When Montreal-Toronto band Yamantaka // Sonic Titan’s first album, YT//ST, was shortlisted for the 2012 Polaris Prize, fans were left wondering if the group would be able to trump their critically appraised debut album. UZU is the answer to that question — it’s a volcanic yes.
Yamantaka // Sonic Titan’s style is a medley of each band member’s individuality and history from a mix of Eastern and Western cultures. UZU is a celebration of the band-members’ cultural heritages. It blends progressive rock, rock opera, narrative storytelling, melodic piano sequences and heavy metal grunge and tracks that could easily hail from any Japanese role-playing game soundtrack. Disparate elements meld seamlessly from start to finish, with surprising bursts of flair and individuality. While the album is meant to be listened in one sitting, the tracks are rich as stand alones with full drums, synthesizers and the occasional organ.
Yamantaka // Sonic Titan excels in carving a style that is difficult to label. Rather than generating confusion, their songs grip and inspire an otherworldly experience of a darker, grittier variety.
The first track, “Atalanta,” opens with a sombre piano, building to the entrance of Ruby Kato Attwood’s haunting soprano. By the time the guitar kicks in for “Whalesong,” the album finds the raw power that carries through the other eight tracks. UZU winds down in the last 45 seconds of “One Saturn’s Return,” leaving the listener with the lull of falling rain and the impression of a retreating tempest.
Everything from the cover album’s depiction of a lone Kabuki figure standing in front of an assortment of sea monsters, to the track names, to the sheer oomph, makes UZU an album worth listening to.