Shakra - 2003 Rising

ARTIST: Shakra
ALBUM: Rising
LABEL: Point Music
SERIAL: 10234
YEAR: 2003

LINEUP: Mark Fox - vocals * Thom Blunier - lead guitar * Thomas Muster - rhythm guitar * Oliver Linder - bass * Roger Tanner - drums * Victor Rettenmund - keyboards on 'I Will Be There'

TRACK LISTING: Now Or Never * 02 Done Me Wrong * 03 Too Good For Me * 04 I Will Be There * 05 Rising High * 06 Little Stories * 07 My Life - My World * 08 Sign In The Sky * 09 Run Away * 10 Fight The Fire * 11 Anything * 12 Trapped


Ah, Switzerland. Home of ex-Yes keysman Patrick Moraz. Home of Krokus and their 'Long Stick' which er, 'Goes Boom' (and also home of the Americas Cup yachting trophy, grrr Ed).

Switzerland is also responsible for giving us Shakra, a band whose brand of melodic hard rock has seen them build up a loyal following after playing lots of live shows in Europe in support of three albums. 'Rising' is their fourth and the first to feature vocalist Mark Fox.

On my first couple of listens, I have to confess, I had difficulty getting to grips with his vocal style, as his accent is quite thick. However, a gut feeling told me, despite my reservations about the voice, the songs seemed pretty good. They seemed to be the kind which would get better upon subsequent hearings. Much later, I still remained unsure of the vocal delivery, but I was right about the songs - 'Rising' is a solid album.

The Songs

The punchy feeling of 'Now Or Never' is typical of the rest of the album. Hard edged but melodic, always a great combination in my book, it reminds me a little of the more urgent material from Harem Scarem's often maligned 'Voice Of Reason' album. Not to mention its big chorus, which although isn't instant, after a couple of plays you'll probably find yourself singing it.

'Done Me Wrong' follows a similar path and 'Too Good For Me' really cranks up the gears. While never destined to be classic in the true sense, it's a great, pounding 'fists in the air' metallic anthem.

'My Life - My World' is also notable for a chorus which will stick with you after a few listens. Like the UK band Pride, Shakra definitely have a handle on the things required to make a decent melodic rock album.

'I Will Be There' shows the other side of the coin, as it's a keyboard based ballad, (appropriately placed too, ever noticed how many melodic rock albums have a big ballad as track number four?). Once again, the band hit the mark with another great chorus and a top guitar solo, which is a good example of a solo which 'fits' a song, as opposed to being a bunch of flashily (over)played notes.

Those of you who lean more towards melodic metal should definitely enjoy moments of this album, and alongside the aforementioned 'Too Good For Me', the rocky 'Fight The Fire' should definitely float your boat, with its early Icon style approach.

Even though the prospect of big choruses may be enough for some of you to give this a listen, the more musically-minded among you should definitely check it out for some of the guitar work.

While not as technically proficient as some, Thom Blunier, like the under-rated Matthias Jabs before him, definitely understands the value of 'putting a solo into a song' and what's more, he can manage it without making the rest of the band speed up to accommodate his efforts. (Check out the first self-titled Pole Position album for a great example of that, it makes me laugh every time).

'Anything' sees the band shifting back into power-ballad mode, it's nothing special. It's the kind of thing Def Leppard trawl out a couple of times an album. Normally I'd plump for this kind of song as one of an album's standout moments, but Shakra, for my money, seem to fare better at the edgy stuff. Maybe that's because with the harder material, I get to concentrate more on the guitar work and less on the not-my-cup-of-tea vocals.

The more metallic approach surfaces again (yay) during 'Trapped', but as proof that Shakra can be a band of light and shade, the song's mid-section is much lighter, with cleanly played guitar notes, which build up to a climax and another top solo from Blunier.

In Summary

I'm not going to say this should go straight to the top of your list of new releases to check out (although if you own the other Shakra CD's you've probably been quite eager for this album's release), but there are some good moments here. It's made me want to dig out 'Lovedrive' and 'Animal Magnetism' by The Scorpions, so that can't be bad.

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