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Vajra – Irkalla

by Kenn Staub at 22 April 2021, 11:41 PM

Self-described mavens of dark rock, New York City-based VAJRA (pronounced “vaag-rah) return with their second studio effort, the EP “Irkalla” (released January 2021). VAJRA play lullabies, but not the kind you would sing to or play for infants. Rather, their lullabies are a blend of hauntingly dark and hypnotic, melodic, progressive, foreboding, and mysterious rock. On “Irkalla,” the EP’s name coming from the Sumerian/Akkadian word for the underworld, VAJRA musically and lyrical explore the base, material, ego aspects of the self; doing so using melodic rock with dark, ambient experimental interludes.

Irkalla,” the album’s eponymous opener, uses spacey, somewhat ominous sound effects as the foundation for a slowly played (at times note-by-note) keyboard melody. This melodic line is picked up on the next track, “Maya,” by a loud, distorted guitar. The guitar is soon joined by the rhythm section, the tempo picking up just a touch as the track is given a fuller, more urgent feel. “Maya’s” chorus is big, based around a neat hook.

Crown Or Crucify,” the third track, was my personal favorite. A spare keyboard builds in intensity as the full band comes together to play a repeating, sound effect-laden melody upon which Annamaria Pinna’s vocals are showcased. Rather than simply sing, Pinna performs on the album, her dramatic vocal renderings melding perfectly with the band’s tight instrumentation.

Atmospheric, again almost spacey, sound effects are the basis of “Wavering,” with hauntingly distorted speaking (largely unintelligible) imparting a sinister feel. Whereas “Wavering” was tonally heavy throughout, the next track, “Sever The Tie,” demonstrated an intermixing of the heavy and light. The lightness was the product of almost folkish percussive elements, while the band’s cohesive rhythm section gave the song its heavier feel. The album concluded with another soundscape, “Wind.”

I loved the more “traditional” songs on this album (“Maya,” “Crown Or Crucify,” “Sever The Tie”), though the more atmospheric tracks (“Wavering,” “Wind”), with the exception of “Irkalla” leading seamlessly into “Maya,” left me flat, if not confused as to their intent. Pinna’s singing is extraordinarily emotive and the band is adept at playing immersive, heavy melodies. I would have liked to have heard more of these elements in typical song structures, as opposed to the almost seven minutes of atmospheric sound effects used to reinforce the album’s darker tone (which factored heavily into my overall rating).

Musicianship: 9
Songwriting: 8
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

3 Star Rating

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


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Edited 28 March 2023

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