SHAKRA – Mad World
Reviewed: March 2020
Released: 28 February 2020
Distributor/label: AFM- Records
Review by Annalisa Orlando
In SHAKRA’s long career there have been many turbulent days and many successes. The latter includes when lead singer Pete Wider was forced to leave during ill health, but thankfully this wasn’t the band’s undoing, as the new vocalist, Mark Fox, took to his new role like a duck to water. Throughout the years the band has kept a consistent presence in the charts, particularly in their home country of Switzerland. This album is intended as a self-reflection on how things have changed, what was lost and what was gained, and a great celebration of their endurance.
In a recent press statement, guitarist, Thom Blunier, said: “I’m extremely proud and thankful, that this band is still existing after 25 years of Rock’n’Roll. Those of you who have a clue the difficulties of existing as a band know, how precious and exceptional this is. I am ready for the next 25 years!”
Here’s the thing about hard rock. I would compare it to the energy of a much-loved family dog: lovable, straightforward, enthusiastic, simple. This should not be taken in any way as a criticism (dogs are great), all I mean is that with bands like SHAKRA, you know what you’re going to get: from album to album, even from song to song. Although this would normally be seen as problem, when you’ve been going for a quarter of a decade, playing within a genre of music which loves repetition (the riffs, hooks and choruses run more or less in a perpetual loop, and the themes are the tired staples of rock and roll), it’s understandable that things can end up seeming a little reworked. But if anything, their predictability is a strength, because if you love this band’s vibe, you can rely on them to deliver it consistently. SHAKRA embodies these principles of hard rock in the best possible way – just don’t expect to be deeply moved or discover some otherworldly transcendental commentary on the human condition. More than ever this is obvious in the final track New Tomorrow, where an eighties-style ballad is crooned (almost whined) by Mark Fox, making me wince a little, and reinforcing my opinion that bands like these never really intended for sentimentality.
It’s well known that live performance is a strength for this band, and I can tell this album was thought with the stage in mind. Almost to a fault, in fact, leading me to conclude that listening to it through headphones, in my house, doesn’t do it justice. It’s certainly good for headbanging, shouting along to the catchy lyrics (because you know, at least they are easy to learn) and putting our overactive brains to bed for a second to enjoy an otherwise warm and rhapsodic performance. Fake News is even almost satirical, tongue and cheek, topical and I think a much more effective example of the hints of sophistication that poke through here and there. After all, life isn’t just existentialism and overthinking, and I think this album can only do good for your morale at the end of the day.