Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Alkira – Juggernaut

Juggernaut” is the first full-length record from Australia’s Alkira. This four-piece plays an intense brand of thrash metal that is built around powerful riffs, varied tempos, and lots of aggression. Aside from a relatively tame intro, once the album kicks off with “Submission Therapy”, it chooses not to let up. Be forewarned that this relentlessness does not take the form of “Darkness Descends”, “Ritually Abused” or even fellow countrymen Harlott; instead, it is more akin to something like Exhorder where speed and power are prominent, but can make way to groove. Additionally, the primary driver of the consistent battering ram of sound is from the vocals. While there is not a lot of range in the vocals, there is plenty of conviction. Some of the more menacing screams sound like some irreversible damage is being done to the vocal cords, and while I don’t recommend that to anyone, it creates one brutal sound. Though this approach is one-dimensional, it is not inherently bad. Alkira still mixes the music up to counteract this vocal approach.

The term groove/thrash or groove metal often frightens away most thrashers, and rightfully so. Having been exposed to plenty of thrash, the label groove/thrash often means a groove metal record that wants to be associated with thrash for various reasons. In Alkira’s situation, this is absolutely not the case. Other than the final track, which is somewhat plodding, the band is thrash-oriented first, with hints of groove. Though Alkira is not as potent with their groove tendencies, a good comparison would be to Vio-lence’s first record, where groove complemented thrash in a way that would get all heads banging. And even when it feels like the band might lean on this element a bit too much (such as in “The Fleet”), they are immediately aware that things need to be turned up again. The very next track, “Inebriated State”, has quite possibly the fastest and most brutal riffing of the entire record. Alkira is also no stranger to melody. While they are a far cry from Heathen or Artillery, the band is able to seamlessly inject leads into their music. The aforementioned "The Fleet" does a stellar job of this, as does the title track.

Despite my praise for “Juggernaut”, I have two slight criticisms with this record. The first is the songwriting. The members of Alkira are definitely better songwriters than most thrash bands. The songs here aren’t completely devoid of memorability, nor do they blend together; however, they also don’t quite reach the heights of some of the stronger thrash bands out there. It is clear the band has the talent, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them reach those heights in the future, but they are just outside that range right now. The other comment I have is regarding the album length. No style of music is more suited to a shorter album than thrash metal. The reality is that a 52-minute album such as this one is almost always less effective than if it were 35 minutes. While the album isn’t boring by the end, it certainly would be more impactful if it were without a couple of tracks. Alkira does tend to write longer songs, and, for the most part, they don’t feel any longer than the typical 3-4 minute thrasher, but it would still benefit the band to just release the best 7 or so tracks. Nevertheless, “Juggernaut” is definitely well above much of the thrash out there today, and just a couple of steps below the upper echelon.  

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"Submission Therapy"
"Inebriated State"

Final Rating
3.9/5 or 78%. 

Written by Scott 

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