After slowly building their sound with a pair of critically acclaimed releases, Canadian-Asian collective Yamantaka // Sonic Titan hit a magical sweet spot on their ambitious epic Dirt. Their best vision to date, Dirt combines a dizzying amount of influences -- Native American mythology, Buddhism, anime, psych rock, prog metal, and sci-fi grandeur are just the start -- and wraps it all around the apocalyptic narrative that follows the heroine Aentsik (based on a Haudenosaunee mother goddess) and her quest to save the drowned world of Pureland. According to the band, this is the "original motion picture soundtrack" to that story. Lofty concepts aside, the musicianship and creativity captured on Dirt are stunning. Informed by Judas Priest, Killing Joke, and Sun Ra, Dirt boldly draws from classic metal, world music fusion, and Asian traditions like Japanese theater and Filipino instrumentation. Newly recruited singer Joanna Delos Reyes brings a formidable power to the group, while keyboardists Alaska B and Brendan Swanson amplify the tension and wildness. While there are a multitude of layers to unpack, every song on Dirt is an immediate and hypnotic delight. Once the sprawling psychedelia of de facto opener "Someplace" sets off the storm squalls, the album is unrelenting. The towering "Hungry Ghost" overwhelms the senses as it jumps back and forth between metal and jazz tendencies, while "Dark Waters" combines J-rock vocals with symphonic metal flourishes. "Dirt" pounds and "Tawine" throbs with new wave slink. "Beast" is a glorious cacophony whose power can only be bested by "Yandere," which manages to incorporate machine-gun drums, galloping guitars, keyboard solos, a hip-hop break, and an orchestral coda. It's just one of many moments on the LP that demand full attention to absorb everything YT//ST are launching in their sonic attack. Dirt is a gem that defies simple genre categorization, a peak in the Yamantaka // Sonic Titan catalog that is not to be missed.
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AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung