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Late to the party on this fantastic Swiss export, I only joined the Shakra ranks on the High Noon album. From there it was all aboard the Shakra express! I began collecting Shakra‘s recorded offerings. While I still haven’t amassed them all, everything I have managed contains tons of top quality hard rock. The band began in the late 90s with the self-titled debut in 1997. From there the band has issued ten studio outputs ahead of the forthcoming Snakes & Ladders. While the band of Thom Blunier and Thomas Muster (guitar), Dominik Pfister (bass), and Roger Tanner (drums) has remained constant, the vocalists have not. The first three releases saw Pete Wiedmer center stage until ill-health dictated otherwise. Replaced by Mark Fox, Shakra enjoyed their highest successes yet. But in 2009 John Prakesh took over vocal duties.
I’ve seen it said that during the first rehearsals even the cows on the Swiss mountains were shaken so much that they gave butter instead of milk!
2015 saw the return of Mark Fox to Shakra in a celebrated event by the fans. The High Noon release came out in 2016 and reached my top ten of the year. But that wasn’t enough for me. I had to experience these guys live. Mark Fox‘s distinctive vocal tones in concert were a huge draw. And so, off I went with two Canadian friends in tow to Switzerland for the Monsters of Rock tour. This tour featured three top Swiss bands, Gotthard, Krokus and of course Shakra. My suspicions/intuitions were bang on and although Shakra was the stage setting act with a mere 40 minute play time, they stole the show for me. During an after party in Zurich it was thrilling to meet and briefly chat with Mark Fox. Check out my podcast episode 16 in which co-host Wally Norton and I are joined by two Swiss friends for two hours of drunken chat and cool Swiss bands including Shakra. CGCM Podcast Episode #16-“Around the World in 80 Episodes-Switzerland”.
SHAKRA – Snakes & Ladders
At five and a half minutes “Cassandra’s Curse” is a sweeping epic of melodic proportions. It’s no wonder Thomas Muster cites it among the compositions he’s most proud of creating. The song undergoes many changes and builds throughout the runtime. At a first impression, I found it not as riveting as I expected for this High Noon follow up. Three rotations later and it’s an incredible song that really embeds itself into your psyche. Check out the advance single video below.
After the mellower epicness in “Cassandra’s Curse”, Shakra hit top speed with “Friday Nightmare”. The album’s title track rocks us through to the power ballad-ish “Something You Don’t Understand”. Ramping up again for “The Seeds”, you subconsciously find yourself toe-tapping and singing along. It’s speedy, melodic, catchy rockers like “Friday Nightmare” and “The Seeds” that Shakra do so very well. The deeper, darker grooves of “Rollin'” roll along nicely in the hard rockin, blues touched composition at the halfway mark of Snakes & Ladders.
“Medicine Man” pounds forward in the same Shakra vein but of the back half, “I Will Rise Again” is a real attention grabber. It’s riff just says “hello”. The Swiss boys haven’t let up on the gas through the rest of Snakes & Ladders until “Open Water”. Not a ballad lover personally, but I could just hear them playing this as the cruise ship sails out of port…hey Monsters of Rock Cruise when are you gonna put Shakra on board? A triple shot closing sees the high energy rockers “The Race of My Life” and “Fire in My Veins” ahead of the slower paced “The End of Days” finishing Snakes & Ladders.
A total of 12 slices of melodic hard rock heaven led by Fox‘s distinctive vocal tones and the guitar wizardry of Muster and Blunier.