Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, UZU
More ambitious than an art-damaged answer to bloated rock operas
Lurking beneath the cardboard cutouts, papier-mâché props and meticulous face paint of Yamantaka // Sonic Titan is something much more ambitious than an art-damaged answer to bloated rock operas. Described as “Noh-wave” — a head-on collision of traditional Japanese theater and the noisy art-punk that populated New York’s syringe-lined streets in the ’80s — their mercurial sound is melodramatic without feeling like the loony-bin labors of drama school dropouts. Much like their richly-woven debut, the Canadian collective’s second album sounds deadly serious, as it melds candlelit balladry and Merzbow (“Saturn’s Return”), Cocteau chords and Glassy synths (“Windflower”), and the palatable outer reaches of prog-rock (the second half of “Seasickness”). The only part that veers on the side of sheer camp is “Hall of Mirrors,” a winding horror score that could pass for a progressive rap-metal single from the late ’90s. But even that’s compelling in its own way, leaving a lurid and lucid impression that lingers well after the makeup remover wipes their stage personas away.