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Azusa – Heavy Yoke

Heavy Yoke
by Britney Twilley at 28 December 2018, 12:55 PM

“Heavy Yolk”, released on November 16, 2018 is the debut album of international supergroup AZUSA. The highly experimental band consists of Eleni Zafiriadou (SEA + AIR) on vocals, Christer Espevoll (EXTOL) on guitar, Liam Wilson (THE DILLENGER ESCAPE PLAN) on bass and David Husvik (EXTOL) playing drums. These creative forces have put together an explorative, mesmerizing album poised to shock listeners.

The album begins with “Interstellar Islands”, which, according to the band, was one of their first creations and is the perfect example of the band’s musical direction. The song takes the listener on a journey into a dissonant, eerie musical universe providing a multi-sensory trip to inner and outer space. It is a stellar introductory song to the universe of AZUSA. The second and third track, “Heart of Stone” and “Heavy Yoke” show the band putting their best foot forward. Espevoll pairs the use of his signature slinky riffs with an ear for discordant melody alongside Husvik’s powerful, bait-and-switch, percussive patterns. Wilson provides a subtle low-end presence. Zafiridadou switches her vocals as the situation commands from an injured howl to a dreamlike, gentle croon.

“Lost in the Ether” provides some calming, ambient-leaning vibes amidst choppy riffs. “Spellbinder” takes brief detours to atmospheric, CYNIC-like, death metal. “Programmed to Distress” takes a minimalistic approach with a simple guitar line, sparse beat and layered vocals. Before the song takes too much of a dreamlike turn, Husvik pulls the listener back to reality with fast double bass fills.

However, there are moments on this album where the music doesn’t land as effectively as it should. This can be seen with the heavy pop experimental song “Fine Lines”, which despite a lot of promise, just ends up feeling tragically unfinished. “Succumb to Sorrow” leaves the listener wanting and feeling unfulfilled. The final song, “Distant Call”, while a solid song, fails to provide the album with the resounding climax the listener is left searching for. A downside to the overall feel of the album is that instead of sounding like the debut of a new band, this work sounds like it could very well be the next album in the discography of EXTOL.

Throughout the album, Espevoll thrills with melodically furious riffs, Husvik drops precision drumming and Wilson provides subtle, brawny bass. Zafiriadou utilizes a range of vocals from raw, enthralling screams to soulful, siren-like cleans to help evolve AZUSA’s sound. Overall, the group’s cooperative efforts come together as something far greater than the mere sum of their individual parts. They feel like a band who possess a surplus of talent, as well as the wisdom to know how to apply and position them for maximum effect. The final result is a solid album with instant impact, yet such depth and intricacies that it will take some time to fully unpack and appreciate.

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 7
Memorability: 8
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Interstellar Islands
2. Heart of Stone
3. Heavy Yoke
4. Fine Lines
5. Lost in the Ether
6. Spellbinder
7. Programmed to Distress
8. Eternal Echo
9. Iniquitous Spiritual Praxis
10. Succumb to Sorrow
11. Distant Call
Eleni Zafiriadou – Vocals
Christer Espevoll – Guitars
Liam Wilson – Bass
David Husvik – Drums
Record Label: Indie Recordings


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Edited 06 February 2023

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