The UK always seems to be on the cusp of what’s hot in music and they’ve done it again with blazing new rock band Yak. The band, consisting of Oli Burslem, Andy Jones, and Elliot Rawson, have fans and critics salivating with their chaotic, unchained sound. And why is that? Yak is chaos incarnate. They grabbed listeners by the throat with the No EP and now they’re tightening their grip with their debut album Alas Salvation, a schizophrenic record full of unbridled noise and auditory destruction.
From the roaring opening track “Victorious (National Anthem)” it’s clear Yak likes life on the wild side. Listeners are greeted with grueling guitars that growl and scream, while Burslem sounds sloppy as he lazily chants “victorious” during the hook. Everything about the track is raw like a garage band jamming out on a Friday night. “Hungry Heart” keeps the blood pumping with a tidal wave of rocking guitars coming straight for listeners. With the chugging chorus, drunken vocals, and hypnotizing wails it’s sure to be a song that’ll unleash chaos in the mosh pit. Things take a psychedelic turn on the gritty “Use Somebody” where things get chaotic and energetic as the song rushes towards its end. Burslem plays with his vocals, which he does on several songs, to add a distinctive flair. It’s another tear-the-house-down track.
After the creepy, ghostly “interlude i” there’s a sonic shift on the album. Whereas the first three tracks had Yak pegged as a punk rock group, the next track shrugs off the label. “Roll Another” has eerie vocals from Burslem along with a sparse acoustic guitar sounding like a haunting folk tune. Lyrics like “Hold me tight/my body is broken” pushes the song in a darker direction. But things don’t stay soft and mellow for too long as more ethereal sounds and noise slowly sneaks into the track. By the end it’s just all these different sounds clashing with one another making a beautiful destruction.
What makes Yak so exciting is how they don’t hold back on any tracks. Even when they seem like they’re going in a mellow direction, like on “Take It” they’ll end in a mess of noise suggesting they can’t stay quiet for long. They also make it hard for listeners to predict what’s coming next. Will it be a swaying anthem slightly influenced by doo wop music? (“Doo Wah”) Will it be a short, yet satisfying Nirvana-like punk anthem? (“Alas Salvation”) Or will it be a raucous psychedelic ride that gets you moving where ever you are? (“Harbour the Feeling”).
For the last couple songs their sound changes again. They still have wild elements of psychedelic and rock, but they also play around with Western sounds. “Smile” is a desperado track out of a Spaghetti Western. Burslem sounds devious as he sings “I just want you to smile” while the guitars reverberate completing the desolate mood. It has a “House of Rising Sun” feel, but is not a rip off. The lengthy closing track “Please Don’t Wait For Me” switches between bouncy music and aggressive guitars. After the first verse, the music changes for a 60’s flowerchild vibe. Eventually, it sounds more like a folk Bob Dylan song, especially since it drones on for seven minutes pushing listener’s patience.
Whatever hype you’ve heard surrounding Yak is true, at least with this release. The album is a wild party that keeps listeners moshing even if no one else is around. The band remains unpredictable as they mix in elements of punk, psychedelic rock, folk, and grunge for an all out chaotic sound. You can hear how the band puts all their energy and passion in each track making you want to experience them live. If they’re recorded songs sound like they could tear a house down, just imagine what the band on stage can do. Alas Salvation could be one of the most exciting rock releases of the year simply because it doesn’t play it safe.