Thank U For Smoking are an Italian band active since 2009. They had a very successful debut in 2012 with Dopo la quiete, which not only scored nicely in reviewers’ eyes but was also a part of collaboration with Quadratino Pericoloso on a DVD Island – a unique mix of captured images of Iceland and instrumental music from TUFS. After two years, the trio of Aurora, Valerio and Matteo returned with a new album, Yomi.
RELEASE DATE: 10 April 2014 LABEL: Self-Released
The record starts with Yomi, a short ambient track serving as an intro, slowly building the atmosphere, introducing unsettling dronish noise, slightly revealing the dark side of the music we shall later encounter. Moments later Il Digiuno Dei Kami introduces the vocals of Aurora Atzeni and allows the listener to see the true colours of this album. Usually I’m a fan of instrumental music, but in this case I cannot praise Aurora enough for her dark and echoing voice, which is masterful at creating the atmosphere on the entire album, skillfully guiding the listener through the swaying mood of this record. Together with slow and heavy guitar riffs these songs are sure to make you feel as if in the middle of the night, should you only close you eyes for a second, even during the brightest of the days. And the mood induced in these songs is definitely something you will want to experience and remember.
To fully understand how well Thank U For Smoking are managing the atmosphere on “Yomi”, listening to “π” (Greek letter ‘pi’) should be enough. This track was created with Luca T. Mai, who played baritone and alto sax, a rare addition to typical rock line-up, but working together with him was truly a great idea. The song starts slowly, almost cheerfully, perhaps giving some listeners false hope about its outcome. Yet step by step it leads us deeper and deeper into the shadows. What lies among these shadows is an amazing solo situated halfway through the track. As guitars and vocals descend into a dark torrent of sounds, Luca’s solo keeps speeding and speeding up reaching higher pitches until it resembles almost a human shriek. The first time I heard it I was left quite overpowered and even now I cannot pass it unnoticed. As if it was just the plan, the song slows down offering calm and soothing sounds. But not for long.
While Thank U For Smoking describe this album as very chaotic, I’d love to disagree with them. Despite all the darkness and heavy riffs, their songs show very good composition: Yomi is much more than unorganized noise. It’s a skillful mix of what’s dark and unsettling with the harmony of instrumental genres and that’s a very rare achievement. They reached out for inspirations to various sources and did a very fine job of bringing them together. Another great accomplishment is the consistency they achieve throughout the entire album while avoiding any sort of scheme, keeping their songs unique. It is enough to listen to the opening Il Digiuno Dei Kami to know what to expect, yet each of the tracks deserves its own attention as they are all very much similar to songs in the “progressive” genres; they avoid repetition despite being very true to the overall style of the album.
Towards the end, Yomi starts to feel more melancholic instead of dark, as if the stormy ocean through which the listener journeyed finally started to calm down and settle. However, it’s not the first time I was in for a surprise as the penultimate track Karma is a great reminder never to assume anything for certain. It quickly reminds just how well TUFS mix influences from various genres of metal, including doom by reaching to these unsettling sounds. And to further underline this statement the very last song L’Ultima Cortesia Di Yama brings back all the heavy riffs and dark vocals into a high-energy climax at the end to the album.
According to the band Yomi is an attempt to explore human attitudes, to peek inside our souls. What I see in this mirror is darkness, yet that’s not necessarily something to be afraid of. Just as Yomi is very dark, as our writer Evan said in his review of “The White Mega Giant”, there is beauty in darkness, and for me TUFS express it through the harmony behind their songs, which keeps them from spiraling into the oblivion of random and unorganized noise. The same way humans contain their own dark desires which they guard so carefully never to let anyone know even about their existence.
It’s hard for me to assign Thank U For Smoking to one genre and say how well they are representing it. It is, however, easy to point to quite a few genres from which they draw ideas and put together into this album. Maybe it’s because of how they create their own niche and fill it in perfectly that I became so fond of Yomi and would recommend the album for how it brilliantly it can sway one’s mood with its atmosphere.