With mysterious, esoteric cover art and inlay art, you immediately get the impression that on their third release, Chicago’s Yakuza are gunning for something really special, but unfortunately they fall victim to their own ambitions.

While Samsara was a perfect mix of post rock, tech metal, Mastodon and John Coltrane, Transmutations sees the band expand even more into experimental realms and lessening the Saxophone use a little in favor of more psychedelic, ambient and progressive moods and shifts-more akin to say Rwake. And while no doubt a fine release that should elevate them into a more elite status, I just cant shake the feeling that it’s just too adventurous for its own good and its not hitting me quite like Samsara did.

Admittedly, Yakuza aren’t for everyone anyway, but even for the more adventurous listener, after the opening vocal throes and chants of Bruce Lamont during eclectic opener “Meat Curtains”, you just get a sense that Yakuza are trying a tad to hard to squeeze all their influences into each song and the coherence suffers and at times I’m reminded of Mastodon’s Blood Mountain (i.e. “Congestive-Art-Failure” and “Praying For Asteroids”, “Steal The Fire”, “Existence Into Oblivion”) as those elements seem forced into all too short bursts.

Still, there are some stunning moments on Transmutations such as the jazz grind midsection of “Egocide”, or “Raus”, “The Blinding” and “Perception Management” when the band takes a deeper breathe and exhales with a slower more deliberate, expanded prose rather then stuffing everything into 3 minutes or so. However, when closer “Zombies” rolls around even with its welcome, soft jazz injections, I’ll admit my attention is wandering.

There’s no arguing that Transmutations is a fine album, its ambitious, creative and furtively caustic, but at the expense of cohesion and coherence. However, I still recommend it to those looking for something little more challenging in their metal.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
October 16th, 2007


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