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Album Review: Yatra – Death Ritual

As indicated by their Himalayan-inspired moniker, Yatra takes a rather exotic approach to doom metal. The Maryland trio’s debut full-length Death Ritual generally opts for sluggish tempos and gradual moody buildups, but specific influences are very tricky to pinpoint. The bright guitar tone is evocative of open landscapes while the bass and eastern-sounding drones have an often-shadowy aura. The drums keep things moving along in a methodical fashion, but there’s a sense that things are not as clear as they may seem.

With this stage set, guitarist Dana Helmuth’s vocals prove to be an uncanny curveball. His voice has a very serpentine character to it, low-pitched and subtly placed in the mix, yet too melodic to quality as a death grunt and too hoarse for a hardcore shout. It’s rather one-dimensional and there are times where I could imagine some higher-pitched vocals contrasting it, but the undeterred rasps make for an interesting and unsettling experience.

Once you get used to that aspect of the band, you’ll find some solid songcraft here. The tracks do admittedly run together at times, understandably so since all they opt for exclusively slow tempos, but there are some winners here. I especially like “Snakes in the Temple” and “Mighty Arrows” for their more grandiose executions and intertwining guitar/bass work. Even the lesser tracks flow together well. If Death Ritual isn’t an outright concept album, then I could very easily see the band pulling one off in the future.

Yatra already demonstrates a unique sound on their full-length debut album. The slow and atmospheric are common mainstays in doom metal, but the band’s exotic touches in combination with the creepy-ass vocals give them a sound all their own. I’d like to see the band explore different aspects of their sound even more on follow-ups, but I get a feeling that this’ll end up growing on me soon enough.

Highlights:
“Snakes in the Temple”
“Smoke is Rising”
“Mighty Arrows”

Editor Grade

B+

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