Written by Kep
>Yatra – Born into Chaos
>Released June 10, 2022
>via Prosthetic Records
A question for those readers who are already familiar with Yatra’s material: do you enjoy their delightfully sludgy, fuzzed-out take on riffy stoner doom? You do, right? Well fuck you, Yatra doesn’t play that shit anymore.
It’s not a bad thing though, believe it or not. The band has returned to their roots, frontman Dana Helmuth says, and even though this new-but-old approach is no longer doom and is instead an immense and sludge-tinged form of old school death metal, it’s still everything you should know to expect from Yatra: riffy as all hell, tightly composed, and monstrously heavy. It’s a different beast but a familiar one, and it’s a triumph of a preemptive rejuvenation of their sound.
Honestly, when the promo pack hit my inbox with the words “death metal trio” in the opening line I assumed it was a mistake. Then I read that they decided to go old school death, and that they almost changed the band’s name because of the drastic change in sound, and I raced to get Born into Chaos into my ears. And so I sat there grinning like an idiot for 38 minutes while Yatra crammed a metric shit ton of immensely satisfying OSDM riffs and sludgy blackened howls directly my brain. The biggest benefit of moving away from doom is readily apparent: there are MORE RIFFS per song now, which is absolutely the right move for a band whose riffage was already elite. If you worship at the altar of riffs, and you know I damn well do, boy howdy is this the album for you.
So what does it sound like when a stoner doomsludge band goes full death metal without any reservations? Picture a enormously thick mix despite only a trio texture, deceptively straightforward old school death riffs that groove hard, a smattering of meter and tempo shifts, and hellish blackened vocals. Now light the whole package on fire with a level of intensity that feels like the band is about to burst through the speakers and immolate you on the spot. That’s Born into Chaos in a nutshell, and every song is Exhibit A. The title track is an excellent example: it kicks off with a repeating six-beat riff that circles over and over again, then drops into a headbanging chugfest of the highest order. It’s not a complicated song—there’s a fresh triple-meter riff when the chorus hits and a hell of a tasty solo later, and that’s it for the material—but it’s got hooks and teeth for days. It’s a satisfying distortionfest of a jam that will not leave your ears once it’s in there.
That’s the MO here: Yatra takes the ultra-competent and focused riff-writing that defined their previous work, speeds it up, and turns the bludgeoning dial to 11. Born into Chaos is an 8-hit combo of boulder-sized fists to the face; no need to get precious when you can throw haymakers as hard as these folks can. You’ll find that the 38 minutes feel like about the perfect length, too, not too short as to feel weak but not so long as to overstay the album’s welcome. From the evil swinging and battering of “Death Cantation” to the back-and-forth meters of “Wrath of the Warmaster” to the gnarly ripping chugs of “Tormentation”, everything feels related and similar while the tracks still hold their own. I’ll admit that the record is a bit one-note, with the fuzzy distortion, heavy mid-tempo grooves, and blistering vocals keeping each track in the same general soundworld, but whether or not that’s a negative will vary from person to person; the songs are distinct even if they have similar feels.
There’s a ton of things to love, even if the band isn’t at the highest level of refinement in this musical vein yet. Drummer Sean Lafferty, who’s been in the band since 2020 but is the only current member that isn’t original, absolutely mashes the shit out of those drums. The snare hits are visceral gutpunches—check out “Terrorizer” and feel how those pops are like a swift jab to the mouth—and his work on the rest of the kit follows suit, bass drum thumping through the speakers and the toms and cymbals sounding like they could break at any second. Bassist Maria Geisbert is a rock just like she was on the previous three albums, doing more than just simply doubling the guitars but staying mostly in the under-appreciated but paramount support role, filling out the sound with a robust bottom end presence. And Dana Helmuth’s riffs, solos, and vocals are the stars of the show, of course. His axework is plenty impressive for reasons I’ve already mentioned—the solos especially are a down home, old school delight—but his vocals have taken a particularly acerbic turn, filled with extra vinegar as he hoarsely screams emphatic blackened bullets of wickedness.
A special shoutout goes to veteran recording engineer Noel Mueller, who managed to keep Yatra’s characteristically thick guitar tone and overall texture mostly intact despite the stylistic shift. There’s less space in the mix by necessity because the music is much busier now, but it never feels oversaturated and the fat fuzz of the guitar and bass hits the damn spot. Riffs like the violently swaying main line in “Omens of Fire” and moments like the solo section in “Reign of Terror”, where Helmuth’s guitar wails and weaves above a flood of vicious chugs, wouldn’t hit nearly as hard without the great recording and mixing.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This new version of Yatra is meaner and leaner than the previous iteration, so don’t let the change turn you off. Born into Chaos is still riff city, and the intense lacerating violence of their sludge-influenced take on OSDM is immensely satisfying. You can consider me a bigger fan of their new sound than I was of the previous one, and I highly recommend you check it out.