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Yakuza - Of Seismic Consequence

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Artist: Yakuza

Album: Of Seismic Consequence

Label: Profound Lore

Review date: Jul. 22, 2010

Yakuza is one of those “metal” bands that outcasts want to love. While genre-bending and genre-poaching is never news anymore, those metal bands who are untypically described as “jazz influenced” tend to be those who play in the weedly-weedly-wee style of steroidal fusion. With little rhythmic flexibility or musical taste, chops warriors are the ones who earn the comparison most readily. So this Chicago quartet (vocalist/saxophonist Bruce Lamont, guitarist Matt McClelland, bassist Ivan Cruz, and drummer James Staffel, with some friends on strings and vocals) has always stood out for their actual fluency with jazz, among other idioms. And in case you’re skeptical, they’ve forged pretty regular associations with folks like Ken Vandermark, Dave Rempis and Michael Zerang. But while I’ve respected their previous recordings, I’ve somehow never been able to really fall for them. Of Seismic Consequence changed that.

At first blush, Yakuza have a few basic elements that crop up with some regularly: the kind of Entombed-derived black-n-roll that many Chicago metal bands (like Lord Mantis) favor, an affinity for sludgy riffs of the sort played by Kylesa or Baroness, and a sheer love of noise (a link to fellow Chicagoans The Atlas Moth and Nachtmystium).

Here, what makes Yakuza stand out is the way they combine their influences. There may be a couple of occasions when they show their cards just a bit too much: “Thinning the Herd” and “Stones and Bones” both flash riffs that are quite close to Mastodon (the former “Crusher Destroyer,” the latter “Circle of Cysquatch”). But for the most part, it’s just terrific stuff, with a far-reaching imagination, a great sense for form (both within the songs and across the album), and musical taste alongside power.

Indeed, Yakuza isn’t very concerned with signifying in typically metal ways. Certain tracks — like the drone, ritualized moans of the opening “Ant People” or the psych-friendly “Farewell to the Flesh” — nestle comfortably between OM and “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.” Tunes like “Stones and Bones” and “Deluge” slide steadily into doomy dirges that wouldn’t be out of place on a Yob record (and Bruce Lamont’s vocals do sound a bit like Yob’s Mike Scheidt). And of course, there are big roaring riffs, too, from the thrashy “Good Riddance” to anthemic “Testing the Water.”

What’s more common, however, is for these varied influences to be mashed together in a single song, different expressions of a similarly catholic approach to what these guys consider “heavy.” It may gallop, it may rumble, or it may be vaguely anthemic by turns. But Of Seismic Consequence is the moment when these guys have finally synthesized their many influences and come up with something that’s distinctive and, yes, deliciously heavy.

By Jason Bivins

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