Kirra has certainly been a band to be paying attention to over the past few years. On the back of their debut Run Away, this quartet out of Oklahoma City has had some great spots performing at Rocklahoma along with opening for bands like Tremonti and Nothing More as of late. However, the band faced a major shakeup in 2018 when lead vocalist Jesse Williamson parted ways with the group. So with the sudden change of pace, is this new album Redefine a sophomore slump or a strong comeback for Kirra?
To start, the album has a much harder sound than the debut, with heavier guitar tones and gravelly vocals from newcomer Gabriel Parson. As opposed to Williamson’s standard hard rock approach, Parson possesses a true bellow that blends incredibly well with the guitars’ heavy snarl. The experience of working alongside guys like Mark Tremonti seems to have rubbed off on the group in terms of their playing style. The tracks throughout this record show the influence of heavier acts like Tool and more atmospheric metal bands like Deftones. The band’s use of keyboards throughout the tracklisting is an interesting musical shift from the album’s crunch while never feeling like a complete musical 180.
While the foundation of the record is solid, the guitar work on this album is what really shines. Guitarist Daxton Page has a magnificent touch when it comes to performing a lyrical solo. His technique serves the song with the right amount of soulfulness while never being overly flashy. That soulfulness is not exactly on the level of… say… Slash, but its inclusion is welcome, nonetheless.
The lyrics on this record are something unexpected for your typical rock act. This band clearly has a lot on their mind as they write condemnations on everything from religion to censorship. A prime example of this is “Prophet,” where Parson lambasts religious preachers who use “faith like a weapon and a Bible for a gun.” Additionally, the song “Free” has an immense presence in its rhythm section as the band refuses to cower to the confines of censorship.
This record is incredibly skilled, but it does have a few rough edges. For example, there are a handful of tracks here that serve as mere interludes, and while they work to great effect to build tension to the next track, they do wear out their welcome after a few listens. The band tends to wear their influences a bit too much on their sleeves in spots as well. Whereas the Tool comparison is apt, songs like “Blind” have riffs that are a little too reminiscent of an Adam Jones guitar part.
While the lyrics on some tracks are rather impressive for an up-and-coming band, some of the other songs tend to slip under the bar by comparison. Songs like “Caving In” has a message of not giving up even when things look tough and overcoming that adversity. This lyrical theme is great for a rock song, yet it does make for a somewhat uncomfortable fit when put next to scathing critiques like “Prophet.”
The album was also produced by guitarist Daxton Page, which left a little to be desired. While the songs are fine when they’re on full blast, the slower and subdued moments tended to veer into music that felt a little too ambient. It also makes for some very questionable instrumental choices. Towards the end of the record, there is, what sounds like, DJ scratch sounds mixed amid the guitar riffs. That’s not necessarily the band’s fault, but the production does kneecap the album in some areas. Rather than a dealbreaker, this fault just begs the question of how amazing this band would sound if they got in the studio with the right person behind the board.
Overall though, this record is a good slice of hard rock that is certainly worth picking up. This band is poised to have a long career ahead of them; they seem to possess that strength that could take them to even greater musical heights. The song that closes out the record is called “Potential,” which is the number one thing going for this group. While the songs aren’t terrific just yet, this is a band to look out for when their next record drops. A great bounce back from an inter-band shakeup and an intriguing look at what could be on the horizon.