Yatra – Death Ritual

The word yatra is a Himalayan term referring to a spiritual journey or pilgrimage. Locking themselves in a primitive forest cabin for a three-month creative process, it’s a term that seems pretty apt for Maryland’s Yatra, a Doom trio formed by Dana Helmuth of Blood Raven fame. Death Ritual (Grimoire Records) is the band’s debut album and is as harsh, gloomy yet stimulating as that process must have been.

Right from the start the sombre resonance is bone-shaking, the evil groove of ‘Hour Of The Dragon’ slow and weighed sown by sarsen stones, Helmuth’s rasping growl at times threatening and vicious. The warping bass of Maria Geisbert is a prominent factor here, ‘Black Moon’s unearthly trammel being led by four strings howling and fizzing with the depth of an Imperial Plum Porter. The crushing ‘Sacred Flower’ sees those unfathomable notes underpinned by Mike Tull’s colossal stickwork, with Helmuth’s rasp growing ever more dry.

Despite this, the pace still displays a high level of fluidity and groove, but this is temporarily eradicated by the Blackened Doom of ‘Snakes In The Temple’, a funeral battery enlivened by scratched, wailing leadwork and the command of that phenomenally powerful rhythm section.

The ensuing ‘Smoke Is Rising’, meanwhile, has flavours of Hendrix, High On Fire and Deep Purple: an incredibly heavy, pulverising bedrock supporting a slow sway and some Bluesy leadwork, Helmuth’s throat spewing ash. The monumental ‘Four Directions’ pulsates with a dark determination, the beat swinging like a mammoth on the dancefloor, the cadence stirring and sensual, the delivery dominating and nefarious.

‘Mighty Arrows’ rolls in where ‘…Directions’ leaves, a fulminating beast with links to Conan’s Caveman Doom yet more agile and, remarkably, more savage thanks to those vocal razors. Closer ‘Sailing On’, a Doom wrecking ball, epitomises the album as a whole: a bludgeoning, pensive floor-filler, it’s lead-infused explosion at the three-quarter mark creating a euphoric yet marauding wall of sound.

It’s rare to hear an album like Death Ritual: slow yet sexy, monstrous yet joyous in its inducement of bodily jerks, it looks Omen in the face with a hooding of the eyes, a lascivious grin and a lick of the lips. It’s feasting time in the woods, and Yatra is leading the way.

8 / 10