Metal has a deeply woven thematic relationship with all things mythological and mystical, and for any niche philosophy, story, or idea, a band must truly immerse themselves in it to adequately interpret and express it. NYC alternative metal outfit Vajra (pronounced Vaa-gra) are on a quest to publish a trilogy exploring human consciousness, starting with their new EP, Irkalla. According to the band:
“Irkalla is the Sumerian/Akkadian word for the underworld. It is the lowest level of consciousness. It is the base, material, selfish, ego aspects of ourselves. It is the place that we must shine a light and acknowledge before we move to the next levels of awareness.”
Very metal indeed.
Vajra’s music is grandiose, thought-provoking, hypnotic, and has a curious kind of sensual flow to it. This approach is couched on top of brutally heavy bass riffs, shifting tempos, acrobatic and theatrical vocals, and occasionally proggy guitarwork.
The title track that kicks off this new EP is more an ambient prelude to Vajra’s signature intoxicating mix as described above. It’s an intimate fusion of sonic and melodic forces that sets the stage for one of the release’s two singles, ‘Maya’. Indeed, half of this six-track EP is moody ambience that feeds into heavier material.
‘Maya’ packs meaty riffs courtesy of guitarists Mark Collom and Al Javier, and the pair blend perfectly with the rhythm section to create a thundering basis for Ann Marie Pinna’s vocals. Tribal rhythms add a flair to the music which waves back and forth according to the emotional delivery of the lyrics.
‘Crown or Crucify’ begins more akin to a ballad before the injection of alt-metal drumming and nifty riffing allows the piece to soar into a much more menacing place. Again, the track slowly builds up to an in-your-face chorus with explosive energy. This up-and-down charade is common on the EP, and while it’s not an original technique, it does show off the ability of Vajra to expertly draw out and emphasize the more dramatic moments in digestible chunks.
Perhaps the best cut is ‘Sever the Tie’ which shows off the best of Pinna’s performative abilities. Through wildly imaginative lyrics, she delivers a powerful and dramatic vocal performance that builds and builds temptingly until release. The only major hitch with this EP—and subsequently, this performance in particular—is the production on her vocals which sounds overly processed at points.
This is one-third of the trilogy, and it’s off to a mostly solid start. The next two are set to continue the theme by exploring two other levels of consciousness, and hopefully Vajra can keep the momentum up to make the series an artistic success.