Yamantaka // Sonic Titan – UZU
★★★ (out of 5 stars)
Yamantaka // Sonic Titan proves that sometimes biography should be avoided before listening to an album. Buddhist mythology, Kabuki imagery, First Nation chants, terrifying face paint, a self-coined genre (“Noh-wave”), hallucinogenic light shows … just reading about this Canadian art-rock ensemble could scare the bejesus out of anyone. Luckily, UZU draws open-minded participants right back in – even if this experimental rock opera ultimately suffers under the weight of its own lofty ambitions. Titanic prog-rock punctuates “Whalesong,” “One” and “Seasickness Pt. 2.” Meanwhile, “Hall of Mirrors” finds frontwoman Ruby Kato Attwood momentarily ditching her crystalline soprano in favor of guttural growls that complement Alaska B’s sludgy, industrial percussion. Downtempo tours de force “Seasickness Pt. 1” and “Saturn’s Return” lighten that mood, but it’s only on “Windflower” that YT // ST shakes off UZU’s conceit to plunge back into the cacophonous, knife-sharp sonic world summoned on the band’s self-titled debut. Hopefully such territory will be explored further in the future.