Yakuza
Transmutations


4.0
excellent

Review

by TheDistantFuture USER (24 Reviews)
May 24th, 2008 | 21 replies | 5,132 views


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The album of your nightmares.

1 of 1 thought this review was well written

These days it seems like metal bands will throw in just about any ridiculous gimmick to get noticed, whether it be keyboards over horrible chugga chugga breakdowns (cough cough Devil Wears Prada), movie excerpts (Kill Whitney Dead) or of course cheesy Nintendo sounds (HORSE the Band). As much as I enjoy the latter of those, being tastefully innovative in a genre as rigid and opinionated as metal certainly isn't easy to do without sounding novel. However, Chicago's Yakuza, named after the infamous Japanese mafia, incorporates the unusual instrumentation of jazzy saxophone into a tech-metal foundation. Because of this, people have pegged Yakuza as a jazz metal band, but such a labeling could not be further from the truth. Rather than haphazardly, throwing in jazz breakdowns, as the trend has become of recent, the band instead layers the sax runs over their technical guitar riffs and doomy clean sections to create an incredibly fresh dynamic.

While the group, as stated before, does have some very complex sections and even a couple straight up mathcore songs ("Praying for Asteroids" and "Steal the Fire") they devote equal time to Tool-like atmospherics, Opethean contrasts, and slow-mounting post metal crescendos, making them even more difficult to properly categorize. Many of the songs lack the typical verse-chorus structure and instead move from slow and murky doom passages to moments of all out chaos where Mastodon-esque riffing, spastic drum work, furious horn runs, and throat-slicing death growls assail the listener. It's a big jump to make, but generally the group is able to avoid falling into the pit that lies precariously between the two extremes.

Yakuza's instrumental capabilities are thus quite diverse. The player who stands out most immediately (for both good and bad reasons) however, is the drummer. He is obviously very skilled and shows some crazy chops particularly from his wild rolls and his ability to switch up time signatures on the fly, but if anything he over plays a bit. There are spots in some songs where he gets so busy it's hard to discern any kind of concrete rhythm and he also tends in places to out of nowhere rapidly kick the tempo up. This seems to be done on purpose, but it can make for some very jarring moments like in the otherwise flawless chorus of "Zombies." If he can reign it in a little on their next outing it would be for the better. The guitars and bass are done very tastefully though, and throw in some very original sounding riffs and clean parts in tracks such as the death metal meets Primus-like "Praying for Asteroids" and "Existence into Oblivion." There are no solos, but they likely would not have fit into the band's sound anyway. Also, just the fact that they can keep up with the drumming is a feat in itself.

Vocalist, Bruce Lamont, who also handles the excellent horn work on the album, seems to be a point of major contention for most listeners. He uses two primary styles in roughly equal proportion: a brutal death growl and a dry, ominous singing voice. His clean vocals are perhaps the real make it or break it factor; it sounds a little like a cross between Maynard James Keenan and Ozzy and is frequently used in an almost hypnotic sounding layered chant as in the hilariously titled "Meat Curtains." They take a little warming up to and they can get a little pitchy at times, but generally they are quite effective and lend a truly eerie atmosphere to the record.

One more aspect of Transmutations that definitely bears mention is just how friggin' depressing it sounds. There is nary a major key riff or chord to be found on the entire album. The whole work just swells with such immense feelings of hopelessness and loss that making it through the whole thing in one sitting may prove overwhelming for some. Transmutations is a very affecting record that really transports the listener to another place; a dark void dimly lit by small patches of red light where violent gales blow constantly (Think of what happens in Lord of the Rings when Frodo puts the ring on...) The aforementioned opener, "Meat Curtains" kicks off the album with nearly four minutes of slow doomy riffs before venting all the built up rage in the last two minutes which manifests itself in an all out assault on the ears. "The Blinding" could also be one of the most terrifying songs I've ever heard spanning nearly six minutes of crazy drum soloing, guitar feedback, atonal horns, and Lamont cackling "YOU WILL NEVER SEE THE SUN!" It's horrible, almost so horrible that you can't bring yourself to shut it off. But by far, the most chilling piece of the album is the entirely clean anti-ballad, "Raus," which is the most hopeless and menacing sounding song I have heard since "Hurt." Needless to say anyone looking for a feel good affair need not apply.

Yakuza is really something else and Transmutations is unlike any other album I can think of. It's certainly not for everyone and takes some time to truly explore, however this dark journey of self discovery is one that is very much worth taking.



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user ratings (35)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
Jared W. Dillon (3.5)
Yakuza redefines their sound and helps reinvigorate a genre....


Comments:Add a Comment 
TheDistantFuture
May 24th 2008



200 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Part 6.

kattunlover69
May 24th 2008



1194 Comments


emo music

Ouch
May 24th 2008



546 Comments


... is better than kattun music.This Message Edited On 05.24.08

foreverendeared
May 24th 2008



14678 Comments


ummm it's not emo.

Ouch
May 24th 2008



546 Comments


I might like this.This Message Edited On 05.24.08

TheDistantFuture
May 24th 2008



200 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

emo? hahaha and tool is pop.

TheDistantFuture
May 24th 2008



200 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

emo? hahaha and tool is pop.

Ouch
May 24th 2008



546 Comments


You magnificent double posting bastard!

spoon_of_grimbo
May 24th 2008



2240 Comments


nearly bought this t'other day. kinda wishing i had now... great review!

Essence
May 26th 2008



3559 Comments


You describe it well, though the album was not as depressing as the review would have you believe... to me, anyway.

yas666eer
May 26th 2008



269 Comments


i donno why.. but this just sounds like maudlin of the Well on a bad day... just heard 2 of this album though .....

Deathmaker
May 31st 2009



1 Comments


Tool is probably the farthest thing from pop in the whole music universe. Think before you speak.

Essence
May 31st 2009



3559 Comments



Tool is probably the farthest thing from pop in the whole music universe


Think before you speak.





Wizard
May 31st 2009



18778 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Butter slap!!!

Digging: Triptykon - Melana Chasmata

Zip
May 31st 2009



5313 Comments


"Comments: 1"
Go easy Jack, new guy.


pdbn
August 12th 2009



130 Comments


This album is way better than some of there other stuff, specifically, "way of the dead"

stabbler
December 9th 2011



1413 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

album deserves way more love on here

Wizard
December 9th 2011



18778 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

No it doesn't.

stabbler
December 9th 2011



1413 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

band deserves way more love on here

Sunn177
June 15th 2012



285 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

don't really know what to make of this thing.It's like Free Jazz mixed with progressive and at times grindcore.



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