01. Cancer of Industry
02. Plecost
03. Monkeytail
04. Transmission Ends: Signal Lost
05. Dishonor
06. 20 Bucks
07. Exterminator
08. Just Say Know
09. Gloryhole
10. Back To the Mountain

RATING: 8/10

You don't usually see a label like Century Media give up on a band after one album. But then again, you also usually don't run across bands like Chicago jazz/prog/metal freaks YAKUZA. Harsh metal with a technical bent and distorted sax solos? Haunting mellow free-jazz pieces? In the same song? It's interesting and pretty damn cool, but it's definitely enough to send publicists and sales people into a tailspin.

Commercially damned or not, YAKUZA just keep on blissing out and hammering skulls, usually within the same song, on their long-awaited second album. The first couple songs are pretty damned heavy and crushing, perhaps a statement of intent that YAKUZA is, above all else, a fine grinding metal band descended from original oddballs like NAKED CITY, BRUTAL TRUTH and NAPALM DEATH, and akin (in their more wild-eyed moments) to the likes of PIG DESTROYER. But check out "Monkeytail" for YAKUZA's schizophrenia in a nutshell – airy, ethereal jazz builds up to a metal crescendo, then pulls back again, a masterful exercise in pressure-cooking tension and release. The end result is quite a headtrip, as atmospheric as it is punishing, the soundtrack to a fucked-up film no one's had the vision to make just yet.

Describing a band like YAKUZA is always kinda inadequate. If you need a frame of reference, think of the epic sprawl of MASTODON (whose Troy Sanders guests here) at their most ponderous and harrowing, with moments of NEUROSIS-like apocalyptic symphony. Then listen to a song like "20 Bucks", with its weird clean vocals and spacey verse, and have those perceptions blasted out the window as well.

Your best bet is to just put on the headphones, clear your calendar of distractions, indulge in the mind-enhancing substance of your choice, and let the whole freaky thing slither into your brain from beginning to end, from the bruising grind of "Cancer of Industry" to the otherworldly "Planet Caravan" vibe of "Exterminator" to the utterly metal bludgeon of the wall of chords and thrashed-out chorus in "Just Say Know". This is extremity as art, uncompromising, dynamic, and unforgiving as an avalanche of bricks. Hopefully, the rest of the metal world can catch up to these cats in time to give "Samsara" the recognition it deserves.


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