YURT is a band veiled in mysticism (at least that’s what their bio would lead you to believe), with the band members being referred to as “sonic elders”, and an agenda for “conducting experiments in the broader field of progressive noise”. Well, that’s a tad oddball and different regarding a definition of sound, but isn’t that what the essence of progressive music should be rooted in? Ireland’s YURT are content filling a more underground and experimental sound that defies the norms of the current musical landscape.
So what is this expansive sound I speak of? Well to put it into terms that might make sense in a past/present description, picture the band taking influence from the old guard of experimental and spacey prog rock (like the legendary Hawkwind) and meshing it with current sludgy and furious prog metal (such as classic Mastodon). On paper it sounds like a natural meshing of eras.
Upon hearing the introductory track “A Lesion In The Chrysalis”, an atmospheric and robotic opening with an almost light death-march, I start to feel a sense of the sound starting to take some shape. “Parasitic Cabal” takes on a fairly repetitive approach, but the drive and persistence keep it very interesting and enthralling. Light guitar solos near the nine-minute mark solidify a bold stamp on the bottom-heavy sonic underbelly of the song. “Sjambok” takes on a disjointed and jagged approach to the rumbling riff mastery, but it works so well. Relentless individual guitar and bass notes pummel the eardrums and leave you wondering when the sonic assault will be over, in the most pleasing way. It’s totally hypnotic and is almost trance-inducing when bobbing your head and trying to concentrate of the flurry and delivery of the song.
And where the band had me totally locked in and interested for the first half of the album, I find the formula not being as endearing on the second half. “Ruptured By The Shrapnel” likens itself to a military march with demented synthesizers shocking your synapses. Where “Parasitic Cabal” was captivating in it’s repetitiveness, the same merits can’t be translated to this song. Perhaps the over 16 minutes in length could’ve been trimmed down significantly to not wear the listener out. “Unknown Component” offers nothing really new to the album’s sound. It has it’s moments, but the depressive tone to the song makes the band take a step back instead of going forward. It has it’s moments, but it doesn’t help to keep the momentum going. By the time I reach the final track “Testament Zero”, which is more upbeat and driven than the bulk of the second-half of the album, I’ve grown somewhat tired of the sound.
I’ll make the point that when a current band takes on a prog sound that’s heavily rooted in seventies space and stoner rock vibes, it doesn’t always end well. On the positive side, the psychedelic meets stoner rock sound with a sludgy, fuzzy undertone is done as well as most bands could execute. It’s not a polished and squeaky-clean product, which adds a lot of warmth and genuine appeal to the song structure. However on the negative side of things, the fairly monotonous vocals (which are used sparingly) do nothing to accentuate the music and offer little depth. And the biggest drawback, as mentioned, is the general flow of the second-half of the album. Despite some bright spots, the last three tracks feel more like a chore to listen to than an exciting exploration, which was almost the complete opposite for the first-half.
While I can appreciate how much work must have gone into the songwriting process, I can’t help but feel like long song durations in progressive music should be an exciting destination for the listener and not a labored and anxious feeling. It should leave you guessing and surprise you and your senses. And this album did to start with, but I feel that cutting out a couple of tracks would’ve made this album much more exciting and would have given us a great representation of YURT as a whole.
01. A Lesion In The Chrysalis
02. Parasitic Cabal
04. Ruptured By The Shrapnel
05. Unknown Component
06. Testament Zero
Playing time: 58:00
Release date: 28 May, 2016
Website: Official Yurt Website