It was a surprise to find that it is almost a decade ago that we had the thrill of first being introduced to NYC-based alternative metallers Vajra through their stunning debut album, Pleroma. It was a striking encounter and pleasure subsequently escalated by exploring release and creators in interview with band founder and songwriter Annamaria Pinna. Since then they have been absent from the radar for whatever reasons though courtesy of the regular appearance of that first full-length in ears not forgotten. Now they are back with the first of a trilogy of EPs, an encounter declaring the outfit bolder in songwriting and sound, richer in imagination and even more compelling as a creative incitement.
Irkalla, the Sumerian/Akkadian word for the underworld, is as mentioned the first in a series of releases which explore consciousness from the philosophical (Eastern and Western) and esoteric aspect. Pinna’s writing of the EP was an echo of a journey of “trials and tribulations”, one mercilessly testing mental and emotional experiences; “Her own personal Hell” as immediately reflected in its title. The darkness of those times is undoubtedly a haunting aspect to the thickly tenebrific breath of the release but one woven with melodic rock flames and enclosed in atmospheric and ambient provocation and evocation.
Produced by Sahaj Ticotin and featuring drummer Blake Fleming (ex-Mars Volta), Irkalla opens with its title track; a fusion of sonic and melodic intimation as darkly uneasy on the senses as it is intriguing. It is a beguiling trespass leading to the immediately enthralling Maya. Guitars entangle immediately ears, their heated threads sheer magnetism. The captivation only escalates as lively rhythms escort the familiar and ever tempting tones of Pinna, the track evolving in ears by the breath. It is fire and beauty entwined, offering rousing sunspots between transfixing almost rapturous sonic shadows; a tempest engulfing and seducing the senses from start to finish.
It is a glorious track, one revelling in all the richer aspects of the band’s growth and evolution and a temptation echoed in the following individuality of Crown Or Crucify. It too is melodic beauty and much darker suggestion around a volatile heart which erupts with drama, ferocity and imagination. From vocals to melody, rhythmic manipulation to emotive revelation, the song captivated and aroused as much as it kept the listener on its toes with fluid but unpredictable invention.
The disquieting ensnaring drone of Wavering immersed thoughts next, haunting restless whispers stalking inner turbulence before Sever The Tie embraces Pinna’s India living experiences and cultural awakening to ignite the rich textures and flavours making up its magnificence. Every cell of the song is imagination built and temptation hued, Pinna melodic prowess as addictive as the fire in the heart driving her vocal and creative drama; it all matched by the craft and enterprise of the band and sound around her which never lets a moment pass without sparking new compelling proposals within one outstanding track.
Completed by the riveting shamanic incitement on ears and thoughts of Wind, it is fair to say that Irkalla twisted the imagination and thoughts with unique and stirring adventure. It provokes and incites whilst captivating and seducing; every moment uniting the dark and light in its psyche and heart with those in the listener’s own inner reflections.
Vajra are back and making the striking impact with Irkalla which did not surprise as such but left ears and pleasure open mouthed and greedily waiting for its successor.
Irkalla is out now via Thunder Cult Records; available @ https://vajraofficial.bandcamp.com/album/irkalla digitally and on CD and Vinyl, the last two also containing the Shadow Queen EP, a raw three-part music ritual dedicated to the Shadow Queen (in Sumerian Ereshkigal and in Greek Hekate).
Pete RingMaster 17/01/2021