[Album Review] Alaya ‘Thrones’

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Chicago-based melodic tech metal band Alaya have been on my radar since late 2012 when the video for “Inside” was released as a promotion for the band’s signing to Basick Records. While the video isn’t much more than a performance clip, it was the music that pulled me in, a thrilling mix of aggressive riffs combined with stellar vocals. I replayed the track over and over, soaking it in and building up my anticipation levels for their, at the time, soon to be released debut album Thrones. However, fate is a cruel mistress and the album release date was pushed back…indefinitely.

However, that wait is over and Thrones is out, ready for the world to hear it. Seeing as how I’ve had the band on my ‘Most Anticipated Album’ list (twice), I wanted to weigh in with my thoughts. Was this wait worth it or did I build the band up to unattainable heights that could simply not be reached? Find out below!

The album opens with the aforementioned “Inside”, which is inspired by the French film of the same name. Much like the film, it’s a dark, heavy track with moments of beauty that go against standard conventions, weaving and twisting through its odd time signatures, creating a sense of uncertainty. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a perfect opening track, giving a taste of everything that the rest of the album will provide.

Each song offers something different enough from the others. Consider the differences between “Haunted Pt. 1″, which has wonderful acoustics and cinematic overtones, the title track “Thrones”, which bears some alt-rock approaches, “Screaming Still” and its almost lullaby-esque intro and Muse-like atmosphere, and “Sleep”, a track that showcases guitarist/vocalist Evan Graham Dunn’s more than capable guitarwork. These examples only give a brief taste of how every track has its own style, its own voice and yet they clearly come from the same source.

“Poor Gloria”, which drummer David Jacob Robison claims as being “…one of the darker songs on the album…”, has a deliciously melancholic atmosphere with strong syncopation. And through all this darkness, there are small rays of hope that peek through the clouds, making this a truly dynamic song.

Attention needs to be given to each member as they all prove that they are musicians to be feared. Robison deftly tackles the drums, creating toe-tapping and head-nodding rhythyms while bassist Michael Brandt Rinkenberger creates a solid foundation. As mentioned above, Dunn’s guitarwork is something to be feared and his vocals match that. But with all of their expertise, it’s the fact that they write so well as a cohesive unit that stands out.

The Final Word: If you haven’t guessed yet, I love this album. Alaya are a fascinating group in that they bring in the best elements of the current melodic tech-metal surge, combine it with fantastic instrumental proficiency, and then merge it all into a very accessible end result. I’ve been waiting for Thrones for over a year and a half. The wait was well worth it.