The third album by Chicago art-metal quartet Yakuza features a number of guests, including Minsk bassist (and highly regarded producer) Sanford Parker, pianist Jim Baker, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, and Mastodon guitarist Troy Sanders. The production by Matt Bayles, who's also worked with Isis and Botch, takes them into a more psychedelic direction than their previous release, 2002's thrashy Way of the Dead. "Monkeytail" is built around a dubby, post-punk groove atop which vocalist Bruce Lamont plays echoey, effected saxophone lines. At the song's midpoint, a screeching guitar riff reminiscent of Texas thrashers Rigor Mortis comes in, taking the track in a new and much more aggressive direction. This balance between highly technical thrash and drifting, doped-out soundscapes has few antecedents in modern metal, unless you're going to count John Zorn's Painkiller. Other tracks, like "Dishonor" and the crushingly heavy "Just Say Know," stay brutal all the way through. Yakuza's interest in organic changes rather than inhumanly precise juxtapositions puts them at odds with the metal audience, but it makes Samsara more interesting than the works of more showily "progressive" acts like Between the Buried and Me.
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AllMusic Review by Phil Freeman