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Vajra – Irkalla

by Matt Bozenda at 16 February 2021, 1:09 PM

Has anyone ever truly attained perfection? Curt Hennig wrestled as such, but it was truly average demons which ended his life. The 16-0 New England Patriots came close to the platitude but were defeated by a team led by a man who is, at whatever moment you happen to be reading this, probably mouth agape. And don’t you think Napoleon wished he still had all that momentum behind the Grande Armee when they went to Russia?

Perfect on paper, not quite so perfect in reality. That, unfortunately, is the best way to describe "Irkalla", the new album from New York Alt-Metallers VAJRA. To read it from their own website, it sounds like the band has talent to spare, what with all the conservatories and experiences being listed. For all the pedigrees in play, however, there’s just something lacking about it. Perfection is the flaw.

For one thing, there’s a “glorified EP” sense about it when you consider the numbers: six songs, three of which are more ambient than anything else, all totalling less than twenty minutes. Yet, it’s called a full-length album, which should put up a red flag right away. The title track to open it up teases an intensity it will not deliver. The following track, "Maya", does attempt to be like a more intense EVANESCENCE tune but just as it begins to cook, the heat gets turned back down.

"Crown Or Crucify" goes along much as the previous track, but to its credit, the rhythm doesn’t take a back step; that doesn’t mean it steps forward, it just doesn’t fall behind itself. "Wavering" is another of the instrumental interlude tracks, although you won’t really hear any instruments, just some digital maneuvers that could make a base for a modern Halloween scary sounds tape.

Their best effort comes on "Sever The Tie", injecting major Eastern flavor into their sound which is regrettably completely absent from the chorus, being used only to liven up small sections of the song. This song was as close to a breakthrough as they had reached thus far, doing things that aren’t entirely familiar in Metal, but without the added emphasis it only reaches so far. The closing track, "Wind", is the better of the three ambient tracks, possessing a strange tension that is broken by the use of the number-not-available recording, thus stumbling over the finish line.

So, what went wrong? Mind you, dear reader, this is all speculation, but the image of a hot air balloon firmly tethered to the ground must come to mind. There’s a lot of grandeur, a lot of know-how, and a lot of talent that seems to be wasted. That may be the rub though; perhaps they’re so highly educated in playing what has worked that they forgot to learn how to innovate for themselves. VAJRA has wings but they are not using them to fly.

The Heavy Metal Arthouse has never wanted for residents, and there’s a new patron in "Irkalla". A bad taste for some may be the best taste to others, and maybe there’s enough of a niche to be filled here, but if VAJRA ever wants to reach the higher echelons, they’ll need to start exploring for themselves, and get out of the cage they were brought up in.

Musicianship: 7
Songwriting: 5
Memorability: 5
Production: 7

3 Star Rating

1. Irkalla
2. Maya
3. Crown Or Crucify
4. Wavering
5. Sever The Tie
6. Wind
Annamaria Pinna – Vocals
Mark Collom – Guitars
Al Javier – Guitars
Jimmy Demarco – Drums
Dave Sussman – Bass
Record Label: Thunder Cult Records


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