I always feel a particular emotion when I start to listen to a new album: the brief moment that passes from when I push the play button to the moment in which the first notes are heard is always full of great expectations. And this kind of excitement is absolutely amplified when I’m in front of a debut album, as there are absolutely no references to predict what kind of music will be coming from the stereo. These feelings and all the associated expectations typically have a short duration, except for those rare cases when I come across something really special, as it was the case with Death Ritual, the debut album from a new promising formation called Yatra.
The press notes say that Yatra is a Maryland-based doom trio consisting of guitarist and singer Dana Helmuth, bassist Maria Geisbert, and drummer Mike Tull. I learned that “Yatra” is a native word of Nepal which means “journey”, or “pilgrimage”. And it’s really a sort of journey the one that you experience through the eight slow, oppressive but mystic songs that compose the album Death Ritual. The style of music style developed by Dana Helmut and his traveling companions has is in fact the capacity to take you away from the physical world an to project your mind into a magical dimension full of pagan rituals, dangerous spells, ancient legends and dark visions. But as it often happens with music, venturing into these obscure lands can be so thrilling and exciting that you want to repeat the experience as soon as the journey is over.
Musically speaking, Yatra offers a particular interpretation of the stoner doom genre. Just from the first minutes of the album you recognize that despite there are some clear references to bands like Ordos, Sleep and Electric Wizard, the album features so many original elements that their music, in the end, is something unique and also intriguing to hear. The songs of Death Ritual blend together the charm of ethnic sounds with the warmth of the American desert, and the recipe is further seasoned with southern influences and abrasive vocals. It seems complicated to explain with words, but the result on the contrary is a style of stoner doom that proceeds slowly and smoothly from the beginning to the end of the record, also because in effect there are no disappointing tracks in Death Ritual. The average level is absolutely high, with a couple of particulary good tracks.
In summary: the debut LP from Yatra was for me an absolutely happy surprise, and one of those encounters that renew the love I have for this genre of music. That’s a band which debuted with a very solid and interesting record, and we shall follow with attention their future steps. My rating is a solid 7/10.
My favorite songs of the LP are Smoke is Rising and Mighty Arrows.
If you liked this album, you can’t miss the playlist SLOWLY, where I’m collecting all the best and latest songs in doom, sludge and stoner doom. Listen to it, follow it and spread the word!