Yautja’s debut LP Songs of Descent is remarkable. It is unexpected, indeed unforgettable and inventive. Even contending with the overpowering influence of Gaza, Kiss It Goodbye, and Great Falls; giants, and a genre that allows little wiggle room.
This infuriated hybrid grind group has blossomed in imaginative, intoxicating new forms of nucleic aggression as is clearly and confidently expressed on Songs of Descent.
You should verse yourself in what Yautja (yowt-juh colloquially / e-wat-ya according to wiki, the Predator) have been fermenting prior to this leap in addictive, wretched sludgy grind, because you’ll find that their toiling has born much delicious fruit in the recent past. I raved on this not long ago so refresh yourself.
It was upon hearing their split with Enabler on Burnt Bridges Records when Yautja’s sound seemed like an exciting grind gem to me. It was an immediately enticing and discernibly different form of brutal beauty that hooked me good.
When I got to the demo released by Tapes of a Neon God I was further surprised by this twisting but focused sound where the grind was clearer but the demented underbelly still was glimpsed. This dimension is at it’s most vivid on Songs of Descent.
At this point they’re one of my favorite recent discoveries, reminding me of Dephosphorus in their posture and focused fluidity within the genres, their instant click in my brain. The Nashville three piece sound far different from Dephosphorus mind you, and stand a good distance even from quasi-closer relatives like Kiss It Goodbye, or even further Idylls or Great Falls.
So don’t get me wrong. I think the core commonality is the head-turning aspect driven with care, patience and skill and fastened to a clear intent to express something genuine strongly in controlled chaos.
They both have done something exceptional from their first release onward with the established sounds and textures that cross often these day, but both of their expressions of it is striking and distinct.
Anyway, once I dove into what they’ve done on Songs of Descent this view was cemented in my mind: I was and still am fucking knocked over by this record, thinking I had been well-braced. It will be with me long ofter this year is over and is an early contender for album of the year. There’s hardly a blemish in the fourteen surreal death knells they’ve etched into wax this year.
Let’s start with the brightening of their sound. On this nicely produced release, the considerate hands of Dark Art Audio has really helped enrich each sharp edge in every bent string and contorting gallop from Shibby Poole, in the crust and blood in the hoarse vocals from all three alternating, in the pungent bass lines Kayhan Vaziri fractures skulls with, and finally the robust percussion Tyler Coburn brings to every track.
Especially that last element which I’ll beat like a dead horse now and later: fuckin’ awesome beats abound to keep you alert. Yaujta’s drumming was already a key link in their strength — really potent examples certainly in the split, “Dead Soil” — but now it’s at the front and tighter than before. Urgent, stimulating, skilled hammering that is impossible not to notice.
You hear it in the expanded volleys of grind from their demo spill over into the new material which was already mutating in their split, and finally reaching unexpected and captivating territory; again this new handling of their sound does so much for it.
And I remember when I first listened to the song “Dead Soil” off that 7″ split – the thing that struck me was not just the severe twists in styles, but the very visceral roars from whoever was performing them at the given time (Tyler in that instance perhaps?). On Songs of Descent all three guys continue this coarse treatment and double down, a hydra spewing the harsh reality down over the bizarre carnage their instruments channel.
Both Shibby and Kayhan clamp down their respective parts with precision. The guitar tone is lovely and the dark dripping bass stand crowded with the others in the center. Both remain equally lucid in a very volatile environment further nauseating through ominous-sounding riffs.
Lyrically the spectrum is covered well with some certain personal passion no doubt lurking in all aspects, added further to by those wholly grueling shouts and rasps in a distant ether. Some have a ’90’s hardcore loathing to them, but pointed more simply and less dramatically. I’ll get into them more individually below.
In their evolution it is commendable how Songs of Descent doesn’t abandon the grind and hardcore influence for a purely groove-oriented record. The two elements integrate smoothly and reinforce each other. At various points you feel the bite of the grinding past only more venomous now with the production and focus.
Speaking of: the material from the demo is reformed (all but the dirty Black Flag cover), beefed up and renewed here representing a strong chunk of the record. In those carnivorous sludge sways that alter the path from the grind they do not run long, their curses seem cast for a perfect amount duration.
Before getting into the other songs I’ll look at the 2011 stuff which has been substantially empowered here from the already vital state they were born in. That would start with “Blinders”, a song that focuses on willfully ignorant religiosity, and is a perfect example when contrasting their tape and LP versions to hear the subtle but important changes in musicianship and production.
Also retaining that grind frame and remaining the least abnormal but nonetheless intimidating song. Fluid tremolos break away into feral powerchord slides and eventually scratchy descents, the entire time the percussion is lighting up the atmosphere. That abrupt drumming in the beginning will immediately drag you into a hell storm.
“Concrete Tongue” lyrically slays riding the more traditional “fuck off” punk vibe, and the beefed up riffs and drumming really invigorate the grind. A huge return from this track and you’d be forgiven for thinking it new. Tearing through a minute with a fucking hugely climactic moment of shredding and pummeling even more stunning than the first time I heard it.
“Tar and Blindness” just further illustrates the point that nothing here is filler — the significant upping in focus in terms of the drums on this song (now changed at key marks), as well as the better production, which fleshes out their meaty sound better than the demo could. From that wicked bass lick in the beginning it sounds like it’s going to be a bouncy punk trip, but that changes quickly.
You get this in wrecking-ball doses at the middle point a minute in and again at the end with the return of this magnificent, tumbling section. Following scraping chunky palm-mutes on the second go, when the guitars drop out for a second time and the drums are left, it’s not only different, it’s notably more powerful. It’s a stand out difference from the quality of the demo, legitimizing to potential critics it being alongside the new stuff.
On “Teeth” we hit the last of the demo songs haunting this LP so well, and holy shit. Not only is vehement grind retained, they amp up the intimidating beginning, which remains strong in my memory. It repeats once, both times the percussive element is busy, forceful and clear. A perfect example of how key the drums are. The end picks up on the more traditional attack of grind like WAKE is brewing these days.
They pack so much into this minute and seventeen seconds I’m astonished, and that’s an ‘old’ track. Here it sounds so refreshed you’d have to be really picky to complain about reuse.
Rolling back to comparisons for context’s sake. As clear as that grind foundation is in Yuatja, they’ve progressively gotten more darkly elaborate. Gaza, Great Falls and now more so than ever Yautja all stalk Rorschach’s grimy, asymmetrical phantom imprint while ending up meddling in extremely fissure-filled metal. And in these elements Yautja indulge them well and with more assured (involved) success than others. The style is catchy by a margin and they don’t make it sound at all pretty either. This rings completely from the outset on both the creeping build of “(Path of Descent)” that patiently expands until terminal with malice
That song transforms in a slither into the life-exstingushing “Denihilist”, a song that is such a crystallized example of the blooming new outlet their heaviness has grown into. Focusing on denial of truth from the beginning these slides and bends smoothly drive each moment deeper into your consciousness, drowned yells providing personal context to the pained sounds. The mood is hostile and this section really grabs me. When it’s matured, at the midpoint it becomes reactive and returns to a quicker, rawer approach in grind. The beginning rhythms turning into panicked tremolos and then a fury filled reiteration that wilts into the demo material.
“Faith Resigned,” themed around anti-theism, follows up on the promises the two intro tracks left us with and expands into a slower, consuming ritual. It’s difficult to get this opening series of riffs and percussive battery out of your head. This beginning moments are so killer, choppy, full of friction darkness. It was also the second track to be streaming and really emphasizes their sludgy side with a nice helping of angularity. The rhythm is recurrent throughout this song, returning after a attack, following a thicker assault from those ugly grooves; bringing the bass crashing into the frontier. At around four minutes in, the ritual intensifies into a severe build, a marching floor laid underneath for a time with clamor leads floating behind the main groove. It’s noticeably lighter in tone here like a clearing, with solos drowning in and out, the drumming swiftly changes-up, and the vocals drop out until the return of the heavy parts.
“Path To Ground” is an ominous little pit-stop before the grinding fury of “An Exit”. Taking more from the old school hardcore graveyard and reanimating it with the love of dirge and sludge. The progression goes from introspective to heinous. It’s kinda brought back in the form of “A Cleansing Fire”. Waving in and out like a dying radio transmission, the thick growl of the guitars and sharp snap of the drums (more pronounced and animated on this take it seems) repeat for a short time there, while the rising noise offers a different break before the last song. This is also the only track recorded by Shibby in a separate place.
“An Exit” sees a return to the tremendous grind stomping ground on the earlier songs, kinda similar to “Losses” on the split — powering through alternate picked hurdles, whirling tremolos and slides while Tyler blitzes the whole track without pause.
Getting to track ten, which is seriously wicked, “A Crawl” sets up a two punch knockout with “Of Descent” following closely. “A Crawl” strongly brings one back to the Kiss It Goodbye/Rorschach comparisons for the first half: the roaring bass line Kayhan rolls out beside Tyler’s slightly relaxed beat and scrappy rhythms panging, until this huge wave of heaviness swallows the stage. It’s a gouging section that gets peppered between those more anxious moments, which get more wild and twangy by the third round. The heavy section eventually crumbles on the last throes, leaving a space for a moment — straight into a blazing grind very similar to their demo stuff and showing the flexibility they retain.
Hearing songs like “Of Descent”, probably my favorite right now next to “A Crawl”, shows this off impeccably. It’s titanic stomp from the start and only gets more nervous and shady as it shudders onward. Both Shibby’s riffs and Kayhan’s licks lay waste to this whole thing. The tremolo rise on the tail of this moment in each repeat adds such tension, and when the scraping rhythm that follows hits that first time it’s debilitating. After the first few repeats you’d think you’d have braced for whatever comes next and then this tremendous galloping, scratchy and palm muted and peppered with artificial harmonics, explodes. Tyler’s percussion remains steady as a particularly hypnotizing effect of warping the one channel’s riff in and out across the sound stage (much like in the split track “Human Den”, but louder) boosting the ominous, potent creep the moment already held.
In the coda the guitars drop out after a warped bridge, and Kayhan’s bass is left to froth on that same addictive riff in thundering glory over the feedback. Shibby comes back in the ratchet it up before the end. A stunning song really, this is some excellent shit and I could listen to it all day, when the vaporizing effect on the guitars begins phasing it in and out the riff gets even more intimidating. The space for the bass skirmish and the final passage of animosity just adhere to my brain. Disfigured, catchy and brutal
“Humility/Humanity” is another that attacks bigotry, more specifically racism. This confrontation is contrasted with the instruments, which remain less malignant and more playful for most of it’s two minutes. Bright drums splash in the start and the guitar/bass get a little more playful, sliding around, jumping sharply before a tumble and repeating. A really sweet open. Settling in when the beat quickens the rest combines a little of their bloodline to grindcore in a blaze of palm muted and abrupt jumps in rhythm. Tyler and Kayhan really pull it out in the final moments when Shibby drops for a few seconds; dual vocal duties making this end feel claustrophobic.
Then we hit the last song with “Chemical” regarding the chemical dependence (opiates here), where the substance is used as an escape from something deeper and this ultimately withers the person. Again Tyler busts this song wide open with a flurry of toms and snare, then the vocals rise following closely the searing tremolo as it minces its way to an amazing moment. It’s another moment showing that Yautja are hitting something no else is right now. Tyler brings some amazing percussion slamming between Shibby’s blistering one channel vortex and in tandem with Kayhan’s battery, expanding with confidence as it repeats, and the minor scrapes and pangs make it all the more brutal. Once this finished the song repeats from the top, and breaks away once it gets comfortable again into a classic barrage of semi-dissonant whipping, and mutates that further into groovy territory. There’s a moment where you think it’s over, but the guitars wail out and one more trip back to that visceral moment is made. Big drum rolls, riffs more distressing than originally on all parts, with a jarring fade.
I don’t really have a bad thing to say about this. I’ve been listening to it an unhealthy amount since the start of the year and it’s been a sickening comfort on good and bad days. I can see it being something to point to in the future as a classic. Yautja’s new record is an early and proud highlight this year and indeed of this recently begun new decade. The material heard here is impressive and quite unsettling.
Fans of dark, undulant, fissure-filled grindcore should order this from the great folks at Forcefield Records now or through Yautja’s bandcamp, because it is one of the best records this year. The pressing is currently limited on black splattered gold or flat white, however if you see them on tour you might be able to get a copy of their throwback cover cassette pressing.