After the success of previous album All Is Lost, Maryland-based pagan doomsters Yatra return not only with their fourth full length studio release in three years but with a complete overhaul of their original sound. The crawling fuzz of their earlier albums is all but gone here as the band rejuvenate themselves, adding thrashing death metal with a blackened edge to their own particular brand of doom-laden sludge.
The underground music scene in the UK is now so diverse, so rich and so productive, that it is sometimes pretty hard to keep up with what’s going on half the time. It was therefore with a mixed sense of excited anticipation and a small amount of “I’m not all that familiar with their work” nervousness that your humble scribe arrived at the Camden Underworld, keen to see out the drab grey month of October with some ferocious band watching. However, thanks to a combination of bad food and bad planning on my part, I only arrived at the Camden Underworld at around 9pm but just in time to see 11 Paranoias hit the stage.
11 Paranoias have a brilliant collective intelligence and their approach to music making reflects this in spades. With interests that veer across supernaturally slow doom, stoner and psychedelia, 11 Paranoias treated a knowledgeable and discerning audience to an exercise in music-making that thrilled the head as much as the heart. What impressed about 11 Paranoias were three things: the crediting of their audience with intelligence, their air of mystery but, above all, the ability to shift gear and tenor at the drop of a – ahem – hi-hat. This was a set of rich, powerful tunes, held together by some exemplary playing and occasionally breathtakingly thrilling music. Rarely can the impending coming of Armageddon have sounded so ethereal or quite so odd.
Having not really known what to expect, aside from my Twitter feed telling me they’d been awesome at Roadburn Festival earlier this year, this was one of those gigs that could have gone either way. I should have had more faith; they were absolutely, unequivocally excellent and I’m a fool for having doubted them.
By the time Conan actually hit the stage at the absurdly late (says he showing his considerable age) time of 10.10pm you got the sense that this was going to be a show about validation. 2014 has been a good year for Conan and this show reinforced and reconfirmed exactly why. That brief moment in early March when every hipster in the land decided that this sludgy doom stuff was for them seems to have (thankfully) passed and this was an audience of the dedicated, the informed and the passionate. Pretty much every journalist will tell you how a band hit the ground running but, honestly, opening your set with a pounding and relentless Crown of Talons is just what the music doctor ordered. To follow it up with an equally brutal Total Conquest and Foehammer had everyone grinning from ear to ear whilst the band casually get down to the business of pounding you some more.
Particular mention should be given to new sticksman, Rich Lewis, who hits his drums as hard as anyone I’ve seen since that little old masked band from Iowa. It is an education and revelation to listen to him; he’s definitely added something to the band’s live power and the band’s cohesion is markedly improved.
As you might expect with latest album Blood Eagle (Napalm) still fresh in the mind, most of the set comes from those glorious grooves, but long-time fans will have welcomed the addition of an epic rendition of ‘Krull’ from Horseback Battle Hammer (Throne) and a seemingly neverending ‘Monnos’, which closed a set that was everything and more that you hoped it would be – irascible, irreverent, inimitable.