Yakuza Beyul

Chicago, IL's Yakuza are known as "avant-garde metal," continually experimenting with the progressive metal genre by incorporating jazz and world music influences. But with their latest offering, Beyul, they take the notion of avant-garde a step further, or maybe backwards? The record features a prominent '70s rock vibe throughout, even with the layers of instruments not typically heard in the genre, as on opener "Oil and Water," which features a heavy use of saxophone and hand percussion, exhibiting Middle Eastern flourishes. The otherworldly "Man is Machine" is the main highlight, featuring eight-and-a-half minutes of blazing guitar riffs, melodious leads and a vast array of rhythms, while Bruce Lamont's unpredictable vocal range rises and falls with the cadence of the music. By incorporating so many different elements, it's easy to assume that Yakuza are susceptible to overdoing it, but that's not the case. The band compel with each of their unique flourishes, which work together to enhance the listening experience, making Beyul a thought-provoking, yet easily digestible album. Whichever direction Yakuza are moving in, it's clearly not linear. (Profound Lore)