grimy bass tones, solid drumming. Around “After The Ravens”, though, I found myself getting more and more irked by something, namely the lack of harmonies, especially in the guitar. Yatra are a three-piece in a classic combination: drummer, bassist, and guitarist/vocalist. In order to fatten up their sound in the studio, they double-tracked the guitars, panned them left and right to balance the stereo field, and recorded guitar backings for the solos. Unfortunately, aside from a few very minor exceptions, the guitars are always playing the exact same thing. The main riff from “After The Ravens”, a slow, melodic waltz, would’ve been the perfect place for a harmony; I can even hear it in my head. Just adding some harmonies every once in a while as a bit of ear candy would’ve been nice. I understand the desire to play as closely to how you would live in the studio – I’m in a three-piece of the same formation (minus the vocalist) – but on a recording you don’t have the added element of stage performance. Even if you can’t possibly play these extra layers live, as long as they’re not integral to the song that’s fine, just like those guitar backings to the solos.

Which brings me to my second major issue with the record. Yatra do this really cool thing where they season their doom with lashings of death metal. This is especially evident in the vocal style, but also some of the note choices in the riffs, and it works nicely – it just adds that little bit of unexpected aggression. It’s a great idea, but they didn’t let it into the guitar solos. Why? We’ve all heard bluesy stoner solos a million times. Give us something surprising! Get your death metal on! Where’s the dissonance at? It doesn’t have to be all the time, depending on the track it might not be appropriate, but tracks like “The Howling” could easily have been a place to try this out.

On the bright side, the guitar playing is very human (sometimes verging on sloppy), which gives it loads of attitude. I love hearing those little half-harmonics when a guitarist is muting the strings that little tickle of feedback, telling you the amp was cranked loud as hell with gain for days. The looseness of the guitar playing is kept in check by the extremely solid drumming and bass playing, both of which are straightforward, but with variation in just the right places. The bass tone is also unapologetically and awesomely gritty. The riffs are heavy! They’re good! The addition of unexpected chromatic notes is nice! And let’s also talk about atmosphere. Despite being, in my opinion, slightly on the bloated side, “After The Ravens” and “Three Moons” are so magnificently cinematic, like a grainy black and white film. “After The Ravens” is like a dreary winter waltz, when you fear the sun will never shine again, and “Three Moons” is so lethargically stoned-sounding, in a really good way. Listening to it I could practically smell snow and marijuana, so clean yet so pungent.

There’s lots to like on this album, despite the issues I have with it (which could also just be a matter of personal preference at the end of the day). The album flows well, there’s enough contrast between the tracks and styles of riffs to make each one memorable. The riffs kick ass – I don’t think there’s a single bad riff on Blood Of The Night. From “Sorcerer” through “Three Moons” to the veins-pumping, adrenaline-fuelled closing track “Surrender”, the album is a riff lover’s wet dream. With a bit more death metal in the solos and a few more instances of variation between the guitar parts, this would have been very close to doomy perfection.

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