While metal and jazz have long commingled—see John Zorn's Painkiller, death-jazz shredder Ephel Duath, or hardcore/jazz mash-up artist Candiria—they've traditionally done so by emphasizing each other's differences. Chicago's Yakuza, however, has spent three albums erasing such distinctions. Though the group has a vocalist, Bruce Lamont, who doubles on reeds, and though it has the clout to snag legendary free-jazz percussionists Hamid Drake and Michael Zerang, it still loads Transmutations with atmospheres that are neither jazz nor psychedelia nor Neurosis-esque post-metal, but a cataclysmic collision of all three. The album's quieter passages, unfortunately, highlight the weaknesses Yakuza hasn't yet overcome: Lamont is a vicious screamer, but a painfully flat singer. But the explosions they bookend make the band's fellow fusionists sound thin in comparison.

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