by: Graham Crainshaw (@hotjuiceboxes)
A wall of amplifiers dominated the small, dimly lit stage that sat in in the back of the room where I first saw Yautja. Their followers crowded around the altar, waiting for their sermon of sludge, waiting to have their ears eviscerated. When Yautja finally took the stage, the volume that they pushed bludgeoned the crowd with the kind of force that rattles you deep in your bones.
At most shows, I’ll pop in some earplugs because I want to be able to enjoy music
long into my life, but every once in a while I’ll be at a show that demands that I go earplug-less in order to hear the complete range of frequencies in perfect, punishing clarity. This was one of those shows. And it was unbelievably loud.
One of the things that’s so special about Yautja’s new EP Songs of Lament, released on
Forcefield Records, is that it captures the presence and volume of their live shows so well. The
quality and clarity of production on this album has been built upon from their last (and similarly titled) full-length Songs of Descent which was dripping with brutality as it was. But Songs of Lament is a completely different monster not only in the integrity of the recording, but also in the cohesiveness and thoughtfulness of the album overall. And it’s even more heavy than their previous LP if you can imagine that.
“Breed Regret” introduces the EP with a single, noisy guitar riff that sounds like it’s being played back on blown speakers. Just as I had cranked my stereo up to see if something was wrong with it, all of the instruments exploded into clarity at three times the volume. It could have been a cruel joke, but more than likely it was a signal from the band that this album needs to be listened to loud. Suddenly the doomy riff bursts into double time and throaty howls from Shibby Poole, the guitar player and vocalist, tear through the mix right before Tyler Coburn, the accomplished math-god drummer of Gnarwhal, sends the song into a frenzy of furious blast beats.
The first three tracks on this album carve relentlessly through blistering tempo changes and suffocating riffs on the way to a brief breath and break from the chaos. “Revel; Writhe”, the fourth song on the album, is a reverb-soaked solo guitar track that could set the scene for an especially fucked up noir film. A ghostly track of vaguely human sounds and feedback brood underneath the woefully plucked tune. This song weaves seamlessly into the next track, “For Naught”, which contorts the riff from the previous song into something even more sinister. The spider-like guitar crawls around the sporadically pulsing bass and drums creating a strange and bodily effect.
The epic final track entitled “Crumbling” is the longest on the album and perhaps my favorite. The dirge develops with ominously swaying chords punctuated by jarring stops, one of the most melodic moments on the record. Above the destruction Poole’s savage vocals forewarn of what’s to come. The long phrase repeats itself with slight variations, always followed by a moment of silence and a familiar prayer of a guitar melody that slingshots the song back into the meat of Poole’s vicious sermon. Once again we receive a break from the bedlam, a breath. But this isn’t a breath of air like they gave us in “Revel; Writhe”, this is a full lung-load of water. The song submerges us deeper and deeper into noise for nearly two minutes until we’re grabbed by the hair and pulled above water just in time to see them burn down a distant city with the heaviest breakdown on the album.
The production quality and laser precise musicianship alone would have been enough to carry this album, but Songs of Lament features some of the most interesting songcraft in modern heavy music. Yautja’s songs careen through grinding blast beats,intricately woven guitar and bass lines, and bone-crushing breakdowns all with calculated care.