Review Summary: Extreme metal crash course. Become an expert today!
It’s been a frenetic year and a half for Azusa. The multi-genre metal squad born from the ashes of Norwegian thrash innovators Extol by cousins Christer Espevoll (guitar) and David Husvik (drums) hasn’t stopped working on new material since the release of Heavy Yoke
during the dying days of 2018. With Liam Wilson of The Dillinger Escape Plan fame on bass and Elena Zafiriadou of pop act Sea + Air on vocal duties completing the line-up, the four piece presented themselves with a stunning debut, giving birth to a seemingly impossible breed of progressive thrash metal and popgaze
that proved the band had something truly special in the bag.
Fans of Azusa didn't have to wait long for a proper follow-up (not to confuse with fans of the Japanese pop singer of the same name, those are still recovering from the shock), but what no one expected is the band stepping up their game in such a short turnaround. Loop of Yesterdays
is, at first, a much more complex album. Every aspect of Heavy Yoke
has been thoroughly revisited, expanded, stretched and taken to the extreme in this second release. Even if the runtime barely exceeds half an hour, the twelve tracks that comprise this sophomore effort require some mental gymnastics in order to fully extract all its juice, but believe me when I say it’s well worth the effort.
was an immediate affair, love at first sight. Elena’s melodies would stick in your mind for days, while Espevoll’s brutal riffs and the staggering work of the rhythm machinery manned by Wilson and Husvik would punch your brain in uncharted places. With Loop of Yesterdays
, the feeling is different. This is no easy mode anymore. The songwriting has taken a significant leap forward, introducing post hardcore sections and bending them with jazz chord progressions and dissonant thrash metal bursts. Elena’s screams have definitely improved, although they maintain the same peculiarly gritty texture. As it was the case in Heavy Yoke
, it’s in the clean passages where she shines, imprinting Azusa with a sound of its own.
Three kick drum strokes and “Memories of an Old Emotion” rolls in like an enraged bull in a china shop. It’s the perfect bridge between the band’s debut and this last release. The second track, “One Too Many Times”, already shows the ambition and focus the band has in this Loop of Yesterdays
. Espevoll’s palm mute acrobatics shred in perfect synch with Wilson’s atomic bass and Husvik’s excellent drum work, showing the band’s next level of chemistry, constantly changing patterns while Elena alternates screams with carefully sculpted harmonies. “Detach” is blessed with probably the sickest riff (and there are many, many riffs on this thing) of the whole album, culminating with Testament’s very own Alex Skolnick’s guest guitar solo, which is slowly faded out as if the song (or the sound engineer) refused to let it go.
These are just the first ten minutes of Loop of Yesterdays
, and this time, I won’t spoil the rest. As the title suggests, the album is a spiral down the deepest confines of an infinite hallway of extreme metal relics, where dream-like sequences only serve to veil a band at full throttle through a hall of mirrors. It’s a trip that’s better experienced through more than one visit. When you think you have grasped its essence, it will disappear from your memory like sand through your hands. It is then when it will call to drag you in again, and again, and again, and again…