Released: 2013, AFM Records
Swiss hard rockers Shakra return in 2013 with their 9th studio album and second with their impressive front man John Prakesh. Formed during a time in the late 90’s when Shakra’s brand of hard rock was tottering on punch-drunk legs, 2013 finds melodic hard rock bands congregating in the center of the ring. With that glut of same sounding bands, the difficulty in distinguishing one from the other does become a bit of a chore. With that in mind, POWER PLAY is a finely crafted album that keeps the party going, but ultimately fails to deliver anything to distinguish itself from the dozens of bands out there releasing similar albums.
Having AFM Records firmly in your corner is a plus though, and the album sounds great; dynamic and full, if a bit processed. “Dear Enemy” contains a bit of down-tuned edge and “Wonderful Life” is a catchy track that could easily compare with Hardline and Lillian Axe. Prakesh delivers a rocking performance and often does sound similar to Johnny Gieoli, particularly with that nasal inflection also found in the great Klaus Meine. From a mood perspective, POWER PLAY is an upbeat and happy affair, equally worthy of a summer drive with the windows down or while imbibing some tasty beverages. “Save You From Yourself” is definitely a track to check out if you are looking for a combination of 80s elements with some modern moves, a foot-tapping and worthy tune for getting the day started. The most experimental track, “Dream Of Mankind” is also probably the heaviest and most brooding, briefly setting aside the sunshine for a darker approach. It is a direction that I would have loved to have heard more of on the album.
After repeated listens, my perception of this album has not altered. POWER PLAY is well-produced and competently executed, with 12 songs of quality hard rock and traces of 80s hair metal. Perhaps taken within the grand scheme of the band’s discography, POWER PLAY leans a bit more commercial. You will not get anything particularly heavy or unique, but Shakra has come to represent consistency. They are an old friend you can depend on, provided you accept their premise that more of the same is exactly what the doctor ordered and at this point, there is no reason to expect any stylistic innovation. If you are a fan of Hardline, Lillian Axe, Gotthard, Krokus or House of Lords and have not yet heard Shakra, then POWER PLAY would be a worthy place to start.