I must confess I’d never heard a single note of SHAKRA’S music before High Noon (out now, AFM Records) ended up in my lap a short time ago thanks to the one and only Dustin Hardman (thanks, buddy!). But I am most definitely a fan now. As someone who grew up in the 80’s heyday of hard rock and heavy metal this stuff is right up my alley. Which is not to say it sounds stale, dated, or anything like that, because it certainly does not. Marking the return of vocalist Mark Fox it really seems like there’s a fire and passion in these songs that maybe was missing before. I’m not sure as I don’t have their back catalog (yet). All I know is you can hear and feel something in the air as the album moves forward and I think a big part of it is the combo of his vocals and outstanding riffs.
Opener “Hello” is the prototypical rock anthem designed to get fists raised and asses moving. Perfect for a Monday morning when you’re drag-assin’ at work, as I often am. It’s also a great way for Fox to say, “I’m baaaaack!” Title track “High Noon” has some terrific guitar work from the duo of Thom Blunier and Thomas Muster over a seductive groove from the rhythm section of Dominik Pfister (bass) and Roger Tanner (drums) that is sure to please fans everywhere and anywhere. “Into Your Heart” ups the ante with a balls-out rocker that is totally textbook, but totally awesome. Another change of pace is up next on “Around the World”, with a dirty boogie going down, not unlike something you’d hear at the bar while the drinks are flowing.
A bit o’ the blues rock permeates “Eye to Eye” while “Is It Real” is another throwback-sounding song, especially on the hook, which is big. The obligatory ballad shows up in “Life’s What You Need” and it’s a great one. When these songs are done right they warrant repeat listens and this one is done right, making it an album favorite. An unusual guitar riff starts “The Storm” and that’s what immediately caught my ear. Then the band jumps in and goes for broke giving us another ass-kicker. They then deliver yet another anthem with “Raise Your Hands”, and it sounds especially good in the headphones. My advice is to go wireless, though, because you might send pieces of your stereo flying while you rock out.
“Stand Tall” is maybe the only song I wasn’t all that jazzed about. It’s okay, and not much more. That’s alright though, because “Watch Me Burn” absolutely sizzles, pun intended. I swear, the guitars on this record take these very well-written songs and make them even better. From the tones to the riffs to the fluid leads, Blunier and Muster prove that they are a tandem worthy of much more recognition than they probably get. Closing the disc is barnburner “Wild and Hungry” which signals the end of the ride…until you start the record again…which you will.
SHAKRA is an excellent band, and I am so glad to have found them. Sadly they are largely overshadowed by far inferior groups. Hopefully High Noon, and the return of Mark Fox brings them some much-deserved fanfare and accolades from around the world and takes them to the next level here in the USA.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Life’s What You Need”, “High Noon”, “Raise Your Hands”, “Into Your Heart”, “Hello”, “Watch Me Burn”