Review: Yatra ‘All Is Lost’

Some of the best albums ever are firmly rooted in the time and place they were made. Whether that be the first three Clash albums and their comment on the political situation in the UK in the late 70s, or the early Grateful Dead recordings which are inescapably linked to the acid tests of the 60s. The same of course can be said of some steaming turds such as those curled out by Limp Bizkit; who’s brand of meat-headed jock-metal could only have come out of the late nineties and early two-thousands.

Yatra 'All Is Lost'

Yatra’s All Is Lost was released by Grimoire Records on 9th October 2020 and is certainly a product of its time and place. Thankfully I can confirm that it is firmly at the Clash end of the scale so clumsily described above!

This is the Maryland trio’s second full release of 2020 – which is certainly comment-worthy in these days of waiting years and sometimes a full decade between releases. Following the release of their previous album, Blood Of The Night, in late January 2020 the band were busy making a list of what to pack into the tour van when the prospect of a worldwide pandemic came rampaging like a bull in a china shop through all of their plans.

Rather than resorting to watching Netflix for fifteen hours a day, Yatra took this twist of fate as an opportunity; an opportunity to go straight back into the studio and show us all how a band can develop and mature within a matter of just six months. So, it’s this time and place – global pandemic – with a backdrop of frustration with the current political landscape in the US – that has so clearly informed the music that fills All Is Lost.

Yatra’s sound is a really interesting mashing together of sludge, old-school doom, and black metal. Whilst this may not sound like a particularly unique combination, Yatra take things two steps further by adding in elements of slide guitar – still on a huge and filthy electric guitar – but in a way that adds real emotional clout to the music; matching the lyrical tone perfectly.

As a follow-up to Blood Of The Night this is altogether dirtier, more aggressive and more varied. The last record (whilst still a very good album – After The Ravens being the stand out track!) feels quite safe when played back to back – this album really is a huge jump in quality and maturity. The guitar work in particular pulls on many more influences without ever overtly shouting ‘here’s the sabbath bit’ or ‘here’s the EyeHateGod riff’. In terms of useful comparison, I found myself reaching for an Acid Bath record having been put in just the right mood by All Is Lost. The vocal style is very different, but the combination of filth and melody really does remind me of those two classic Acid Bath albums. Essentially this is a record made in Baltimore, but it positively reeks of the Louisiana swamp!

this is a record made in Baltimore, but it positively reeks of the Louisiana swamp…

The first two tracks, All Is Lost and Winter’s Dawning, are an unrelenting introduction. This is where the sludge is at its blackest and the riffs and vocals at their most direct. Tyrant Throne then comes rumbling through your speakers – the riff slows and the drums are at the forefront. This is where the variety in pace and also changes in vocal style kick-in – all bets are off from hereon in!

One For The Mountain is driven by a really effective use of slide guitar – it just gives the whole song a bluesy feel and changes the tone of the record so effectively. We go from the pure spite of the first tracks to a sound of far greater complexity, and the vocals of Dana Helmuth ebb and flow with the track brilliantly. Blissful Wizard then starts with a sitar…it’s a clever touch which in itself (it only lasts fifteen seconds) shows how much care and artistic flair has gone into the production of these songs.

The confidence of Yatra is shining through – maybe the almost back to back recording sessions have brought about that willingness to take risks in some songs and in others contentment with the fact that sometimes a great riff is enough to carry a song. Talons Of Eagles takes us back closer to black metal, Eyes Of Light brings with it some classic metal riffs with real melody, and the final two journeys into sound bring everything you’ve heard so far together. ‘Twas The Night harks back to the Acid Bath comparison, with a slow and sombre riff and a pained vocal performance, and Northern Lights brings back the slide guitar, the thundering drums and for me is the highlight of the album.

It’s an album that sounds wonderfully live. The drums have a really satisfying resonance and the guitars have a natural sound (no artificial wall of guitars here!). It flows like a great live performance too. I’m normally someone who balks at those ‘we’re gonna play the whole of our new album’ shows, but in this instance I can honestly say it would work.

Clearly Yatra aren’t going to be visiting a stage near you any time soon (godammit!), but if that means they hide themselves away again this winter and produce some more songs like these then hallelujah!  And when they do finally get back in the van, you should do yourself a favour and go and experience some pure 2020 US lockdown sludge…sometimes the most dirty, filthy and heavy music is the most cathartic \m/

Label: Grimoire Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: David J McLaren