Yakuza has made three albums on as many labels. This may suggest to the cynical that these record companies didn't know what they were encouraging when they signed the Chicago foursome, a group that blends thrash, hardcore, free jazz, ambient fusion, and Tuvan throatsinging -- occasionally in the same song.
This year's Samsara (Prosthetic) may, with a little luck, wind up being merely the beginning of a long career rather than a souvenir of corporate frustration. Tighter and more melodic than the band's Century Media offering, 2002's Way of the Dead, the disc packs a serious punch on the almost Helmet-like "Plecost" and the psychedelically throbbing "20 Bucks," while genre-blending tendencies are indulged to thrilling and occasionally baffling effect on "Cancer of Industry" and "Dishonor." The trippy interludes of "Exterminator" and "Gloryhole" provide welcome breaks from all the shrieking and bashing. At a time when System of a Down has big-time radio hits and the Mars Volta attracts fervid hordes with spazzy, half-hour prog-rock spankfests, Yakuza is exactly what the hardcore-thrash world needs.