Azusa‘s transcontinental union has birthed a shapeshifting powerhouse on ‘Loop of Yesterdays’, out now via Solid State Records.
The final days of 2017 marked the end of mathcore legends The Dillinger Escape Plan‘s tenure as the preeminent force in maniacal, progressive post-hardcore. The band disbanded with a trio of shows at New York’s Terminal 5 capping off a career of mayhem-filled live shows and mind-bending albums. Although they were most known for their blistering blitzkriegs of notes and pummeling breakdowns, as they progressed, they experimented with injecting their songs with more conventional melodicism resulting in some of the most successful works of their career. When removed from the crucible that was Dillinger Escape Plan, the members stretched themselves out.
Ben Weinman, founder and sole constant member through the band’s career (1997–2017), took up a position with Suicidal Tendencies and formed a supergroup (Giraffe Tongue Orchestra) with Alice in Chains singer William DuVall, Mastodon guitarist Brent Hinds, Mars Volta drummer Thomas Pridgen and Dethklok bassist Pete Griffin. The band incorporated a generous degree of Weinman, Hinds, and Pridgen’s progressive influence but tempered it with a more straight forward rock aesthetic. Perhaps the biggest leap was taken by singer Greg Puciato who, aside from his currently releasing solo project, helmed the 80s-inspired synthpop project The Black Queen. Puciato takes the falsetto vocals that he dabbled with in the latter part of Dillinger’s reign and injects them into soundscapes highly reminiscent of late 80s output from Ministry, Depeche Mode, and most notably Nine Inch Nails. The fingerprints of Pretty Hate Machine are obvious, no doubt stoked by Dillinger’s time sharing a stage and covering NIN.
This brings us to manic bassist extraordinaire Liam Wilson. His latest project is the progressive extreme metal group, Azusa. Founded by ex-Extol members and cousins Christer Espevoll and David Husvik and rounded out with Sea + Air vocalist Eleni Zafiriadou. This eclectic confluence of styles makes for a stirring record that satisfies all the metal urges but ventures in enough different directions to keep it interesting. The Extol cousins lay down the framework with that classic Norse, above the Arctic circle metal but are morphed by Wilson’s spastic melodic turns on a dime and the greek singer’s infusion of surrealist pop sensibilities. This makes for the breakthrough of a powerful album with depth.
Stampeding out of the gate with a Slayer-style fervour, ‘Memories of an Old Emotion’ kicks off the record with galloping drums and muscle car muffler-rumbling guitars. Zafiriadou digs her heels in and plants her flag with a curdling scream. Then, in a flash, the rug is pulled out and a mere 25 seconds into the fury we’re left suspended in a completely removed dream-pop netherworld. The band’s ability to seamlessly transition is astonishing. A proper arcane metal solo primes Zafiriadou for another blitzkrieg.
‘One Too Many Times’ recalls the chopped time signatures that were one of Dillinger’s calling cards, cutting off measures before they have a chance to fully finish what they’re saying. ‘Detach’ and ‘Seven Demons Mary’ share some common ground with fellow Scandinavians Meshuggah and Opeth. ‘Monument’ serves as the albums most instantly catchy. A straight four-on-the-floor gives way to the whoosh of reverb swells that usher in Zafiriadou’s windy chorus.
The album’s title track splits the two sides with a respite from the ratcheting guitars and pummeling drums. Zafiriadou restrains to a wistful coo over flourishing arpeggiated guitar. A track again recalling Opeth, this time their more delicate and beautiful Damnation album. Eerie strings even join near the end to complete the foggy mood. No slow ease back in, ‘Rapture Boy’ declares itself with a windmill strum before jaggedly rising riffs stir Zafiriadou once again into a frenzy. The penultimate ‘Golden Words’ makes a final sludgy ascent with her divine clear vocals guiding the squealing beast below.
Loop of Yesterdays is a fascinating confluence of ideas and ability. The band’s capacity to shapeshift is impeccable and serves to give the tracks a depth greater than most metal albums can offer. Let’s get the music industry up and running again soon so we can all catch these guys live!