by Christine Leonard
Like the sound of the sky rending open, Toronto-based progressive art-rock collective Yamantaka // Sonic Titan enter the summer festival season. They are a musical meteorite streaking towards the planet’s surface and an explosive force of nature. The genre-bending experimentalists will be staging their psychedelic space-metal operas at Canadian dates including Yellowknife’s Folk on the Rocks, the River & Sky camp-out in Field, ON and Victoria’s Phillips Backyard Weekender.
Holding a mirror up to the status quo, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan appropriates elements of pop, rock and heavy metal and blends them through influences gleaned from Buddhist, Haudenosaunee and First Nations traditions, along with their own mixed Asian-European heritages. Embedded in manga art, video games and science fiction themes, their enthralling tracks are ablaze with socio-political commentary.
DIRT, their latest album released in 2018, is no exception. The album revolves around the story of abandoned turtle starship, Anowara, and the heroine Aentsik’s quest to collect the final remnant of arable soil. It’s the same edict the ecologically-minded band has espoused since the beginning: “If the trees die, we die,” says founding member and percussionist, Alaska B.
“I think we are concerned about the same things any reasonable person should be concerned with: anthropogenic climate change, plastic pollution, overuse of antibiotics, animal extinction, unsustainable agriculture, pollution, corporate and government surveillance Indigenous rights, human rights, transphobia, sexism, racism, homophobia,” continues Alaska.
“Our music is often interpreted to focus entirely around the cultural identity politics, but the lyrical content and themes in our art all deal with the suffering of living beings, environmentalism and the inevitability of death.”
It’s a tall order for humanity, let alone a fringe-dwelling Canadian rock band, but if anyone’s up to the challenge, it’s the self-defining, fire-spitting, world-shaking, dirt-venerating music collective and theatre company who has earned the surname Sonic Titan.
Yamantaka // Sonic Titan perform Thursday, July 11 at 9910 (Edmonton), Saturday, July 13 at The Palomino (Calgary) and Sunday, July 28 at the Phillips Backyard Weekender (Victoria)Yamantaka // Sonic Titan