Yatra‘s 2018 début album Death Ritual (Grimoire Records), rather than being a “grower”, receded in appeal due to the unflinching harshness of their slow, Doom-laden sound and the voice of Dana Helmuth, which sounds as if Gaahl had been gargling on hop-bombs. There were flickers of invention in the Maryland trio’s sound, however, and these are further explored in follow-up Blood of the Night (STB Records).
As expected, the opening fuzz of ‘Sorcerer’ is crater-creating, but the pondering rhythm and that evil rasp are lightened by an albeit melancholic lead riff. The ensuing ‘Carrion’ follows a similar path: howling leadwork reeking of the Occult while Mike Tull‘s flexible yet pummelling sticks dictate a heavy yet swinging tempo. There’s a Stoner feel to ‘The Howling’, the oft rampant energy of which disguises the arid quality of Helmuth’s larynx, instead of focusing on his deft skills in switching from lead to rhythm strings amid a driving beat.
The effect of that voice is occasionally decisive. There’s a mournful feel to ‘After the Ravens’ but any such intent is dashed to the rocks by the croaked roar, here arguably damaging a potential Doom classic. Helmuth is by no means a continual weak link, however: his shredding savagery on ‘Blood Will Flow’, for example, is perfectly in keeping with the more rapid rattle of the throaty riff and flashing, careering body; his leadwork both moving and startling. It’s in the slower, more portentous and emotional moments such as the Sabbath-esque ‘Burning Vision’ that a more subtle voice would arguably be fitting.
With that vocal style being such a standout element, it leads to Yatra becoming something of a conundrum. Blessed with serious quality and impossible to ignore, listening to a complete album can nevertheless be a wearing task due to those conflicting ingredients. The lazy yet sinister drift of ‘Three Moons’ is reminiscent of US Doom/Death mob Serpentine Path, but with wondrous and affecting leadplay crying out for a strong yet sensitive voice to give it the final dash of brilliance: while the Blackened roar of the chorus to closer ‘Surrender’ is chilling but seems to require so much effort on Helmuth’s part that it occasionally fails him. So how does one solve a problem like Dana? Maybe there’s no need to: for some his approach may be exactly what Doom is missing.
7 / 10