Azusa – Loop of Yesterdays Review

Loop of Yesterdays enters with a burly thrash riff that gives way in seconds to a lull of shady jazz chords. Two minutes later, Azusa are playing both at once. The record’s dichotomous approach spawns many such treasures, oddities that are hardly surprising considering the source. An Extol/The Dillinger Escape Plan supergroup could hardly produce a pedestrian sound, and frontwoman Eleni Zafiriadou only expands Azusa’s oddity, nestling into jazz chords as comfortably as she commands tech-thrash stomps. You wanted something different? This is it.

That explosive opener is far from the oddest of Azusa’s experiments splicing hardcore, thrash and jazzy art pop. “One Too Many Times” foregrounds slippery melodies among nasty mid-paced riffs, Zafiriadou punctuating each of Christer Espevoll’s (ex-Extol) stuttered phrases with a ragged roar but crooning through his suave excursions. Her singing as ethereal and distant as her screams immediate and forceful, Zafiriadou commands her role with a charisma that’s not far removed from that of Greg Puciato or Eva Spence. The concise and varied songs she leads the band through on Loop of Yesterdays aren’t entirely unlike Dillinger tracks, but I’m still taken by how unique the whole product is.

Unique, but imperfect. As is the case with almost any album this experimental, not every song lands. As the record progresses, the band have less novelty to offer, and even the electric aggression of “Kill – Destroy” can’t salvage a B-side that only offers more of what you heard before. The last two cuts on Loop slowly pick-apart and re-harmonize opening major-key melodies, providing a lot of interesting tonal texture just when the album didn’t need more of it. I would have loved to hear Azusa try their hand at a lengthier or weightier composition at this point in the album, as the band already included nine short songs. Compositions that linger on melodies or simply gave the band more time to expand on a simple motif could have pushed Loop of Yesterdays into greatness. Azusa have one of the most unique sounds in metal, but they seem not to know what they want to accomplish with it.

I could chalk those shortcomings up to the supergroup syndrome, but I’d rather live in a universe where Azusa weren’t damned for their origins. Liam Wilson (ex-Dillinger) and David Husvik (Extol) deliver everything you’d want in a rhythm section but largely stay out of Espevoll and Zafiriadou’s way. That could easily change, and more diverse songs might emerge if the duo got more time to themselves than just the intro of “Skull Chamber.” More complex rhythms in the Dillinger vein would make a great counterpoint for Espevoll’s odd bends and chords, and longer songs might coax Zafiriadou to really belt out the lines that she now sings in a disaffected breath. Tonal tricks and slick playing can’t replace compelling songs, and Azusa should be completely capable of writing them.

Loop of Yesterdays’ sound will stick with me, but its songs won’t. That’s a shame, since Azusa’s bizarre style is as unique as it is technically accomplished, a slick and sensuous synthesis of aesthetics that should never work together so well. That alone is worth attention and a few spins of the band’s Heavy Yoke debut. Even if Loop’s potential is not fully realized, the record is unique enough to satiate listeners who need something new or just want to keep up with what Extol and Dillinger alumni are up to. I’m happy to know myself, though it’s disappointing to come away from such a promising project with the feeling that Loop of Yesterdays will too quickly slip into the past.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Indie Recordings | Solid State Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: April 10th

« »