Ocean City, Maryland is known for many things… miles of sandy beaches, a really impressive boardwalk, amazing seafood and tons of family-friendly resort fun. That all makes it really surprising that in that very same town there exists a three-piece blackened sludge-meets-death metal band that is more reticent of what you might find at the bottom of a polluted commercial port than you would in one of the leading beach destinations on the East Coast. Yatra, Ocean City's own three piece, has returned with their fourth – yes fourth!! – full length record in the past three years. This newest LP is called Born Into Chaos, and it's eight nicely developed tracks that turn up the speed and add more intensity to the traditional Yatra formula.
Crafted during the pandemic, the band wasted no time putting this all together. And while it would have been "safe" to continue with their firmly entrenched sounds nested in bands like High on Fire and Warhorse, Yatra seemed much more poised to dive headfirst into the much vaster ocean of death metal. While they didn't throw their old sound off the pier, there is little doubt about the turn they ventured with as they really throw a lot of new song structures at the listener.
For existing fans, the first thing you're going to notice on this new record is the move away from the band's earlier forays in the slower doom and fuzz sonics. As apparent on tracks like "Reign of Terror," Yatra has sped the tempo up rather significantly and now relies much on more traditional death metal mores for song composition and overall sound. This includes the use of double bass drums, blast beats and some killer riffs on guitar that are going to be more accessible for those who tend to enjoy listening to bands like Nervosa, Morbid Angel and Abysmal Dawn (listen to "Terminate By the Sword" to hear the similarities in the guitar). Similar vibes exist on the title track and these are clearly mixed with some old school Sabbath and Candlemass elements as well.
Tracks like "Tormentation" have a really nice thick and chunky sound to them with Maria Geisbert's bass and Sean Lafferty's drums really matching Dana Helmuth's guitar expertly. This particular song is probably my favorite in terms of Lafferty's performance. The sounds of the crash and ride cymbals stand out here and add a really nice layer of texture.
"Death Cantation" shows the band's integration of speed with the comfort of the blues. It's a bit of a thrasher, that again, will surprise fans of the band's earlier records, but definitely in a good way. There's a killer solo in this song at the hands of Helmuth that has a strong stoner vibe to it. "Death Cantation" can easily become a fan favorite at their live shows, and perhaps, will get the pit moving.
While this is definitely an enjoyable record to listen to, there are some aspects that I think the band might want to work on in future releases. First, there's a bit too much repetition with certain riffs and sounds and while this is familiar in the stoner and doom genre, as the band more closely embraces death metal, Yatra is going to want to cut down on the repetitive riffs a bit and continue to move even further with the times changes and diversity in tempo. A bit more diversity in sound will go a long way. Secondly a bit more mix in the vocal would be welcome as well. The vocals have a tendency to hide a bit and they don't need to as Helmuth really is a solid vocalist with a voice that clearly matches the music. Additionally, I might also suggest shaving a bit of time off some of the tracks. As labelmates Undeath have showed us, sometimes less is more in the death metal genre.
Overall, Born into Chaos has significant heft to it. It has balance and a great deal of accessibility. There's a lot to really dig into here and some really great surprises. I look forward to continuing to hear this band continue to evolve and grow.