Released: 2007, Prosthetic Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
In the completely baffling world of Chicago’s Yakuza, TRANSMUTATIONS, the band’s fourth full-length makes complete sense. I mean, why not mix saxophones with post-hardcore sludge or blasting death metal with droning psychedelia? Whatever it is that makes mainman Bruce Lamont tick certainly keeps people guessing just what the hell a band like Yakuza is doing. Pigeonholing? Forget it. Genre defying? You bet. Just get on board and go with it.
Lamont’s mix of clean crooning and distorted freakouts on album opener “Meat Curtains” gets the mystery underway immediately. The slow, moody “Egocide” is heavenly with Lamont’s sax giving the song a perfect smoky, jazzy vibe. “Congestive Art Failure” is a real head-scratcher as Lamont’s vocals sound like Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder singing underwater (trust me, they do) before launching into a Neurosis-like web of sludgy discordance. “Steal The Fire” is possibly the greatest death metal song Lord Worm and Cryptopsy never recorded, while “The Blinding” inches along in a trance-like haze of distortion and feedback. James Staffel’s progressive-jazz drumming on “Existence Into Oblivion” channels Maston’s Brann Dailor and is a real treat to hear. “Perception Management” is pure heaven, a track that only Yakuza can pull off with a mixture of clean vocals, haunting saxophone and brilliant atmospherics. Even “Black Market Liver,” with its pummeling blasts of ultra-speed death metal, is equally at peace with a lengthy instrumental of free-form jazz plunked right in the middle.
Yakuza is a cult band with a small, niche audience and these guys will hopefully never change their style to break out of that cocoon. While many claim they write music for themselves and the fans can follow if they wish, Yakuza means it. Their music is challenging, unfriendly and about as commercially-accessible as Andrew Dice Clay at a women’s rights demonstration. Yakuza is a band like no other and TRANSMUTATIONS encapsulates everything that makes this band so goddamn great. Forward-thinking, brilliant, godly, jaw-dropping…the hyperbole knows no bounds here and it is all deserved.
KILLER KUTS: “Meat Curtains,” “Egocide,” “Steal The Fire,” “The Blinding,” “Existence Into Oblivion,” “Perception Management,” “Black Market Liver”