Alt-metal outfit Vajra released their darkly hypnotic EP, Irkalla, on January 15.

According to the band, Irkalla is part one of a trilogy of albums probing the philosophical, esoteric concept of consciousness. The title – Irkalla – is a Sumerian term referring to a mythical underworld, from which no one returns.

Frontwoman Annamaria Pinna explains, “’Irkalla’ focuses on the lowest level of consciousness. It is the base, material, selfish, ego aspects of ourselves (i.e., the ego-driven, lie, cheat, steal, aspects of the self). It is the place that we must shine a light and acknowledge before we move to the next levels of awareness. Also, I’m obsessed with Sumerian history right now. I was contemplating Goddess energy, and when and what prompted what I see as an imbalance between the masculine and feminine energies. I was wondering what it really meant to have a God and why it was considered, by some, a ‘He.’ I’m also interested in what is behind the concepts of heaven and hell.”

Made up of Annamaria Pinna (vocals), Dave Sussman (bass), Al Javier (guitar), Mark Collom (guitar), and Jimmy DeMarco (drums, percussion), Vajra’s Irkalla was produced and mixed by Sahaj Ticotin, mastered by Camilo Silva, and features guest drummer Blake Fleming.

Irkalla, comprising six-tracks, starts off with the title track, traveling on a stark piano accompanied by organic-industrial tones at once eerie and provocative.

“Maya” rides gleaming, powerful, prog-rock guitars driven by a potently thick bassline and dazzling, finessed drumming. Annamaria’s voice – simply the crème de la crème of extant female vocalists – infuses the song with spectral textures.

Entry points include “Crown or Crucify,” opening on gorgeous melodic savors, followed by ramping up to grandiose harmonic levels and then dropping down again. Cautiously erogenous and muscularly shimmering, this track is superb. Once again, Annamaria’s lush, gliding timbres mesmerize listeners.

Staccato, rumbling drums open “Sever the Tie,” followed by moving seamlessly into a wall of seething alt-metal guitars, pulsing on viscous layers of sonic emanations, while Annamaria utilizes her vocal gift to inject the lyrics with urgent, wicked, surging, exquisitely hued tones.

Vajra has it going on! The highlight of Irkalla is, of course, the incredible vocal range, pressure, tonality, and projection of Annamaria’s voice.

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