Review Summary: Noh, really
Yamantaka // Sonic Titan burst unto the internet buzz machine in 2011 with their debut LP, YT // ST, a sludgy, yet spacious output that draws from as many decades as cultures. For all of the stoner rock moments, there are just as many Japanese gibberish lyrics and distorted samples resembling throat singing. The album’s centerpiece, “Reverse Crystal // Murder of a Spider” opens with an ethereal distorted sample and then takes a hard left turn into a psychedelic rocker that morphs between ideas and influences with reckless abandon.
The band’s new release, Uzu, is significantly more colorful and incorporates a more narrative sense than its predecessor. The opening combination of “Atalanta” and “Whalesong” introduces a rumbling, epic scope that propelled forward by Ruby Kato Attwood’s angelic hymn for the titular character of the former and the instantly catchy main piano riff on the latter. This momentum drives into one of the strongest tracks on the record, “Lamia”, in which Ruby’s vocals sound as if they are ringing throughout a mountainous valley, accompanied by a disembodied stellar choir.
It is with the track, “Wildflower” that the record slows down and reaches its low point, from which it doesn’t recover until the end of the “Seasickness pt2”. This isn’t to say the middle of the record doesn’t have its strong points. “Hall of Mirrors” contains some brilliantly harsh vocal delivery and both parts of “Seasickness” have an enjoyable build up that unfortunately peters out before it hits a climax. However, given the trio it opens with and the trio it ends with, this section leaves something to be desired as nothing hits with the same poignancy.
On “Bring me the Hand of Bloody Benzaiten”, the grand atmosphere of the opening returns with a vengeance. A creepy atmosphere sets in, fueling Taiko drumming that gradually grows louder. “One” hits like a brick to the face and explodes into one of the year’s catchiest sung melodies. The band as a whole are at their strongest here and they created an opus that is dance inducing and stands on its own aesthetically.
As a whole, Uzu is a fantastic follow up to YT // ST that expands their sound further out from the stoner rock influences into more catchy, atmospheric territory. Despite the lackluster midsection, Alaska B’s drumming, which shines on “Seasickness pt2” is as impressive as ever and Attwood’s vocals form a greater piece of the overall picture. The band as a whole incorporates a wider variety of influences into an even more impressive record.