December 8, 2012

Ra - From One & Duality

After a flawed attempt to review a new release, I feel a compulsive obligation to go back to records I already know and care about (as much as you can give a damn in relation to sounds coming from a cassette/vinyl/digital medium). With this in mind, it took me a few days to decide what band/album I want to talk about. It’s weird, because apparently being a graphomaniac doesn’t mean I can write about just any record that happens to fall next to my ears.

Obscurity be served, Ra is yet another band that probably most of you haven’t heard about, though you should have. Up until now, they released 5 albums: one is a live set, one is comprised of b-sides/demos, one I do not care for much since it’s not that good, so I’m left with the first two releases to choose from. And since the two are of (relative) equal quality, but slightly different in style, I felt I should bring them both to your attention. Because I’m cool and a democrat and all that; feel free to thank me later.

As some general information, these guys hail from L.A. and play a blend of rock/metal that mostly falls into the alternative category. Now you must think: “They must have something special for the almighty Zulu to even nod in their direction” and for the most part you’re right; there is something unique to this alternative band, an element that actually should not be missing at all from any ensemble, be it alternative or whatever: a capable vocalist. Here a sample for you, a nifty little cover done by the frontman, Sahaj:

Now you must think, why would someone with a voice like that choose to express himself in an alternative setting? Well, heck if I know, you can phone the guy and ask him for all I care. It’s true indeed that his voice is not put to the test within these two albums, but aside from that, the music itself is (relatively) good enough to warrant repeated listens.

Keeping all that in mind, let’s move on to the first of the bunch.

As a debut release, From One is composed of a weird mass of songs that most of the time don’t seem to take themselves seriously. Lyrics in the vein of

A cyber involved diversity, so straighten up and go online
Sexual drive intensity, the darkest pit that you can find”

“You were the one who raped my soul
Beautiful lies, you stole my hope
Touching your ass, I scratch the skin
Holding your neck, I tie the rope...”

“A fallen rock zone
A broken back bone
I want to hear you scream into your cell phone
You're just a traitor, eleventh grader
A cyber sex addicted masturbator”

don’t exactly scream out poetry, and then there’s the matter of the obligatory ballads that any alternative release is bound to have; point and case “On my side” and “Walking and thinking”, in which feelings of love, loneliness and other general mushy substances are evoked with great emphasis towards the listener.

On a third hand, other songs like “Parole”, “High Sensitivity” (both straight up hard-rockers) and Sky ( a fitting album ending with some quality soloing)  take most of the heavy lifting. Add to that some light touch-ups of eastern influences and you get a package that often goes from WTF moments  to more contemplative ones in a matter of seconds.

One thing is sure, this record oozes with personality and whether you’ll like it or not is a rather big question to which I cannot provide a definitive answer.

Here’s “Fallen Rock Zone” to a Hellsing background. Seems fitting enough.

Now to the second outing:

As the names states, a concept of sorts is implied here. The record is split right in the middle, with the first half contemplating about fear and its social/personal implications, whilst the second part deals  with that which us, ferocious metalheads, don’t speak of much: love.

From here on, gone are the retarded lyrics (for the most part) and welcomed are the absolutely clicheic ones, so there’s nothing special to be mentioned. Even the song titles are of the most simplistic nature, so you might wonder why in the world did I ever mention this album and not went only with the first one. Truth is, the first half is rather good. “Fallen Angels” is a great album opener, compressing a little bit of everything that Ra stands for, “Tell Me” is there to show you how good Sahaj’s voice can really be, while “Superman” is a pretty nifty ballad with a heartfelt, if not technical solo.

From the second part I can only recall the cover “Every little thing she does is magic”, everything else being pretty generic and rather skippable. It all depends on the mood you're in.

With that said, here’s “Tell Me” to a Fable background. Seems fitting enough.

All in all, you can see from this review I’m still a bit biased about these albums. There’s not much originality, yet I keep going back to them; truth be told, I don’t really know why, nor do I want to. The fact that Ra’s music makes me want to talk about it only means that they must be doing something right.

P.S: For a little bit of trivia, frontman Sahaj used to hold the record for longest single note for a male vocalist in a song. You can hear all that if you listen to this track.


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