When Azusa released the critically acclaimed 2018 album “Heavy Yoke“, they declared themselves as creating “Avant-Thrash for the discerning listener“. A collective of players who you might have known better for their prior works formed the band in 2014 and with Eleni Zafiriadou of Sea & Air fame on vocals, Liam Wilson of The Dillinger Escape Plan on bass and Extol pairing Christer Espevoll on guitars and David Husvik on drums sound like a tantalizing offering. Returning to drummer and producer-engineer David Husvik’s Hawk Studios in Oslo, Norway to record their sophomore album “Loop Of Yesterdays“, which was masterminded by long-time collaborators David Husvik and guitarist Christer Espevoll, they actually recorded it in a series of marathon sessions that started before “Heavy Yoke” even left the pressing plant. Calling once more upon Nick Terry (Serena Maneesh, Kvelertak, Turbonegro) to achieve their ideal mix, while giving mastering engineer Jens Bogren (Opeth, At The Gates, Between The Buried And Me) the final task to complete what they hope will be another master work.
Frenetic riffs and a throat shredding opening line from Zafiriadou starts “Memories Of An Old Emotion” off at a furious pace, before drop offs into dreamy jazz infusions and sweetly sung vocals that get burst like champagne bubbles by the return of the heavier aspect is what gives Azusa a signature style that is as melodic as it is heavy in perfect contrast. Like two sides of a coin flipping over and over as it flies through the air, Azusa are reliant on the incredible vocal range of Zafiriadou, who vocally plays both angel and demon in equal measure. Bringing the old school 80’s Thrash vibe with the pre-verse riffs and pulverizing drum patterns of “One Too May Times” which then disappears into some PJ Harvey esq material before swinging back around again full circle and you get the idea of how Espevoll and Husvik approach writing. Dark, avant-garde, off kilter and even disturbing in places, “Loop Of Yesterdays” encompasses so much is such a small amount of time, it beggars belief. Somehow Azsua persuaded Testament guitarist Alex Skolnick to lend his strings to “Detach” and a more thunderous affair it becomes for the weight of the extra guitar work and his ripper of a solo. The Percussive elements are impressive, the off kilter, warped moments are outlandish and there is no let up to the sense that somehow you’ve been trapped inside a dream inside an acid trip in an infinitely nested loop.
Each track is a journey that sees you take the hand of Alice and let her lead you further and further down the rabbit hole of an eclectic sound wave. “Seven Demons Mary” brings new evil to the melodic Jazz infusions with Husvik’s metronomic timings on the kit acting as a constant that the others play off before the short and sweet instrumental “Support Become Resistance” makes way for pre-release single “Monument“. Perhaps a more obvious single than any other, it’s distinctly more Metal flavor with Metallica esq driven riffs and 80’s Hair Metal chorus line is a winner, partly because it marks the least of the obscure moment in an album of brilliant oddities. For all of the heaviness of the preceding track, the title affair “Loop Of Yesterdays” becomes the polar opposite. A melodic song with progressive guitar patterns and Smashing Pumpkins styled vocals, it has the calm before the store sensibilities of the killer sharpening his or her knives. “Rapture Boy” dives back into the heavier riffs and throat shredding vocals that make Azusa sound like a Thrash version of Rolo Tomassi. As with “Monument” it’s a stand out moment of violent aggression with some tight leads and slick style, of which, like the perfect drug, you want more.
Some incredible leads highlight “Skull Chamber” which attacks in waves as it moves from some more melodic sinister edged material through to the full throttle aggression of the heavier moments of the album. The ebb and flow is masterfully controlled with slick transitions throughout. Final pre-release single “Kill/Destroy” has arguably the finest base line that Wilson as ever written, it’s Chinese whispered vocal parts are the hidden hand of the influencer while the raw uncleans and riffs provide the albums most headbangable moments. Cutting short abruptly when it could have easily gone on for another verse sees conjoined twin “Golden Words” cut straight in. Vocal layering is used to allow Zafiriadou to have a split personality and the result is a track that sounds like a mashup between Pink Floyd and Exodus. But in a good way. The relentless double kick work from Husvik is once again a strange anchoring point while bi-polar melodies bark and bite as much as they soothe. The oxymoron that is “Aching Ritual” is an interesting one as it has the least aching vocals but a fine piece of inlaid guitar providing the melodic aspect. For all the contradictions, twists, turns and eclectic moments of “Loop Of Yesterdays“, you’re going to want to keep coming back to it. Not just because you think you might have missed something, but because it’s really good [8/10]
Memories Of An Old Emotion
One Too Many Times
Detach (ft. Alex Skolnick of Testament)
Seven Demons Mary
Support Become Resistance (Instrumental)
Loop Of Yesterdays
“Loop Of Yesterdays” by Azusa is out 10th April via Indie Recordings/Solid State Records