Azusa – Heavy Yoke

On Heavy Yoke (Solid State/Indie Recordings) Azusa is a bit all over all the place. Solid State’s own website has them described as “Can you imagine Kate Bush fronting Slayer; Death collaborating with Annette Peacock?” And they’re not technically wrong. Heavy Yoke is ripe with flashes of Thrash, Death Metal, Punk, Pop and Prog. It seems contradictory or musically adverse, but these are professionals at work.

These are players who cut their teeth in Dillinger Escape Plan and Extol and with Sea + Air’s Eleni Zafiriadou handling the lovely and frightening vocal duties. Just cue up album opener ‘Interstellar Islands’ and notice the cross-pollination of Black Metal abrasion with Punk tempos and the Dream Pop choruses. And that’s followed up by ‘Heart of Stone’, which I’ve likened to the brainchild of Shai Hulud and later era Cynic. Also, you may want to make a point of remembering drummer David Husvik’s name as he clearly is running away as the foundation of Heavy Yoke. Even on acoustic moments, Husvik is constantly working and adding nuanced fills and patterns that never feel like a distraction.

But while the aggressive bits are quite fun, keep your ears open for the more subdued and ambient-leaning moments as well. Take in the calming sounds of ‘Lost In The Ether’ and let its Dust Moth melodies take your mind for a walk. ‘Programmed To Distress’ also follows this less-is-more approach and gets the most mileage it can out a simple guitar line, sparse beat and layered vocals. But before you get lulled away into dreamland, Husvik makes sure to throw in some speedy double kick fills to keep you anchored in reality.

The mental game I find myself engaged in now is what Sirius station is going to add Heavy Yoke to the rotation? Octane? XMU? Liquid Metal? If I had my way, I’d say all three.

8.0/10

HANS LOPEZ