By Dr. Abner Mality
Lordy, lordy, what have we here? First things first, YAWN is hardly the most exciting or attention-grabbing name for a band. But then again, everything this Norwegian collective does is off the beam, so in that way, it fits. As for music, this cannot be described with one simple term, but improvised, instrumental metal played almost in free jazz style is vaguely close enough. It is prog metal in a broad sense, but it certainly is no DREAM THEATER or OPETH knock off.
One very smart thing YAWN does is break their music into smaller chunks that are easily digestible. The songs on “Materialism” are all short, with nothing reaching the four minute mark. But the amount of non-conformist, sometimes harsh sounds that are crammed into those short movements is pretty extreme. And the songs tend to bleed into each other as well, creating the image of a larger whole.
I’ve never heard such off the wall drum and bass playing, with the exception of complete noise. The players are super tight but never work in orthodox time. They almost seem to be playing against each other. There’s a fair amount of MESHUGGAH style polyrhythmic hammering going on...first track “Cement III: Gobsmack” seems determined to out MESHUGGAH MESHUGGAH with its staccato assault...but it often turns into something different. There are vast soundscapes of synth and guitar tones that can range from dreamy to nightmarish.
There are too many idiosyncrasies going on here for a sane man to list. Suffice to say, YAWN keeps things in a constant state of flux and the listener is never quite sure what the next song is going to bring. Some will see “Materialism” as a chore, others as a challenge. If you’re up to the challenge of unpredictable freeform mutant metal, this might be an exciting prospect.