Although there is an awful lot of “tech” about these days cluttering up the musical landscape, the UK label Basick Records have an unrivaled track record in unearthing the best on offer, so we were intrigued to get our ears around Thrones, the debut album by Chicago’s Alaya.
Thrones is one of those albums that throws you a curve ball at the start as opener Inside starts off with a killer thrash-esque riff before throwing every trick in the “yeah, OK, you’re Tech” arsenal at you. If they were looking to make an impact straight away then they definitely succeeded.. even if that impact was “Eh ???!!!!”.
If that all kind of sounds like I don’t really know what to make of the track, that’s because I still kinda don’t. It takes a few listens to get to grips to, and after those listens probably a few more listens, I’m still not sure what the fuck is going on. I am pretty sure that I do quite like it though… apart from the drums. Well it’s either the drums or someone was firing a machine gun full of ball bearings at a tin tray next door to the recording studio.
Right, I’ll not mention the drums again. Honest. Not even when we get to penultimate track Entropy…
Alaya are a band who are getting some pretty big name support from the “real” music press and much has been written about how they are “new”, or “different”. Obviously that’s a standard line from a PR company, but unusually in the case of Alaya it just could actually be true. While other attempts to drag Technical-whevs-metal to the next level sound like a stylistic cut and paste job Thrones is the first album I’ve heard which manages to carry it off convincingly. It’s been a while since I’ve heard something that manages to effortlessly shift styles quite like this while still sounding like a coherent, structured album. “Back in the day” rock bands managed that consistently, but in “modern metal” it’s an art form that’s largely been lost in the quest to be Djentier or Techier.
There’s nothing wrong with the odd weird time signature and staccato technical rhythm though, and Alaya can certainly deliver those. Their selling point is that they also manage to keep things interesting, never quite taking the more obvious routes. Hell, there’s even little instrumental acoustic intermissions, and (don’t tell anyone) even proper prog-rock bits going on.
If you need another reason to check them out, well unusually for bands “like this” Alaya have a singer who can actually sing, check out the impressive Day Of The Dead or aforementioned Entropy.. A good vocal performance can really set an album apart, and here it does exactly that.
Thrones is every bit as good as the pre-release hype may would have you believe, it’s an album which has definite moments of greatness and one which is well worth checking out.