That fact that this is a band, a melodic Hard Rock band, that has been together for some 25 years and I had just recently – in 2017 to be more exact – discovered them, is a bit embarrassing to be honest. What’s more embarrassing is that when I was about to review their last album, the great Snakes & Ladders – the album that made me discover them – I also found a couple of old CDs that someone once had burned for me, in one of many many CD-cases. Power Ride (2001) and Rising (2003). I had two Shakra records that I must have listened to at some point and I had forgotten about them…
Why those albums didn’t make an impact on me back then, I can’t tell, but what I can tell is that when I gave them a spin, I really enjoyed them. That and the fact that I think that Snakes & Ladders was a great record should have made me go back and check out the rest of their albums as well. There’s eight more in their discography. Well, I haven’t and one day I will get into that but I need a reminder to do so. Life and shitloads of new music gets in the way sometimes. Well, the news that Shakra was about release a new record was indeed good news and since the last record was a winner, I had really high hopes for the new album by this Swiss five-piece, so let’s get on to see what they have in store for us this time.
Opening track and latest single “Fireline” holds all the elements an opening track should, the way I see it. It’s an uptempo, straight-forward, cracking classic Hard Rock number that’s totally in-your-face and goes straight for the punchline. I’m not sure about the hit-potential, though, as this meaty and tough-beated belter feels more like an album track. I dig the chorus but to me this is more of a crunchy album – and live – opener and maybe not a single. Good song, though. The rough, riff-happy and fat-grounded rocker “Too Much Is Not Enough” was chosen as the leading single and it’s great as such. It’s raunchy yet very melodic with a striking and immediately catchy refrain. It might not be obviously radio-friendly but the song sure do stick. Very good.
“A Roll Of The Dice” is a bit heavier in a darker mode but still with some beefy riffing and a rough ‘n’ ready groove and a chunky stomp which gives it a good live-feel. Big on hooks, the chorus comes across as more melodic and smooth than the verses but it works great, the blending of raw and edgy music with catchy melodies creates a great dynamic here – very good. The title-track is upbeat and quite punchy but leans more towards 80’s Hard Rock with distinct melodies, a good swing and a striking refrain. This is straight-forward Rock without any mish-mash involved, just bang on target. “It’s a mad world we leave behind for you…”, apologizes Fox to the younger generations. Ain’t that the truth, Mark.
“When He Comes Around” is a crunchy, raw and edgy rocker that flirts some with late 80’s American Sleaze Rock and the bluesier touches gives it a slight AC/DC touch as well. It’s a rough grooved, kicking, balls-to-the-wall ass kicker with dirt under its finger nails but it’s also quite melodic and given the song’s structure, the chorus is surprisingly catchy. Great tune. “Thousand Kings” continues the upbeat, straight-forward pace of the last tune albeit with less Sleaze and more classic Hard Rock – and even a slight Metal vibe. It holds a crunchy outlook, crispy guitars and a stompy, groundy beat with strong melodies. That said, the verses are stronger than the chorus and the tune doesn’t really take off like the rest. Not bad, though.
“I Still Rock” might have a cringy and highly clichéd title but it’s a really raunchy rocker. This is a bouncy and kick-ass stomper that reminds me of an edgier Gotthard with some ZZ Top like blues-boogie twists and a big live-feel. It’s a meaty and simple rocker that will be perfect live – a good song but the chorus could have been a bit catchier. “Fake News” brings on some heavy riffing and a fat, shaky groove. The verses takes on a slower and more held-back pace but when the chorus arrives, it goes into a rougher and rowdy territory. The solo part throws a nod towards Metal while the refrain takes an anthemic route which makes it effective and memorable as damn. Very good.
“When It All Falls Down” brings on an upbeat and stompy rhythm while the gritty and raunchy guitars flirts with both Sleaze and Metal. It’s a beefy, straight-forward rocker with a striking main melody and a melodic yet rough driven chorus with a nice hook. Great song. “Turn On The Light” throws a big Scorpions vibe our way where the main riff borrows from both “Rock You Like A Hurricane” and “No One Like You” without cloning them because of that. The rhythm is highly stompy and the groove is spicy and rough on a straight-forward outlook and a driving rhythm complete with highly memorable melodies all over. One of my favorites on the album.
“Son Of Fire” takes off on a faster pace, very straight ahead and in-your-face, sleazy, rowdy and kicking. Style-wise, it’s a classic Hard Rock tune with touches of both the 80’s and 70’s and even though that can never be a bad thing, the tune itself is just standard Hard Rock, not bad as such but easily forgotten. In one ear, out the other. Shakra closes the album with the ballad “New Tomorrow”. Based on clean guitars more than distorted ones, the tune holds a slower pace but at the same time it holds a steady, solid beat which heavies it up some. Gotthard meets Scorpions here and the song is set with a very memorable melody and a chorus that sticks right away without being the least saccharine. The tune ends with a smooth melody while “ah-ah-ah”‘s being sung in the background over a guitar solo until the song fades. A great song that sticks for hours after the tune is done.
As a whole, Shakra has made a really good record that at first glance felt a bit bland but grew already by second listen – and grew even more after that. If you’re looking for something completely revolutionary musically, then look elsewhere but if traditional, classic, edgy Hard Rock with big melodies, catchy choruses based on loud guitars and a punchy rhythm-section is your bag, then Shakra is a band to look into. Singer Mark Fox holds a raspy yet somewhat high-pitched voice and a broad register but he also brings on some phrasings – especially when he ends a sentence – that takes some getting used to. In fact, I’m still trying my hardest to do just that. This album might not be exactly as good as Snakes & Ladders but it still rocks in a Gotthard meets Scorpions meets a heavier Bonfire kind of way and thinking about the pure quality of the song-writing, they should be lots bigger than they are now. If you haven’t already checked them out, it’s time to do so now.
More Shakra reviews:
2. Too Much Is Not Enough
3. A Roll Of The Dice
4. Mad World
5. When He Comes Around
6. Thousand Kings
7. I Still Rock
8. Fake News
9. When It All Falls Down
10. Turn The Light On
11. Son Of Fire
12. New Tomorrow