Yakuza - _Transmutations_
(Prosthetic Records, 2007)
by: Jeremy Ulrey (9 out of 10)
Cramming hardcore, jazz, grind and even world music influences into 60 minutes of frequently blistering (other times ambiently ambling) extended jams, Chicago's Yakuza take their namesake Japanese love of noise and shape it into technically adept blocks of free form sonic exploration.

After a mostly all out assault with album opener "Meat Curtains", "Egocide" provides the first and perhaps best glimpse of the band's penchant for atmospheric genre benders. Scaling sax riffs reverb heavily atop the thick strum of acoustic guitars with droning vocals before accelerating into metallic abrasiveness and abused time signatures, the latter ruining any attempts to get a traditional grindcore jam session off the ground with punctuated interruptions of jazzy spazz riffs and ADD hyperrhythms.

Following a couple of relatively straightforward, shortened tracks thrown in for grounding purposes, "Raus" ratchets up the space rock quotient with distant vox and heavily processed chords. In terms of volume, this never gets much louder than about a seven. After another curious two minute jazz-grind interlude, "The Blinding" reverts back to psychedelic histrionics, with guitar and sax riffs recklessly blending into each other far beneath the churning, free form percussion. That same relaxed menace elevates "Perception Management" and "Zombies" into escalating tension filled exercises in mood alteration.

The former breaks out the acoustic drums and noirish sax yet again, using them in service of a Sabbath-ish ballad, eventually, inevitably, spiralling out of control into grind-land once again; the latter closes things out on something immediately more ambivalent about the soft / loud dynamic, although -- heavy shit up front be damned -- on paper it sounds none too dissimilar to its previous counterpart, but that's where the sonics come in: producer Sanford Parker (Rwake, Pelican, Minsk) wrings every last nuance of the band's unpolished assault for an album that's not only memorable but consistently engaging. _Transmutations_ positions Yakuza on the cusp of a rising wave of experimental and post-metal performers making their bones the last few years.

Contact: http://www.yakuzadojo.com

(article published 12/2/2007)


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