Chicago’s Yakuza fall under the metal umbrella, but if you were to isolate passages of tracks from their new disc, Beyul, that word might not fall anywhere in the discussion. Vocalist Bruce Lamont doesn’t sound like your traditional metal vocalist, instead leaning closer to hardcore or even grunge. Plus, he plays the saxophone, so there are mournful and wailing horn passages scattered throughout the album. Throw in some Om-like eastern influences, and you could conceivably chop together a sort of non-metal Beyul. To do so, though, would be to ignore the disc’s dark, technically churning machine.
The intro to “Oil and Water” combines both halves of that equation into a single burst, chugging, meticulous guitar riffs fusing with a skeleton of poly-rhythms and multiple tracks of Lamont’s near Middle Eastern horn lines. The track continues to transmogrify, a double-kick drum rampage and discussion of being “in dire need of a new plan” leading to a smoky, stoner-raga freakout, and then returning. This uncanny ability to cover the seams in their Frankensteinian experiments makes for some compelling metal, simultaneously dark, powerful, and at times hauntingly beautiful.
The eight-and-a-half minute epic “Man Is Machine” similarly morphs (as many track that length will), dropping in on sludgy feedback swamps, roaring post-grunge verses, and head-banging unison riffs with James Chance horn wonks over the top. The meditative close to “Fire Temple And Beyond” could fit alongside Soundgarden, and the airy, expansive “Lotus Array” teeters into more Eastern-metal fusion, Lamont’s sax matching a charging guitar riff.
The pick-burning shreds and wild-man vocals on “Species” never let up, a lone exception to the monster mash tendencies of Beyul. However, even when they’re not at their mad doctor work here, the raucous core establishes itself. The saxophone lines and other decidedly non-metal trappings only work because Yakuza (as they prove on this disc) have a hard-beating metal heart.
Essential Tracks: “Oil and Water”, “Man Is Machine”