Artist: The Alaskan
Being alone wasn’t so bad…at first. However, after the hours turned to days and the cold crept through your weary flesh and deep into your bones, things got worse. You found yourself muttering to chunks of ice and towering snowdrifts, doing anything to keep your mind focused—to keep it from wandering, or, God forbid, vanishing entirely. It was only after the first eight days roaming the barren, frigid wilderness that you realized you were no longer alone—maybe you had never been alone to begin with. Packs of wolves, catching wind of your mental deterioration and fatigued state have made their presence more and more known—for what’s more frightening than a death you know is coming but can’t avoid? New York’s latest hard-hitting, pulse-pounding down-tempo deathcore act, The Alaskan capture every aspect of this experience with their bone-chilling, skin-rending debut, Yukon. Whether it’s the deep-freeze of the flesh-freezing atmosphere, or the rip of your guts and the crunch of your bones as the wolves tear into you, The Alaskan provide it all—because when it comes to yards of steaming hot, freshly eviscerated flesh, Yukon is what’s for dinner.
Yukon, just like the deep freeze that permeated your bones, begins subtly. “Slugpit” reaches out and strokes the listener’s ears, piquing their interest—before it grabs a firm hold and tears their ear clean off. “Slugpit” commences with meaty, thick chugging which is archetypical of the experience awaiting the listener: one of visceral, tar-like heaviness. Throughout Yukon, The Alaskan launch a downtuned and incessant attack on the listener with plodding, thudding percussion and crunchy, grimy guitar. The drums sound just as if they were the heartbeat of the pursued listener—beginning slow and steady, but capable of reaching a calamitous candor when the chase begins and the pulse runs high. This is seen as particularly effective in the track “Mace the Bear,” which oscillated between plodding, beefy drumming and lightning-fast percussion. The guitar has a similarly immersive effect: the heavy, crunching tone sounds just as intense as the ripping and tearing of sinew from bone as The Alaskan lay into the listener with the ferocity of ten thousand starving wolves. “Landfill” is exemplary of this; with guitar that manages to be both eternally guttural and chugged, yet reaches into the realms of sharp and lacerating when the riffs eventually commence.
While The Alaskan thrive on heavy, gregarious chugging and plodding, punishing percussion, Yukon has its fair share of lacerating elements—for how else would the album truly sink its teeth into you? The first full track of the album, “Yukon,” opens with a winding, intricate riff and a kick drum pattern which sounds not unlike the listener’s pulse. This riff circles like a starving vulture over the listener’s head until it crashes down, dipping into a filthy, slithering and venomous groove before finally plunging beneath the ice and sinking to unfathomably heavy depths. All the while, the percussion follows suit, blasting away where it needs to and providing technically infused and mind-numbing fills. These moments of technicality which dot the album are not sparse, so much as they are brief but frequent—biting at the listener like fleas and ticks, there one second and gone the next, robbing the listener bit-by-bit of their sanity. The surprise attack of the grimy, guttural groove at the end of “Yukon” serves this same purpose—as does the no-holds-barred attack thrown at the listener with blast beats and dissonant atmosphere in “Landfill.”
True, it’s the meat on your bones, the grizzle lining your joints and the interstitium surrounding your organs the wolves want, but it’s how they’ll get it which best describes The Alaskan’s album. Yukon is much akin to the half-haphazard tearing and half-precise control with which wolves eviscerate their prey. Whether it’s the back-and-forth of groove and blunt-trauma heaviness in “Yukon” or the incessant hammering and devastating precision with which “Wolfgang” or “Sledge” hits home, Yukon is home to a dynamic every bit as gory and gruesome as the story it details. However, the aspect that holds these two components together—and the aspect which thus far has received the least attention—is the vocal element. The Alaskan use a constant bitter, low growl and guttural yell to hit home with their story and create a dense, suffocating atmosphere. “Sledge” is home to a vocal assault that is almost entirely low-ended, delving into the far reaches of unintelligibility to hook the listener’s ear. Other tracks—like “Yukon”—oscillate in their vocal delivery to accentuate the lyrics they convey: where violence and shrill, cold-blooded bitterness prevail, the bellow raises its head into a shriek of sorts. The ever-so-slight adaptability of the vocals means there is some slight monotony favoring the over-use of the heavy, meaty growl, but, ultimately, this growl flows so smoothly with the intense, sludgy musicianship that it soaks right into the listener’s head and permeates their brain—giving them a few last lingering seconds of warmth before the cold carries them into the unknown.
They will never find your remains—there might not have even been a search party. However, The Alaskan remember your story and, through Yukon, do immeasurable service to your name. Unendingly heavy and enormously bitter, Yukon is a barren, bitter cold wasteland of a release which leaves the listener desolated and desperate in the absolute best possible way.
For Fans Of: Towers, Of Salt and Swine, I Declare War, Black Tongue, Immoralist
By: Connor Welsh