Friday 10 May 2024

Yaşru - Bilinmeze (2024)

Country: Turkey
Style: Doom Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 20 Apr 2024
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Yaşru have been around since 2009 and they play doom metal with occasional folk elements and an atmospheric overlay. This is their sixth album, but it's my first by them and I'm impressed. I do like my doom and I like it even more when it crosses into folk metal, as this does often. Both Dünya and Gün Batımında open with long intros of Berk Öner playing ethnic Turkish instruments and I'd be up for listening to both these songs even if they didn't eventually heavy up with metal crunch. There's also a clean vocal in the latter, and it becomes more frequent as the album runs on, making for an additional obvious folk element.

Initially, Öner, who sings and plays guitar in addition to those ethnic instruments, sings harsh, but it's a growl that aims for texture rather than aggression. Sometimes it's forceful and sometimes gentle, but it has a rich timbre that reminded me of Seigneur V. Sangdragon from Winds of Sirius, a French gothic metal band I wish had recorded more than one album. This approach continues to grow with the album too, perhaps most evident on the title track, when it's a gentle rumble that's happy to play with emphasis under the atmospheric keyboard overlay.

Dünya is a wonderful opening track, the longest song on the album at a breath over eight minutes and one that builds over that time. After that folk intro, it finds a groove and milks it, with Öner's voice gradually growing as it goes, initially buried so deeply in the mix that it seems to be more of a texture than a delivery mechanism for lyrics but eventually taking over as the focal point. Much of the groove comes from a repetitive riff, Öner's guitar merging with Ömer Serezli's bass, but an evocative keyboard layer keeps it constantly interesting.

I'm not seeing anyone credited on keyboards and it sounds far too electronic to count as another ethnic instrument, but those keyboards shape Yaşru's sound far more substantially than I thought on a first listen. They never seem to do anything flash, just add a slowly dancing texture over what the traditional instruments are doing. However, the resulting combination draws us into an almost trance state and we start imagining that it's doing things that I seriously doubt it's actually doing, like veering into choral effects. I'm pretty sure they're not there, but I kept hearing them anyway.

Bilinmeze translates from the Turkish as Into the Unknown and there's some of that here, Kozmik Yolculuk being roughly what you think it is, a Cosmic Journey. However, unknown here felt like the shadowy world of dream rather than the far reaches of space. These journeys aren't taking us just to somewhere we've never been, which the folk elements might suggest, but a different world on which the rules we're used to reality following simply don't apply. Certainly, time seemed to pass at a different rate while I listened. It's not a particularly long album, at just over half an hour, but it's at once over in a blink and substantial enough to last forever.

Maybe that's partly because Yaşru don't seem to vary what they do but actually evolve across the course of the album. Dünya has that ethnic intro, but it finds its groove and pretty much stays on it throughout, Kozmik Yolculuk following suit. When Gün Batımında shifts back to the ethnic intro approach, we think we're looping back to hear another Dünya, but it adds the clean voice that's a nudge further into folk metal. That returns on the title track and, by the time Son Nefes wraps up the album, appropriately enough given that it means Last Breath, we start to wonder how much of the vocals were clean. Over the first half of the album, not a heck of a lot. Over the second half, surely a far more considerable amount.

I liked Dünya immediately and I keep coming back to it, but the other songs keep growing on me. Bilinmeze is a full minute shorter and it seems to have a much simpler groove, but it won't leave me be. I fall into it every time through, never mind that I don't understand the Turkish lyrics and never mind how much more I notice Serezli's elegant bass runs on each subsequent listen. It's just hypnotic to me, perhaps even more than the album as a whole. So I'll call out Dünya and Bilinmeze as highlights, along with Gün Batımında, which means At Sunset.

Three highlights out of five means an 8/10, I think, and I don't want to move on to something else. This album is already becoming an old friend. I have a feeling I might be coming back to this often for feelgood purposes. I feel acutely comfortable in its company but it also refuses to let me think too deeply about it. It's one of those albums that will always be there, doing its thing regardless of what I might want but bleeding closer into my veins as it does so. Now I have five earlier albums to explore to see how Yaşru got to this sound. I look forward to the yolculuk.

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