Behind this mountain — there’s a man. Yatra’s debut full length album Death Ritual allows listeners to establish themselves at the forefront of a massive musical creature as the band proceed through their sonically huge metal, and this scenario reflects vocalist/guitarist Dana Helmuth’s intent behind the music.
Although ultimately, an attachment to personal perspective in the midst of massive metal can go any number of directions, for Helmuth, his music circles back to the real and tangible. He hopes to himself continue to experience the songs live and have others along for the ride.
“It’s very powerful. I like loud amps and heavy drums — that sort of thing,” he explains. “It’s very powerful, like this religious experience when we play — and I like that. That’s what I’m interested in. I think sometimes the actual context of the end product as far as the medium that the music is on can be a mask for people to put on, but it can also take away from the more special experience when you hear it live, so I want to use that as a tool to push people to experience the live experience.”
Ironically enough, the immersive feel Yatra provide with their music reflects some of its origins. Helmuth traveled through Nepal some years ago when he first stumbled across what would become the name of his present project, which means “journey.”
He explains that in a real tangible sense, the locale where that came to him was dark and foreboding.
“I was traveling through Nepal, and I came across the word. Somebody told me I was on a yatra, but I didn’t know what it meant — but I was on a journey, and I always thought that would be a great band name. It was a very dark, medieval kind of place with sacrifices and very strange rituals, and it was just kind of a dark place that influenced me tremendously.”
Although we might not have predominant sacrifices in the West anymore — and they’re certainly rare anywhere on the globe, at that — we have our own brands of creeping waves of darkness.
Helmuth explains that during the writing process, bassist Maria Geisbert’s mother was dying. He lived in relative isolation in the Maryland countryside during Death Ritual‘s creation, and the locale gave him and his collaborators space to work.
“I seem to always be followed around by this darkness wherever I go,” Helmuth says. “I think maybe I needed a period of isolation. There were a lot of things going on during that time. Maria’s mother was dying, so that was a very dark thing to deal with, and that happened during the time of the recording and then coming out with this. It was all real stuff that was going on, and living in an isolated place gave us time to be able to deal with a lot of those things.”
The end result of the work to deal with those issues is available to the listener via Death Ritual, which does not stop with the purely practical.
“I like for the songs to not really be about anything that tangible — something more fantasy based, and bigger than we are in this place we are together,” Helmuth says. “I wanted to write about things that are more larger than life — not love songs or not political songs or anything like that.”
With Death Ritual, the listener can put themselves in a fantastical, larger than life environment wherever they’re at — and hopefully, that context is a live performance.
“We’re really into playing live,” Helmuth explains. “Our live show is really what we’re all about, and we do a lot of improvisations and songs going right into one another — that sort of thing. We really just want to keep this going and play to bigger audiences. We have a tour in March we’re excited about. We just want to bring this to people and connect to people personally. I want to be able to bring it to people and perform it and meet people.”
Listen below via Bandcamp — the full album releases January 4. Photo via Alyssa Maloof