RockStrata - Notun Shader Khoje (2014)
Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth
RockStrata is one of Bangladesh’s first and most important metal bands, founded back in 1985. The heavy metal pioneers of their country released a legendary self-titled full length release back in 1990, featuring eleven songs inspired by melodic mid-tempo heavy metal with a well-struck balance in the form of smooth ballads on one side, and thrash- and speed-metal driven neck breakers on the other. The band more or less split up around 1992, and over the years three band members immigrated to the United States of America while the other two remained in Bangladesh. The band reunited in 2012 to play a few gigs, but thought that it didn’t have enough material to play appropriate full length shows. With the help of social media and modern technology, the band was able to write and record eleven new tracks. Guitars and drums were recorded in Minnesota, while the bass guitar and the vocals were recorded in Dhaka. The album itself was launched in Dhaka where the band members from abroad joined the event via webcam. Now, the Bangladeshi legends are back with eleven new tracks and almost an hour of music under the name ofNotun Shader Kohje, which means something like “Finding New Flavors”.
The surprising thing is that after all the time and changes, the new record doesn’t sound too different from the first. In fact, aside from the production getting better and including fewer heavy and long tracks, this album could have been released in 1992. Despite the unusual recording process, most of the chemistry from the late eighties and early nineties is still present among the five men in 2014. What we get to hear is mid-tempo heavy metal with an abundance of melodies and grounded vocals. The opener, “Ei Amar Jibondhara”, is a catchy, melodic, and positive old school heavy metal anthem that should please anybody who digs the genre. The addicting “Dui” is only slightly different because it has a darker and almost apocalyptic atmosphere, as well as a harsh main riff that sounds reminiscent of some death metal. This is maybe the best song on here.
On the lighter side of the album, the band offers a convincing power ballad called “Eituku Asha” that incorporates a melancholic feeling without sounding too sad. I’m less impressed by the weird “Ei Boshonte”. This track starts like a boring acoustic country ballad, but suddenly, noisy riffs kick in and the song heads for thrash metal territory. Later on, we get a strange break dominated by bass guitar riffs and a bridge with random sing-along parts. The track includes many ideas, but the different parts don’t fit together at all. This song could have been really innovative for RockStrata’s sound, but it doesn’t feel well thought out at all. Maybe this is also due to the unusual recording sessions, because all other tracks here sound much more coherent. I’d label this song as a failed experiment.
The problem with the rest of the album is that the music ends up sounding the same. There’s just too much filler material in the form of uninspired, mid tempo heavy metal songs. The band doesn’t explore any new sounds at all outside of the one failure, and there’s no single song here that stands out as a real hit. Most of the work here is not really atmospheric, catchy, or engaging. It’s all just “okay”. The songs are easy to listen to, but easy to forget. Even the hypnotizing “Oshanti”, with guest guitarist Ibrahim Ahmed Kamal from the Bengali heavy metal pioneer band Warfaze, isn’t impressive at all.
Historically and musically, RockStrata can’t catch up with its first album. Their debut release is absolutely essential. While it’s not a disaster at all, this second output is nevertheless mostly forgettable, and should only be purchased by faithful fans. Even though I really like the band’s first record and have followed the reunion with enthusiasm, I feel disappointment at this point. The titleFinding New Flavors doesn’t fit at all. Standing On The Same Old Ground would have been more appropriate. In the end, it’s still a good average heavy metal release but definitely nothing more.
2.75 // 5