Excitation Thresholds by YardsRelease date: August 25, 2017
Label: Trusthseeker Music
Excitation Thresholds comes right out of the gate screaming bloody murder, drenched in brutal rhythms, blasting percussion and feedback. It’s immediately clear that Yards are not holding anything back on their debut full length. Formed as a side project to a number of bands and including members of Ghost of a Thousand, Astrohenge, Econo and Nitkowski, Yards became an accidental focus for all the band members. Two EPs were released on vinyl – EP1 and EP2 in 2013 and 2014 respectively, with Yards demonstrating an economy of sound and purpose similar to the brevity of their titles with short, sharp blasts of noisy hardcore, bristling with anger and a direct rage that echoed early hardcore at its most primal. Both EPs are available for free download from their Bandcamp and should be required listening if you like your music noisy.
The band regrouped and took their time writing their first full-length, spending a year developing the music, and it really shows. A deeper, more complex and, above all, darker beast than the EPs, Excitation Thresholds is reminiscent of You Fail Me era Converge from the buzzsaw guitar tone through the striking emotional impact, the brutality and the complexity of the songwriting, but also in terms of some of the more experimental elements that Yards bring to the mix this time round, no doubt aided by the additional run-time that an album allows for. It’s an exhausting listen from the point at which the play button is pressed; the sheer volume of ideas that is compressed into each songs is staggering – while the flow of the songs means that none of these riffs of structures feel extraneous, and the pacing of the songs is varied so the listener is always kept on his toes. For example, ‘Knowable & Whole’ rides in on a relentless mid-paced riff that feels almost eerie in its downward cadence and reminds me of some of the music that Employed To Serve have put out lately; this is a marked change from the aural chaos of the previous two tracks and is almost refreshing. Yards switch this up again moving into the aggression of ‘War Tourist’, which inherits some of the feel of much-missed UKHC stalwarts Eden Maine and November Coming Fire.
‘Future Tyrants’ opens the record, and is probably the most nakedly aggressive song on the record, including a brutal and slightly unexpected black metal section which is reminiscent of Trap Them if the HM2 was dialled back, and a cracking rolling riff, which pushes into ‘Capes of Flesh’, a chaotic song that is reminiscent of ‘Eagles Become Vultures’ by Converge to these ears – and yes, that’s a very good thing. The build to the concluding riff is a magical thing to behold, two separate lines coalescing into a whole wonderfully. The production really helps here; the percussion is full and the drums have real weight, especially important given the complexity of some of the parts, the guitars sound like they should have been recorded at GodCity, so closely do they map to the Converge template in sound, and the bass holds down the low end with a distortion that manages to sound pretty gnarly but still retains the bass frequencies. The vocals are raw and passionate and are nestled perfectly in the mix to prevent them from dominating, the whole thing sounds clear, despite everything going on, and it’s just the right kind of dirty.
‘The Attic’ manages to maintain a level of tension and intensity at a peak across its full run time, aided by a lovely clean mid song break – including restrained clean vocals – even during this section the pressure is maintained by the percussion, which builds the tension and prevents the loss of momentum. ‘BL-755’ throws the first of the albums’ real curve-balls, with a droning dirge introduction that sounds almost electronic takin up the first 30 seconds of the song, the main song then expands on this, adding a touch of sludge metal to the template and bringing the tempo down. Honestly, the first time I heard it I thought a rogue MP3 had gotten into the folder; the song builds to a massive climactic wall of feedback before dropping to some ambient noise, before ‘Moon Choker’ knocks the listener sideways with some Beecher style intensity. Album closer ‘The Shadow Stealer’ is probably the best song on the album, combining the intensity of the earlier songs with some of the sludgier aspects that have been teased out. It works phenomenally well before disintegrating into an almost mournful droning, squalling noise to close the record – which also works perfectly, functioning as a calm after the storm.
As a debut album, Excitation Thresholds is a staggering piece of work. There’s a level of maturity on display here which is unusual and the quality is exemplary throughout. There’s not a wasted moment on the record, with even the parts I would normally balk at – like drones, which in lesser hands can feel like lazy runtime padding, here they fulfil a purpose and provide an emotional context. The time that the band have invested in the writing process has really shone through and Yards have created a writhing, bleak, aggressive bastard of a record which is, in my books at least, one of the most exciting and accomplished debut albums of the year, topped only by Less Art. It is a headrush of an album, perfectly paced, and with a focused, cold anger which is tangible and almost nihilistically melancholic in its delivery.
TL:DR – Yards are great. Excitation Thresholds is great. Go and buy this album.