Review Summary: It's easily worthy of the mounds of hyperbolic praise that it never received.
Where do you start with Yaphet Kotto? Put simply, they are the most consistently brilliant emotive hardcore act that you have never heard of. Formed in 1996 in Santa Cruz, California and releasing just three LPs in their ten-year lifespan, I suppose it is unsurprising that they slipped by mostly unnoticed. As with a large number of bands who are lumped into the “emo/screamo” genre, it is often only retrospectively that they are appreciated as much as they deserve.
Perhaps so far, my praise seems excessive; allow me to explain. The issue with the majority of debut LPs is their lack of refinement. Sometimes, there is passion but no emotion; at other times there is beauty without any real soul and occasionally there is intensity without direction. The perfect balance is almost impossible to find but on “The Killer Was…” Yaphet Kotto produced a seemingly flawless record easily worthy of the mounds of hyperbolic praise that it never received.
The first track, “First Meetings Agreement” acts almost as a miniature version of the rest of the album. The casually intertwined guitar melodies create a lush texture and there is a gorgeous fluidity despite the intricacies of some of the riffs and drum fills. As far as vocals go, there is a range from the softly-sung duet parts to the passionate and heart-felt deliveries that are commonplace amongst bands in the genre. But they are far from typical in their nature. The vocals can come across as intense but also as nonchalant purely as a result of subtle changes in their delivery and the result is jaw-dropping.
One distinctive feature of “The Killer Was” and also Yaphet Kotto in general is their fantastic ability to give each song the perfect flow. Not a single moment feels rushed or dragged out but effortlessly fits into the masterpiece. The astonishingly mature sound that is the final product has influenced countless bands and is undoubtedly a classic.