German post-hardcore outfit Alazka have produced a fine melody-driven debut album. It is well-grounded in its roots but retains a firmly contemporary sound, which keeps things sounding relevant, but relies too heavily on a repetitive formula and is ultimately let down by some of its instrumentation.
The vocals, both screamed and sung, are undoubtedly one of the strongest points of Phoenix. Duetting vocalists Tobias Rische and Kassim Auale (responsible for unclean and melodic vocals respectively) both put in fantastic performances. A lot of post-hardcore and metalcore bands fall down on vocals, specifically of the melodic variety, so hearing Auale’s impressive singing throughout the album is really a breath of fresh air. That isn’t to ignore Rische’s screamed vocals though, which are delivered competently in the standard post-hardcore style, but rather to highlight how great Auale’s vocals are; his clean vocals have some power behind them!
Another stand-out feature of Phoenix is the heavy use of melody in the guitar work. Every song is driven by a strong, clean melodic lead guitar which sits firmly on top of nearly everything else (bar vocals, of course) in the mix. Imagine the chorus to Volumes‘ ‘Vahle‘, but stretched out throughout the whole album rather than just appearing once or twice. Ultimately, this can be either good or bad. If you like big melodic hooks in your music, then you’ll probably enjoy this pretty major aspect of the album; if you’re not a big fan however, you’re out of luck. Unfortunately though, even if you do enjoy this sort of hook-focused songwriting, it starts to feel a bit like Alazka are a one-trick pony by the end of the album. This isn’t helped by the repetitive poppy intros used in most of the tracks, or the generally weak rhythm underlying the songs.
Where the rhythm really serves to let the album down isn’t just in its uninteresting and predictable writing, but also in its unimpressive sound. The drums don’t sound punchy (with the bass drum sounding particularly weedy), and the rhythm guitars don’t have any real impact or weight to them. The overarching melody I mentioned a few times earlier is good, but it’s simply not good enough to carry the entire album by itself, which it feels like it kind of has to anyway. It’s really frustrating in a way; Phoenix is so so close to being a really good album, but is weighed down by poor execution in a few different areas, which really mars the whole experience.
Ultimately, if you like your post-hardcore in the flavour that bands like Adept make it, then you’ll probably like Alazka. Phoenix, despite its obvious shortcomings, is by no means an unenjoyable listen, just a forgettable one. You may have noticed that I haven’t really mentioned any songs by name, and that’s because I honestly struggled to tell them apart; there’s nothing which really differentiates them from one another. The good parts of the album, namely the vocals and lead guitars, are really good, but it’s impossible to overlook how repetitive the music is, and how uninteresting the drums and rhythm guitars are. Again, Phoenix is enjoyable but forgettable; despite this, I’m sure that Alazka will go on to do great things so long as they gain the confidence to rock the boat a little bit.
Notable Tracks: “Ghost”; “Everglow”
FFO: Adept, Being as an Ocean