Having the name of the Japanese crime group creates a band image of guys who know no razor, who adorn their flesh with the art of dye and know nothing other than playing their instruments as fast as possible. YAKUZA are an American band who have lingered in the shadows of the Metal world even though they are one of the most original bands to surface in the modern era. Playing what can only be described as Progressive Metal, this group don’t have many rivals in the sound department. To those who know the anime masterpiece, “Cowboy Bebop”, YAKUZA sound like a Metal infused Bebop soundtrack. They take the modern and stylish jazz passages and effortlessly combine it with the frustration that can only be express by disharmony via that which is Metal. I say disharmony referring to the complex structure that most of the tracks on this album have. YAKUZA have not recorded an easy album per say, instead opting to dazzle those who have been exposed to Metal and have developed a higher understanding of this art.
I must declare the difficulty that confronted me when trying to put to paper my respect of this album. There is a definite pattern of coupling slow and fast tracks next to each other which is a rather jazzy character applied in a macro sense. “Meat Curtains” is the perfect opener as it has slow, mid and fast paced sections, something which is not carried through the rest of the songs. The traditional jazz sound of a saxophone begin “Egocide” and is followed by some spoken vocals. The ISIS like guitar work ends when the two vocalist start a rather unharmonised vocal duel. This is where the jazz fest begins and what a fantastic thing it is to hear. Constantly variation in the tempo, Deathish yells (not a growl) and the amazing guitar work keeps you on your toes as you are just thrown from left to right. “Egocide” is one of the standout tracks on “Transmutations”
There are many Death Metal moments on “Transmutations” with the bulk of them being found on the shorter tracks. However, “Congestive Art-Failure” switches from a rather Doomish opening into pure Death Metal worship and finally into something that sounds similar to DREAM THEATRE. After the somewhat confusing “Praying For Asteroids” which has severely distorted vocals and static, “Raus” is the other standout track on this album. This morose epic, with the vocals sounding like they were delivered from an angelic figure, has a more minimistic approach and yet stays true to the YAKUZA style by including a saxophone in the background. “Raus” is so cleansing even though it is capable of destroying any happy thoughts that reside in your head. There are few artists who have the ability to do this, most noticeably AGALLOCH and it is an attribute that YAKUZA should be respected for.
I can’t describe how much I appreciate the time spent listening to this album. Every time I hear this release, I find something new, a feature that I had never noticed before. Whilst having some the saddest Doomiest songs to be released in 2007, it has some fast Death Metal tracks to pull your head out of the water, only to force you down after a minutes rest. With that said, YAKUZA are not a band that most Metalheads will praise. The mix match of elements, jazz in particular, will be a little too much for some while the rest of us grin from ear to ear over its glory.
(Online September 17, 2007)