Shakra’s latest release sees the return of the band’s original vocalist, Mark Fox and a very different vocal tone along with it. Having only been exposed to the band’s previous record and singer John Prakesh, I must say that it’s a bit of a change for me. Prakesh had a much cleaner tone to me and I think he had some masterful highs, but the rest of the guys feel that this decision made for a stronger band and I’ve got to stand by what’s best for chemistry purposes. Though I’m not here to defend singers or to talk about band politics, I’m here to review the damn album and that’s what I’m going to do.
First of all, Swizterland’s Shakra is a hard rock act of a slightly different variety than some of you might be used to. When you think of hard rock these days, you think of stuff like Godsmack, Disturbed or Shinedown. While it’s undeniable that some of these bands do in fact contain classic rock elements in addition to their crunch, Shakra seems to make it a bit more classy and that could be because of the European metal and rock vibe flowing through them. We created Nu-Metal over here, but they still held onto many of the traditional rock and heavy metal elements that made the genre what it is today. One of them is hair metal, which I think damn near every Western and European nation embraced at one point. But what you really need to know is that you’re getting a rock performance closer to heavy-hitters Judas Priest and Dream Evil than you’re getting from more Western Godsmack style stuff, or even current Metallica. There’s a lot of chug here, but it comes with memorable solos that stick around for much longer than the radio-friendly hard rockers in this country who literally seem to shovel half-ass solos into most of their tracks, excluding Tremonti’s work and some of Disturbed’s as well (not counting the last one, of course – that was a bit of trainwreck to me).
Another thing I mentioned was “anthemic” and I feel I need to elaborate on that. Like most hard rock (and much of the heavy and power metal genres in general) these guys really like to ride on their choruses. But a good chorus can make for a catchy song, and a catchy song can make for a purchased song. People buy what they like to hear and will play often. The album’s title cut does an excellent job of this, as well as “Around The World”, “Raise Your Hands” and others which help to prove that these guys can work up an earworm just as well as anyone else. But they’ve also got the musical muscle to back it up and that’s what’s important. The sticker on the disc here says, “Power Riffs Galore!” and I fully support that notion, as it is literally what you’re getting from this album. Shakra hits hard and offers exactly what most people want from a rock album these days, especially if they aren’t getting it from the cardboard modern rockers in the west.
While there is a ballad here but the name of “Life’s What You Need” I’d closer compare it to some of the heftier ballads of the eighties, when they just meant a little bit more than some of the ballads written today. There are an awful lot of sugary pop rock songs on the radio today, but this one feels a little bit more authentic and maybe that’s because it feels classic. There aren’t any death growls or harsh vocals to be found on this thing and they don’t move too far out of what they know, but I really think that’s what fans want and it’s also what I want, being a Shakra fan myself. These guys really impressed me with the last one and even though Mark Fox is a bit of a change, you’ll find that these guys are just as strong as they were on the previous one. I was a bit of a hard sell at first, but I can definitely say that I’m enjoying what I’ve heard here and it’s definitely something I wouldn’t mind playing again. There’s more than enough for you to chew on, so if you’re looking for hard rock of a different variety that just feels a little more traditional and perhaps a bit more metal, then give it a shot. (The Grim Lord)