Having already been captured by Vajra through their track Inside The Flame which was featured on The Bone Orchard Radio Show, there was a lot of biting at the bit hoping to have the chance to hear and review their debut album Pleroma. From that song alone our anticipation and expectations were probably unjustly high not that it was a problem as the album simply blew everything imagined away. It is aural majesty, a beautifully crafted and emotively driven piece of wonder. Admittedly the list for album of the year candidates is longer than the waiting list at an NHS hospital but Vajra are there at the fore with their stunning introduction to the world.
The seeds of Vajra began with its founder composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist, Annamaria Pinna during her self-imposed exile in India. The daughter of a former monk and school teacher, Annamaria was encouraged to look at, learn about, and question assumptions about the world including her own, her creativity and music borne from and continuing that premise. She also has a neurological condition called synesthesia, which results in one sensory stimulation opening a secondary involuntary experience, in the case of Annamaria she attaches colour and shapes to sound. How it impacts on her songwriting one cannot imagine but certainly her music is nothing less than enlightened imagination and melodic mastery.
With sell out gigs including shows at The Bowery Ballroom, The Mercury Lounge and The Bowery Electric in NYC, licensing deals with The Discovery Network, MTV, Showtime and Bravo, and their music being played across 200 radio stations nationwide in the US and of course across the internet, Vajra is on an unrelenting rise. Alongside Annamaria bringing her vision and music to realisation upon Pleroma, there are the skills and talent of drummer Blake Fleming (ex-The Mars Volta), bassist Doug Wright (The Dirty Pearls), and guitarist Will Dahl (ex-Harley’s War), together the quartet exploring and expanding the passions of progressive rock and welcoming hearts.
The theme of Pleroma is an exploration in paradoxes (east vs. west, soft vs. pummelling, female vs. male), with songs which are enveloping and inciteful suns of melodic rock woven with Eastern Indian themes and sounds. Grammy-award winner, Sylvia Massy (Tool, System of A Down, Prince, Johnny Cash) co-produced and mixed the tracks whilst mastering was handled by Tom Baker (NIN, Foo Fighters, Ministry, Prince), the resulting understanding and clarity as important as the invention within.
The album opens with the wonderful Inside The Flame, a song which wraps its tender arms around the senses with melodic beauty whilst squeezing throughout with anthemic intensity to increase the wanton pleasure. It opens on a brewing atmosphere, slightly haunting but soon with shadows lit by bobbing bass tones, fiery guitar play, and the stunning voice of Annamaria. Her voice is that of an angel and devil combined, her tones warm caresses or heated squalls forged with feisty and forceful power. The song itself rises and ebbs throughout, always with a sirenesque call no matter if consuming the heart with subtle whispers or blood surging sonic anthem. The bass of Wright is glorious, a moody and prowling presence whilst the rhythms of Fleming ignite all primal and instinctive urges and passions.
As mentioned the song was a deeply rooted fever before the album so a fall was a possibility from then on in but no chance. The following Almost One slowly treads its way through the ear with shimmering keys behind the provoking bass and precise guitar touches. Once more the vocals lead to drifting thoughts and imagination as the lyrical content is unveiled with heart and expertise. Though not as dramatic as the first track the song is an absorbing melodic summer which heats and thrills evenly across the senses.
The darkly ambient instrumental India makes way for the immense Blind, a song which prowls with layers of rippling muscle and explosive sonic heat. It is a towering piece of vision and creativity, its heart a pulsating living passion driven with brooding rhythms, evolving flaming guitar juice from Dahl, and showers of golden vocal harmonies and feeling. It is irresistible, a sunspot of aural wonder veined with spires of intensity.
Pleroma just moves from one slice of majesty to another, every track a perfect combination of ingenuity, sounds, thought, and heart. The likes of the evocative Intuition with its hypnotic heartbeat, the smouldering 3.14, and See Through, a song which sways and glistens with crystalline delight within its firm breath, lead one down further diverse roads of sound and thought to the same result, total joy.
Closing on the magnetic lure of The Apple, a shifting storm of building emotion and energy, Pleroma is quite glorious. Its soundscape is a perpetual emotion generating journey of expression, reflection, and investigation. At times it is a shadowed meditation and in others a towering fire of spiritual might which flames with burning passion. It is extraordinary and wholly delicious. The last line of their bio states ‘Vajra’s music will leave you spellbound’. Hell Yeah!
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