Forming a band is a lot harder than one might think. In pursuit of a collective purpose, whether it be to spread a positive message, simply as an outlet for pent up emotions/a coping mechanism for life in general or (god forbid) money… you have to make a lot of sacrifices. You lose relationships, alienate people and get a lot of hate thrown your way and you have to decide if you’re ready to take it. A common thing with modern bands has been changing their name (some who have already had quite the extensive, established career) to fit their new sound, aesthetic or message. Beginning in Western Germany in 2012 as Burning Down Alaska, the band we’ll discuss in this review went through member changes, sound changes and, ultimately, decided that it was time to close that chapter of their career. Fast forward to early 2017, the band announced that they would be continuing on as ALAZKA, as they decided that it would fit who they were and what they wanted to accomplish with their new musical direction. After the announcement, the band signed to Arising Empire/SharpTone Records, to release their debut album Phoenix, which features a more melodic backbone than their previous material and, this writer believes, is a sound that fits them.
While Phoenix isn’t necessarily a groundbreaking piece of art, by any means, it will find itself hitting a soft spot for fans of bands like Dayseeker and Dayshell. Before the name-change was announced, it was revealed that Kassim Aule would be joining as a second vocalist. This addition added a new dimension, and fuller sound, to the already impressive line-up of musicians. While their debut EP, Values & Virtues, featured a lot more of an aggressive tone, Phoenix does its best to round that out with a more melodic, atmospheric sound, even borrowing influence from bands like Thirty Seconds to Mars. The latter being apparent on tracks like “Everglow,” which feature a distant, soaring vocal melody behind a screamed chorus.
One of the most prevalent things on this album is that it features a lot more of a clean, less-distorted guitar tone overall. There are a lot of heavier, more driven and riff-based sections on this album but doesn’t focus on the use of breakdowns to make it more appealing (sorry, heavy music fans!) The dynamic between main vocalist Tobias Rische and Aule leaves nothing to be desired for fans of modern metalcore. One of my favorite tracks on the album is the title track, “Phoenix.” The message of this one is one that heavily resonates with me, and will resonate with anyone who has ever felt alone. It speaks on the desire to be heard when one is suffering heavily, for whatever reason. Most people won’t notice the signs of depression and, those who do, are usually too afraid to reach out and lend a helping hand. “Phoenix” is a track that is a bit heavier in nature, both lyrically and musically, but is a beautiful representation of the new direction that they’ve taken with their music. This isn’t the first or last track to carry an important message with it, indicative that the band is trying to reach out and help fans who are in need of some emotional support.
The transitions between songs make for a wonderful and impressive ebb-and-flow, throughout the album. My favorite transition is the “interlude” track called “Ash,” a melancholic, slower and piano-driven execution that flows fluidly into “Phoenix.” The combination of these two tracks make up a beautiful and climactic point in the album and get me really excited. Phoenix is an album that has great potential for those who enjoy singles, as well as, the whole album experience. To be honest, though, it stands out a lot more as a whole. The singles are wonderful but when put in contrast to the album, you start to appreciate the beauty and the time these guys took to master their craft.
Phoenix shows a rebirth for the band, both wonderful and imaginative, that brings out a new side that will have you begging for more. As a debut album, it has created a massive interest within the band for this writer, and I’m sure it will have fans clamoring to find out what’s next. So if you’re lost, alone or just want some good music… look no further than Phoenix, out September 1st via SharpTone Records/Arising Empire. Below, you can check out the official music videos for “Phoenix,” “Ghost” and “Empty Throne!”
“Ghost” (Official Music Video)
“Phoenix” (Official Music Video)
“Empty Throne” (Official Music Video)
Tobias Rische – Vocals
Kassim Auale – Vocals
Marvin Bruckwilder – Guitar
Dario Sanchez – Guitar
Julian Englisch – Bass