Ignore the name because there’s nothing sleep-inducing about the groundbreaking sound of Norwegian modern metal band Yawn. Indeed, the quintet describe their music as “a volcano erupting under the frozen Nordic jazz and modern metal scene” and “an aversion to convention.”
Yawn have set out to broaden the horizons of the instrumental progressive metal scene with huge riffs, contrasts and improvisation, which they describe as “unconventional, futuristic and dynamic.” And what they’ve come up with is absolutely fascinating.
The band began when guitarist Torfinn Lysne and drummer Oskar Johnsen Rydh met at The Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo in 2017. They began working on ideas and quickly established a mutual desire to create music that challenges the common rules and norms of modern-day composition – both in modern metal and improvised music.
With that mission in mind, Torfinn and Oskar began developing obscure song ideas that wouldn’t typically fit into common musical genres with the aim of “creating interesting sounds.” And that formed the foundations for their upcoming debut album Materialism, which will be released next Friday (18 February).
They began working on material for the record three years ago, while completing the lineup with Mike McCormick (guitar and electronics), Tarjei Kjerland Lienig (synthesizer) and Simen Wie (bass). They worked on the music for six months before rehearsing it together in the same room, which is when things got really interesting.
As Torfinn tells us: “Mike suggested solving some musical problems through the use of programming. By developing software specially designed for Yawn’s needs, digitally processing the instruments and creating unique digital soundscapes during the improvisations, Mike’s contribution to the sound of this record changed the direction and approach of the whole band. In the recording process, the improvised parts are performed in the same room at the same time. This way everyone in the band has given their unique touch to the overall sound of this record.”
The album sees Yawn’s smaller ideas evolve into long compositions, using improvisation to develop new material and compose music that contrasts hard-hitting riffs with open soundscapes.
Our first taste of this was the near-eight-minute long Cement, which opens with crushing stabbing noises then vicious stabbing riffs. A wild little synth riff joins in before dropping into a beautiful diving guitar riff, which suddenly gives way to an atmospheric synthy soundscape.
That’s blasted wide open by a more intense version of the diving riff, searing synths and crushing drums. That heavy section drops into a funky little guitar lick that develops into a wild solo under another vicious blast of heavy guitars and drums. The guitars develop into booming chords as an earlier fun synth riff returns to bring the track to a jaunty conclusion.
That’s since been followed by Yawn’s second single Lachrymator II: Lignite, which is part of a longer overall Lachrymator track/section. It opens up with brutal, almost industrial-sounding noises that continue under a high-pitched synth sound. The drums develop to build an increasingly tense atmosphere as more instruments join the party. It suddenly drops into a light stabbing sound and industrial percussion sounds, which bring the short track to an outro that definitely suggests much more is to come.
According to the YouTube video below, the song is best known for Simen going into “insane mode” by smashing a drumstick on his bass strings “like it’s literally the end of the world.” That’s crucial to driving the raw, aggressive end of the world effect that this track oozes in bundles.
These two singles have really whetted our appetite for what’s to come on Materialism. And on what to expect from it, Torfinn tells us: “We decided on selecting four of these long musical pieces and treating the material as compositions of their own rather than general soundscapes and ideas. At the end of 2021, we had recorded and produced four long compositions (Cement, Chaos, Lachrymator and Tokamak) that we had worked with for a long time.
“After the record was mixed by Oskar, we decided on dividing each song into 3–5 shorter ‘episodes” per composition to make the record fit into the modern digital streaming world and suit modern attention spans. The record was envisioned as a 37 and a half minute piece of non-stop music performance, but fans will easily be able to skip to their favourite moments when they have an itch to scratch!”
While on the Yawn sound generally, Torfinn says: “This music is a breath of fresh air in the genre of modern instrumental music. This album will include heavier-than-hell riffs, larger-than-life contrasts, and introduce collective musical improvisation to the modern progressive metal-scene. This album is for everyone who believes there is still a lot to be done, broadening the horizons of improvised music and modern metal.
“Materialism is for music enthusiasts who love improvised guitar solos and brutal breakdowns, infectious grooves and mind-melting rhythms, and introspective ambience alongside experimental electronics. This album comfortably combines all these elements in a logical and musical way.”
The Yawn sound is influenced by bands like Meshuggah, Car Bomb, Morgan Ågren, Clipping. and Vildhjarta. And on what inspires them to write music, Torfinn explains: “Our main source of inspiration towards writing music is heavily based on the mindset of other musicians who wanted to do something different and revolutionize their own field. This can be everything from Miles Davis to Meshuggah.
“Materialism tells you the story of five guys giving everything they’ve got for the sake of breathing new life into the modern metal scene and tearing apart any limitations to what improvised music can sound like. This record is a volcano erupting under the frozen Nordic jazz-scene of today. This
music has the missing piece of the puzzle we tried putting together growing up, listening to our favorite metal bands, getting inspired by them, learning our instruments because of them, and so on.
“Combining the passion for creativity with an aversion to convention, Yawn is a band that puts their hearts into the desire for a new, revolutionized way of playing music, involving improvisation, heavy riffing and beautiful soundscapes.”
On top of offering something completely new and different to what we’ve heard before, Yawn are also the first Norwegian band we’ve featured in more than two years. On their local scene, Torfinn told us: “There’s a lot of great musicians, bands, venues and music promoters in the Oslo rock/metal scene. We have venues like Vaterland, Rock in, Blå, Røverstaden and many more doing a great job of getting local bands on stage!
We have performed with tons of great bands from our area, such as Navian, Next Life and Musth. Some of the coolest gigs we have ever played have been because of them and, in our experience, there is a lot of supportive energy in our community. We also have a lot of great people promoting the bands in our style in the media, such as Yngve from Heavymetal.no, and PerHelge form Prognytt.no. We are very grateful for being a part of this scene.”
Yawn’s debut album Materialism is out next Friday (18 February). The band will then head out on a release tour across Europe and in the UK, starting at Røverstaden in Oslo on 25 February. They then play Underwerket in Copenhagen on 2 March, MS Stubnitz in Hamburg on 3 March. Then they’re in the UK for gigs at The Black Heart in London on 6 March, Santiago Bar in Leeds on 8 March and The Peer Hat in Machester on 9 March. After the tour, they’ll be back in the studio to work on their second album.
Torfinn added: “Except for the brilliant mastering-work done by Mastering-engineer Tom “Iggy” Ignatius, we are doing every part of this operation ourselves. We have written and produced this record in our own studio. The album is mixed by our drummer Oskar. I was in charge of booking and organizing the whole release tour, and we are even releasing the record on our self-run record label Mindsweeper Records. We are very proud of how far we have come doing all of this by ourselves, and we truly believe that musicians and composers should be owning every right to their own music.”
It’s really inspiring to see a band come up with such a unique approach to music and fuse such different elements and sounds. We’re intrigued by the unique concept that Yawn have come up with and excited to hear what’s coming our way on their debut album. We’re pretty certain you’re in for a treat next Friday, so keep your ears out for it!
Image rights: Anette Skutevik