Brace yourself… my name is David, and I am NOT a big Death Metal fan. I’ll be honest – I find the genre rather stifling and restrictive. I love some of the original classics of the genre, but to my mind, it has never really gone anywhere. I’m seemingly only ever really interested in the albums where everyone says, ‘they aren’t death metal anymore’, so it’s perhaps inevitable that it won’t go well if I review a record where the band have said in the press release that they are going back to their death metal roots!
Yatra frontman and guitarist Dana Helmuth says, ‘Born Into Chaos is just old-school death metal with some blackened sludge thrown in’, and I’d agree with his assessment entirely. Therein lies the problem for me; it’s just old-school death metal. If that’s what I want to listen to then I’ll pull out a Morbid Angel record – I won’t buy something new that essentially does the same thing. I suppose it could be argued that the same could be said for any album or artist that falls firmly into the confines of one particular genre. However, I’m struggling to recall the last time a band said ‘we’ve gone back to our roots’ and ended up producing a truly great album.
For Yatra though we can’t say they are resting on their laurels or going back to basics, because quite frankly over four full-length studio albums they’ve essentially moved from stoner to sludge, to death, so there is certainly no criticism for falling into a rut!
One element of Yatra’s sound has remained pretty consistent throughout their four albums, and that’s the vocals. They have always been of the blackened-death-growl variety, and against the background of the earlier albums, this provided a real point of contrast as there aren’t too many sludge bands that go to this extreme. When we come to death metal though, Yatra’s vocals are par for the course, so they are no longer a selling point really.
Other than the vocals though, pretty much everything else has seen a marked shift. The tempos are much higher. The drumming no longer slithers behind the beat, but instead blasts and rides on a near-constant drive of double kick drum. The riffs are suitably relentless and come thick and fast. But despite the sheer number of riffs that Yatra throw at us, I did find myself struggling to recall and decipher one track from another, even after five or six listens. For an album that is thirty-eight minutes long, this is an issue.
The riffs are suitably relentless and come thick and fast…
The title track and Terminate By The Sword are the two songs that I found myself going back to. Born Into Chaos is probably the definitive track on the album (perhaps unsurprising that it was adopted as the album title then), whereas Terminate… has the most memorable riffs and perhaps strays closest to their previous style.
The production is okay but lacks a little of the clout that the album needs. Don’t get me wrong, 2020s All Is Lost was no Dark Side Of The Moon when it came to sonic sparkle, but it had an element of clarity in the mix which Born Into Chaos misses. Having said that, many of the early classics of the death metal genre have a very boomy bass sound and an almost mono presentation, so many aficionados may relish the sound.
We don’t give review scores here at The Shaman, but if we did, I don’t think it would come as any surprise that I’d be reaching to the left-hand side of my keyboard. However, if you are a fan of old-school death metal and can never get enough of the stuff then feel free to assume that Born Into Chaos is going to score somewhere nearer your U-key. Some of you will happily bang your head to this album for months to come, and more power to you. For me though, I’ll be going back to listen to Yatra’s wonderfully sludgy All Is Lost album whilst wondering which direction they’ll go in next!
P.S. Yatra’s development within the sludge genre on albums one to three was huge… so here’s hoping that their old-school new sound turns into something equally impressive just as quickly.
Scribed by: David J McLaren