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Prolusion. The US project VAJRA is the creative vehicle of composer, singer and keyboardist Annamaria Pinna, a venture she planned while staying in India on a self-imposed exile. Employing the help of various musical friends, her ideas were given shape and form after she returned to the States. The end result was released in the summer of 2012 – as the nine-track CD titled "Pleroma".
TRACK LIST: 1. Inside the Flame 6:14 2. Almost One 5:11 3. India 2:18 4. Blind 4:48 5. Intuition 4:33 6. Erode the Will 4:46 7. 3-14 5:29 8. See through You 5:15 9. Akkord Pleromy 3:58 10. The Apple 8:19 . LINEUP: Annamaria Pinna – vocals; keyboards Blake Fleming – drums, percussion Dough Wright – bass Will Dahl – guitars Tabla Jon – tabla
Analysis. The last few years have been an interesting ride to be on for those interested in progressive rock. Following many years as a strictly underground phenomenon music described as progressive rock has now started to get an increased interest by media in general, and an increasing amount of artists have started to either explore progressive rock itself or incorporate its elements in their music. Personally I think the US band Vajra belongs to the latter category of artists, although I can see why many would describe it as a purebred progressive act too. Structurally this band opts for compositions of a mainstream orientation however. Two exceptions aside, the songs generally stay put within a well worked out theme throughout. Thematic shifts and any distinct developments are few and far between, and this aspect of their material is what I guess will see most regard them as a band better described as indie or alternative rather than progressive rock as such. But it's within the ebb and flow of the arrangements that the avid listener will find elements that should intrigue an art rock audience. The basic premise is songs dominated by lead vocals and rums. Loud, insistent rhythms and up front, powerful melodic vocals are key features, and fairly often a compelling bass line is added to the proceedings too. But careful use of guitars, generally employed in a twofold manner, is one of two interesting details. Verse and intermediate passages tend to employ reverberating, plucked guitar licks light in tone and somewhat frail in nature, occasionally employing darker notes and a somewhat grittier sound. Then for the chorus parts and some of the instrumental movements the guitars shift to distorted riffs, frequently with drone characteristics, dark and compact, but employed in a dampened and generally non-dominant manner. Which, combined with the up front drums and vocals, in total creates a majestic soundscape bordering on the grandiose, high impact for sure, with careful and occasional use of keyboard textures as an additional feature that will interest art rock fans, as will the use of tabla and the brief raga tendencies that sometimes make an appearance. At last there are two pieces on this disc that are markedly different from the rest. India is the first of these, a three minute long cosmic synth drone that adds a dark, menacing undercurrent to the proceedings at the halfway point. Later on we're treated to Akkord Pleromy, this one a multiple layered percussion construction with light toned rhythmic elements playing upon a subdued synth drone that shifts between a lighter toned and a somewhat darker toned range. Both of them are effective and well made pieces, as is this CD as a whole really. And while arguably being more of a borderline case with just as much a foundation in indie and alternative music as in art rock as such, it is a production that contains quite a few elements that most likely will interest an art rock audience too.
Conclusion. Vajra's debut "Pleroma" is a compelling production. Perhaps not progressive rock as such, but utilizing a fair few details and approaches I suspect will interest quite a few self described progressive rock fans. Blending elements from metal and rock and flavoring them with Indian inspired world music details is what we're treated to here, sporting sophisticated arrangements in compositions of a more straightforward and mainstream oriented nature. I'd guess that quite a few fans of a band like Porcupine Tree might enjoy this CD, and mostly so those who enjoy the harder edged part of that band's material.