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Akula - Akula

Label: Hellmistress Records
Format: Download
Released: 2018
Reviewed By: Jack Mangan
Rating: 9/10


Fascinating album.
Akula's 2018 self-titled debut feels like a continuation from where Lo-Pan left off, following their fantastic 2016 EP, "In Tensions." That shouldn't be too surprising, since guitarist Chris Thompson and vocalist Jeff Martin are members of both bands. This full-length release only has 4 songs - - one less than that Lo-Pan EP - - but each of the songs run from 9 and 1/2 to almost 13 minutes in length. One of the fascinating aspects of the record is that each of these epics could easily be broken down into smaller, bite-sized chunks, which would all also have worked. It's not for me to sat that they should have bissected them down into smaller pieces (for what it's worth, I like the songs as they are) - - but it might have made them more accessible to a broader audience, as any marketing team might have lamented.

 

I'd like to say now that I'll stop drawing comparisons between Akula and Lo-Pan, but it's impossible, so I won't. Like Lo-an, Akula don't seem to have any designs on big radio or big festival headlining slots, they seemingly just want to make great, Heavy music for those who can find them. This reviewer loves that music, and hopes they find that level of success and outeach anyway, by whatever avenue.
There are a number of great riffs and changes throughout each of the songs, but the vocal melodies are really what will hook you and keep you. . . and pull you back in during your inevitable long song drift. Martin doesn't sing with jet fighter power and range, like a Brucke Dickinson or Joey Belladonna; he sounds like the guy who defaulted to vocals when the group formed, because he was the best singer at their first band practice. However he became the singer, Martin does have a truly great sounding voice, and he shows some skill and chops. He's the real thing on the mic, with such a distinctive, high, transfixing, well-tuned, well-used voice.
Akula make for a stellar band all around. . . Aside from the great riffs and melodies, there are a number of moments where Ronnie Miller's drums flourish and demand attention too. No slight by ommission intended here for bassist Scott Hyatt, but his instrument is just the least heard.
It's hard to pick a favorite of the 4 songs. There is a great stretch at about the 6-minute mark of "Born of Fire" (an original song, not a Slayer cover) that's pretty goddamn amazing. I also really love the stuff from the 3rd to 6th minutes of "Force Me Open," but the transition at 6:30 is also killer. And damn near all of "Pound of Flesh." The great thing - - possibly the best thing - - about an album like this, is that repeat listens are bound to uncover more awesome moments.
If you've enjoyed Lo-Pan's music in the past (the Ohio band, not the Chinese Elder God from "Big Trouble in Little China," although I'm sure his band kickas ass too), then this is a no-brainer. Pick up the Akula record. Why are you still reading this? If you aren't familiar with them, then Akula is still highly recommended. Lo-Pan's "In Tensions" EP might be a bit easier for virgin ears, so I'd say you should start there, but don't take too long to get around to this Akula record after that. It's full of rewards.

 
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