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Shakra - 'Back On Track' http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/25/c5/02/1038_shakrabackontrack_1298767685.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     February 27, 2011    
 
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Ultra solid hard rock on the cusp of metal.

Wrought from the same AC/DC patented blast furnace steel that half a dozen years previously had also produced fellow Swiss contenders Gotthard, Berne based hard rockers Shakra exploded into our collective consciousness with their self titled debut as long ago as 1998. Boisterous and exuberant, yet blessed with a self assured confidence rare in a new band, the jungle telegraph (already wowed by Gotthard) soon began to resonate to their particular beat … and to be honest the band have barely looked back since.

Early support slots with the likes of Uriah Heep helped them hone their stage craft in front of ever more appreciative crowds, whilst the addition of vocalist Mark Fox for 2003's bruising 'Rising' album took everything to the next musical level ... hell, for much of the first half of the last decade they were to all intents and purposes more Gotthard than Gotthard, and at one point it even looked as if they were poised to steal top spot from Lugano's favourite sons. However, ever since Gotthard hit the hard rock comeback trail with a vengeance on 2005's 'Lipservice' opus, Shakra seem to have made an effort (be it conscious or otherwise) to steer themselves in a distinctly darker direction in order to establish a more instantly recognizable identity of their own.

The sudden departure of the aforementioned Mark Fox soon after the release of 'Everest' in 2009 winded them briefly, but after auditioning numerous potential replacements for the erstwhile vocalist's spot, they eventually settled on Indian born John Prakesh. Seemingly stronger than ever with their new frontman now firmly embedded in the band, Shakra are about to hit back at all the doubters with a brand new studio opus … the appropriately titled 'Back On Track'.

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Driven by the now oh so familiar blazing twin guitar attack of Thom Blunier and Thomas Muster, my initial thought was that the line up change had made the band hungrier than ever. Prakesh has slotted into the band almost seamlessly, his broad range and bluesy rasp adding extra depth to the bands material. Sometimes the downtuned riffs and no compromise approach the band err towards these days can be a tad tiresome, not to mention inaccessible – if I'm honest, opener 'B True B You' is a prime example, and one of the poorest songs on the album (quite why they chose to open with it instead of the pulsating title track is a mystery) – but when they do settle into a more melodic groove (as on the likes of 'Crazy' or 'When I See You' for instance), the results are uniformly strong and consistent.

There's plenty of variety pace wise to keep things interesting (pleasingly, often within the confines of a single song), and as I said earlier, even in their darkest of moments new boy Prakesh injects plenty of emotion and melody. Not an instant fix by any means, it took me a while but after a dozen or so spins 'Back On Track' is really starting to get under my skin in a good way – ultra solid hard rock on the cusp of metal, which for the most part successfully harnesses the passion of the former and the power of the latter. Good effort guys.

Dave Cockett

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