Azusa
Heavy Yoke


4.5
superb

Review

by Dewinged USER (37 Reviews)
November 17th, 2018 | 398 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A highly flammable cocktail of clashing flavours.

Every minute I’ve spent bobbing my head and twisting my neck while listening to Heavy Yoke, I’ve been also giggling like an idiot thinking about the impossible background of the band’s members, specially singer Eleni Zafiriadou’s. For seasoned bassist Liam Wilson (ex-The Dillinger Escape Plan), Azusa must feel like that old and comfortable sofa where you’ve been napping for years, and the same goes for Extol former plot masters Christer Espevoll (guitar) and David Husvik (drums). In the case of Eleni though, her most recent musical endeavour, aside from a reunion tour of the German hardcore band Jumbo Jet, was an indie pop duo, which she founded with her husband and former Jumbo Jet member Daniel Benjamin, a project called Sea + Air. How, when and why she bridged from fairy bubble land to demented cosmic Texas will always remain a mystery to me.

But I’m grateful she did. As soon as “Interestellar Islands” is unleashed, Eleni’s indie pop roots are burnt to a crisp. Her visceral screams lead the frantic thrash galloping like a hungry wolf chasing the herd. Espevoll’s palm muted triplets are a constant in Azusa’s first release. He punishes the strings as Wilson and Husvik’s rhythmic sections whip and slap in flawless unison. The band sounds fresh, even if drinking from many different fountains and walking along the treacherous cliffs of math-core county. The shadow of Dillinger Escape Plan is obviously long and wide, but Extol members, fairly accustomed to switching styles in their previous project, provide enough ideas and resources for Azusa to retain its personality. To claim they sound “tight” would be an understatement.

The focus though, is on Eleni’s approach to vocals. The almost traditional clean/harsh dichotomy is present, but it’s often so wild that it becomes unpredictable enough to keep ears in suspense. Not only that, Eleni excels both in belting her lungs out and in creating memorable melodies. Some of them are beautiful and enticing, while other times she sounds like she is sleep talking, or even twitching her tone to wail like a mermaid crazed by her own mesmerizing song.

Another strong point of Heavy Yoke is how it makes art out of contrast. Disparity is the band’s introduction card. Not to the point of having Hannah Montana fronting Megadeth, but there are a good number of examples that illustrate their infectious chemistry. Highlights like “Spellbinder” or “Heart of Stone” are a good showcase of Azusa’s clever fusion of old school thrash, post hardcore and, as crazy as it sounds, indie pop. A more specific one would be the chorus of title track “Heavy Yoke”, where Eleni briefly gives a glimpse of her indie pop influence, then the hardcore screams she carried over from Jumbo Jet take over with a vengeance. The switch in style feels natural and confident, and the way the band waves and moves effortlessly with her solidifies this formula. The dynamic of the songs are perfectly paced, with little to no time for the listener to phase out of Azusa’s machinations. This, combined with extremely short tracks like “Fine Lines” or “Succumb to Sorrow”, makes up for an album that runs on high combustion and hardly ever releases the tension.

Thematically, Heavy Yoke seems to explore the intricacies of some kind of cognitive hell. Cryptic and deceiving, the words spit out from Eleni’s mouth like poison, with fear being the main evil in effect. A dread that, on the other hand, don't seem to apply to the reality of the band. Azusa lands on a crowded planet, one that has met, judged and sentenced many experiments before them. But they do so with a remarkable album, far more impressive being the first work of, hopefully, many more. If they are able to bolt the way they do with a yoke pulling them down, I don’t want to imagine what they will be able to achieve when the weight is off them.



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user ratings (89)
Chart.
3.7
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Dewinged
November 17th 2018


13004 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The album's been streaming for a while in NPR's First Listen.



You can get a quick glimpse of first single "Interstellar Islands" here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aci3pimlw44



Honestly, this is an absolute bang of an album. Hope you guys enjoy it.

Digging: Kaelan Mikla - Not Eftir Not

NocteDominum
Contributing Reviewer
November 17th 2018


9123 Comments


Album’s no yoke, that’s for sure.

Pos’s

Dewinged
November 17th 2018


13004 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

That would have been a hell of a summary, damn! Thanks Nocte.

Ashtiel
November 17th 2018


221 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this better not go unnoticed.

Digging: Ex:Re - Ex:Re

Calc
Contributing Reviewer
November 17th 2018


16052 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I liked this but the vocals really drag it down. she sounds great but I remember her doing the same things every single song.

Dewinged
November 17th 2018


13004 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

On the contrary, I thought she was really versatile. The only thing she doesn't do is growling. Even more impressive considering where she's coming from.

kingjulian
November 17th 2018


1563 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Thank GOD this got a review. Album fucking rips and I hope it gets more recognition around here.

Digging: Azusa - Heavy Yoke

kingjulian
November 17th 2018


1563 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Also, pos'd, great review.

Dewinged
November 17th 2018


13004 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks dude. Yeah, this one is probably the last one I was hoping for this year. It didn't disappoint.

kingjulian
November 17th 2018


1563 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

If I continue to dig it as much as I am now I'll almost certainly bump to a 4.5. My only gripe is that sometimes they'll touch on a really great part and then move on too quickly. The soaring chorus-y thing with the blast beats in Spellbinder is a great example. Could've been expanded upon to make a really great outro for the song but they just go back to the more basic chuggy riffs so quickly.

Dewinged
November 17th 2018


13004 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Agree, they burn really quick, which on the other hand makes me want to jam it again when it's done. That blast in Spellbinder is aaaahhh... ieeessshhh

kingjulian
November 17th 2018


1563 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

That's the thing, part of why this album kills so much is the brevity. They get in, riff, and get out, and that's great. I guess it's just a price you pay with that approach; some parts will feel a tad under-utilized.

Dewinged
November 17th 2018


13004 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I just hope this is a not a one-off project and they keep going on. Can't wait to see what Eleni is capable of in the future.

kingjulian
November 17th 2018


1563 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Oh I definitely need more of this.

Ashtiel
November 17th 2018


221 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

the vocalist did indie pop before this, how the fuck is she THIS good and versatile!? it's crazy

Dewinged
November 17th 2018


13004 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yep. Last album released 3 years ago.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4YkBzSbUH8&list=PLNNrHvMIq4n-uYqqX6ZIHiBDVmoi86QrO



Edit: updated the link with a video, the change of styles is... well, quite something.

kingjulian
November 18th 2018


1563 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

quite something indeed lol

Dewinged
November 18th 2018


13004 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I thought they had only released one official video but they have three already. Can't find anything live though.

ramon.
Contributing Reviewer
November 18th 2018


2652 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

aoty maybe

Dewinged
November 18th 2018


13004 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

my man!



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