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AZUSA- Loop of Yesterdays

Azusa wowed listeners 2 years ago with their debut Heavy Yoke. For those who don’t know, the band consists of members of Extol, Dillinger Escape Plan, and Sea + Air. That tells you a lot about what to expect here: competent musicianship, mix of brutality and melody, creative use of atmospherics, technical and progressive. It’s all here.

“Memories of an Old Emotion” starts right off the bat with a high-speed thrash attack, pummeling the listener into submission, and yet just 25 seconds into the song, lead singer Eleni is nursing you back to health with layered harmonies and dream pop melodies. It’s like Slayer meets the Cocteau Twins. As strange as this sounds, it absolutely works. Track two, “One Too Many Times” takes a slightly more subdued approach, leaving out the thrash and instead focusing on complex chord structures at a slower pace.

The thrash is back, however, for “Detach” but again layered with some vocal harmonies. I’m not sure how she does it, but Eleni goes from a full-on scream that isn’t really reminiscent of anything I’ve ever heard (it’s not a death growl, nor is it fully a metalcore screech—it’s truly unique), and then straight into these beautiful clean singing parts. And don’t think emo or metalcore. It’s more at home with Dead Can Dance or This Mortal Coil than those scenes. Some fans find female singers in metal divisive. I would really challenge those listeners to give Azusa a chance. Another highlight on this track is the stellar guitar work of guest Alex Skolnick (Testament).

“Seven Demons Mary” again finds the band alternating between breakneck thrash and dreamy effects. Bassist Liam Wilson (Dillinger Escape Plan, John Frum) really shines here with some tight rhythms that carry on both during the thrashy parts as well as underneath Espevoll’s mellower layered tremolo effects. The band here are showcasing their unique mix of extreme metal, progressive rock, and even indie rock (metal snobs don’t fear—this is quality stuff).

The title track shows the band mellowing out a bit with Espevoll’s guitar prowess again coming to the forefront, this time finger-picking clean notes out instead of strumming complex chords or shredding solos. The quiet doesn’t last long however, as “Rapture Boy” once again attacks the sense with heavy and progressive riffage. This track once again showcases the absolute versatility of the band and the musicians involved, as does “Skull Chamber.”

“Kill-Destroy” brings back the heavy metal riff in a big way. You’re gonna want to hear this one again. Again the verses segue into an otherworldly bridge that once again gives way to a complicated thrash riff. The movements between passages on Loop of Yesterdays is constantly shape-shifting, constantly evolving, flowing in and out of genres and structures, and yet the sound is entirely cohesive, never disjointed.

“Golden Words” opens with a melodic yet dark-and-layered riff that could almost be on an atmospheric black metal album. That is, until the vocal harmonies begin, bringing back that jazz-fusion-meets-dream-pop element, still underpinned by Wilson’s bass groove, Espevoll’s guitar prowess, and in particular on this track Husvik’s solid drumming. Another prog-metal romp “Aching Ritual” finishes out the album, with a crushingly heavy riff.

Production is handled once again by Nick Terry (Serena Maneesh, Kvelertak) and is excellent. This is one of the better-produced metal albums I’ve heard in quite some time. Heavy and brutal, and yet I can clearly hear all the instruments in each movement—no small feat considering everything that is going on under the surface.

I don’t like to throw words around like this lightly, but Loop of Yesterdays is truly a masterpiece. How a band of 4 individuals hailing from 3 different countries/2 continents (USA, Norway, Greece) can seamlessly fuse thrash, progressive metal, jazz fusion, dream pop and hardcore into a cohesive whole unit is entirely beyond me. (Solid State) 5 Out of 5 Stars

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