YAAROTH "The Man In the Wood"

By Dr. Abner Mality

I'm betting that my Wormwood compatriot Octopi Mills would love what YAAROTH is doing here. There is such a nostalgic glow over this record that anyone with a love of the past will float away to better days under its influence. Not only does it reach back to the elder days of early metal, heavy prog and English folk rock with a very pure sound, but it seems to venture farther back into a semi-mythic age of deep woods and simple living before the time of machines. A time the beautifully pagan cover art points toward.

It's really the doing of one man named Dan Bell, who performs most of the instrumentation here as well as singing and even creating that wistful cover art. Everything here with the exception of the drumming is his. As for YAAROTH's sound, it reaches back to the very earliest BLACK SABBATH and LED ZEPPELIN, mixed with pastoral and gentle folk in the vein of TULL and FAIRPORT CONVENTION. At its heaviest, it rivals CANDLEMASS. At its most mellow, it could be something from the age when "Greensleeves" was new. And it sounds true and authentic to those sounds without being forced.

Really just four tracks here, skipping over "Ancient Sea Town", which is just the ambience suggested by its name. "The Subterranean Stench" is true lumbering doom very much in CANDLEMASS mode, but one great difference is Bell's own voice, which can only be described as the rich and sweet tones of a medieval folk troubador. It gives YAAROTH a necessary difference to all its influences. On the last and longest track "Cassap", he gets a bit syrupy with his sing-song inflection and a bit wearying. Otherwise, he generally hits the right note. "God of Panic" begins with most serene and gentle folk, very TULL-like and featuring a flute. But the song gets progressively heavier and in the last third, Bell even tries distorted tones like a mild death metal or black metal singer.

"They Seek Baryba" is heavy prog with urgency and bite, a meandering but fascinating bit of proto-metal with SABBATH and ZEP touches. That leaves the 13 minute plus "Cassap", which is very much English folk rock in its approach and frankly, too long for its own good, with Bell's vocals becoming treacly as I mentioned above. But still it sounds like something genuinely from the late 60's/very early 70's, with even a theremin popping up.

This is quite the enchanting journey despite its minor faults and absolutely an excursion into somewhere green and hazy and untroubled by digital garbage and brutality for its own sake. A musical and mental vacation to the countryside...