Hyatari
The Light Carriers
2005
B



doom metal is usually an analogue affair, full of throbbing tube amps and strings detuned so low they're practically flapping. True acolytes of Black Sabbath wouldn't be caught dead with digital distortion in their signal chains. Keyboards are for wusses. It's all about simple electricity, space, and spirituality through cheap beer.

West Virginia's Hyatari defies this paradigm by unapologetically going digital. The liner notes of its debut album, The Light Carriers, credit this trio with not only the usual guitars and bass, but also "sequencing," "keyboards," and "samples." That's something you usually see only on industrial records. But there are no goth pretensions or attempts at accessibility here. This is doom metal through and through, just with some new sharp edges. Imagine Sleep or Southern Lord doom filtered through early Godflesh, and you pretty much have Hyatari.

It's impossible to overstate the influence of early Godflesh here. Huge, droning riffs? Heavily distorted harmonics? Battering ram drum machines? Small vocals reverbed way in the background? Check, check, check, and check. But, again, this is all in the doom framework. This 53 minute-long album begins with a full 12 minutes of low drones, feedback, and sound effects before any percussion appears. Drums creep in on the third track, but even then, the sounds keep building as layers of mechanized samples enter the mix. The album is really one long track divided into seven for easier identification, and things don’t drop until the fourth track. When they do, get ready for some major flashbacks, because the militant drum programming is straight-up Streetcleaner. But after the pounding comes an eerie clean figure out of nowhere. The intensity gradually recedes until the album jump cuts to a downright pastoral clean guitar. The electricity returns for "Harvesting Sod," a massive funeral march that juxtaposes thick, low riffs with higher-pitched, wounded noises that recall Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral. The drums then drop away, letting drones and vocal samples escalate to the majestic keyboard-driven finale.

One thing unique about Hyatari is the lack of conventional vocals. Occasionally there are sung vocals mixed way back, but by and large the main vocals here are field recordings, radio transmissions, and the like, a la Scanner. This shifts the emphasis from "song" to "sound," and gives the album a soundtrack-like quality

The only thing holding back The Light Carriers is its production. The album actually sounds pretty good for being self-produced almost two years ago. As such, it's merely heavy and clear, as opposed to the ten-ton behemoth it could have been. Something about the analogue and digital elements doesn't quite gel yet, but once Hyatari gets this mix down, the results will be crushing. Remember those 20-minute ambient feedback drones that ended Godflesh records back in the day? Hyatari is using those as starting points, and that's a very exciting thing.


Reviewed by: Cosmo Lee
Reviewed on: 2005-11-14
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