Review: Tarraska – ‘Tarraska’

Since 2020, UK hard rock outfit Tarraska has been gently teasing their fanbase by drip-feeding them some choice singles over the months, but now, the quartet has dipped their collective toes into the murky waters of the music industry with the recent release of their self-titled debut album. Guy Bellamy made it June’s ‘Album of the Month’ over at Great Music Stories, Johnny Doom at Kerrang Radio has also been pushing the band, and Earache Records Digital Distribution is onboard. Not bad considering the relative inexperience of the band, and the fact that they are unsigned. Slowly but surely the planets have been aligning and the momentum lost to one lockdown after another has reignited at pace. The all-important hometown album launch gig has come and gone, hangovers have worn off, the ringing in the ears has disappeared, and the realisation that they have created a mucho-accomplished debut album should be sinking in with the band.

Normally a twelve-track debut album would set off the quality-control alarm bell as very often new, younger bands are so full of piss and vinegar that they sometimes go for quantity rather than keeping it lean. And with no label on hand to advise trimming the fat, there perhaps is no buffer or wise-old sage offering advice. No such concerns with Tarraska though as the material on offer is not only of the highest quality, but the variety is at times staggering. The strong influence of Mark Tremonti – in all shapes and forms; Creed, Alter Bridge, and Tremonti – is there for all to witness, but rather than rehash a few face-melting Tremonti riffs, Tarraska takes the variety that Mark Tremonti applies to his music and gives it a bit of a youthful twist, with the end result being an album where the listener genuinely does not know what is coming next.

Formed in 2014 as an acoustic duo, lead guitarist Ben Parker (who also handles bass duties on all but one of the twelve tracks) and vocalist/guitarist Jack Lande are now joined by Allan Varnfield on drums, and bassist Ollins Lande, making Tarraska a band in the truest form of the word. Much of the material has been around in one guise or another for some time now, IE. the hooky-as-hell ‘Renegade’ was birthed during the acoustic days, and now the band has ramped it out a thousand-fold and the end result is a six-minute full-on assault of the senses thanks to some fiery riffage from Parker and pounding drums from Varnfield. Great maturity from both Parker and Jack Lande in taking the bare bones of a track and stretching it out by adding layers of beef. Opening track ‘Sins of the Other’ is the first track to be purposely written for the debut album, and a meaty slab of modern, melody-filled rock it is – one of those tracks where not only will you find yourself turning the volume dial skyward, but after a few listens you will be singing the melodies as well as giving the neck a workout during the latter stages of the track.

With a title like ‘Shifting Gears’, it was never going to be sedate, and once the soft false intro fades out and Varnfield counts the band in, it’s a fine slice of adrenaline-filled heavy rock controlled masterfully by Varnfield. This one must totally slay when played live, especially when Jack Lande brings the chorus in and gets the audience involved. With the exquisite ‘Getting Out Alive’ (another new track) quickly following on, these two make for a knockout one-two, and although they are played at pace, Tarraska doesn’t forego the hooks and melodies for speed. Fuelled by Alter Bridge for sure, but also a hint of Black Stone Cherry about the vocals.

When the band does dial it down a notch or two, the end results are stunning. The ballad-like ‘White Flower’ begins with some beautiful light guitar licks that could have gone on much longer and no one would have minded, and as the song gradually grows over six minutes it is hard not to be impressed by the masterful songcraft….ditto the waltz-like ‘Prose’. But ‘Requiem’ is, however, simply stunning, and the bona fide standout moment on the album. Shades of Eddie Vedder early on from Jack Lande (‘Release’ springs to mind) and with the gentle instrumentation in the background, Tarraska shows that age and experience are totally irrelevant as long as you have the chops to pull it off, and boy do these guys pull it off. When the song explodes to life it is hard not to pick up on a Goo Goo Dolls ‘Iris’ vibe and back in the day, this would have been on wall-to-wall rotation when MTV gave a shit about the first part of its title. An absolutely gorgeous track that shows great restraint in never being in a rush to get to its destination, instead, the band lets it grow organically and the end result is other-worldly.

Need to heavy it up and release the hounds once again? ‘Down Below’ bites like the bloodthirsty midges waiting on bare legs at Wildfire Festival this weekend, ‘Run For Your Life’ benefits from some fast-paced fast riffage, and ‘Chimera’ is a dark, brooding beast of a track that brings this fine album to a thrilling end. Live dates are required – stat. In need of a young band to wax lyrical about? Then strap on (oooh Matron) Tarraska for size. Unsigned? Yeah? Surely you jest?

‘Tarraska’ is available now, more information – here.

Review – Dave

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