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Shokker - III

I’m going to say this and get it out of the way so I can move on. 
This singer is one of the strongest out there, and she has one of the best natural vibratos I have ever heard. It’s frightening.

Alright, I lied. 
I can’t move on, and I can’t get past it.

Rachl “Raxx” Quinn is a pure singer and the centerpiece of the Chicago metal band Shokker. But, even though I have so much to say about Quinn and her gripping vocal dominance here, I want to be sure you know that Shokker is anything but one dimensional. The rhythm section of Jorey Guillermo (bass) and Dan Dash (drums) are rock solid, and guitarist Casey Tremont offers colossal riffs and Herculean solos throughout these ten tracks. I’ve heard that Tremont studied with Chicago guitar legend Dave Urich, and I can believe it. He plays like an accomplished veteran, and fits his riffing and manic soloing into these songs extremely well. 
The song structure here is set in traditional metal. Many of the songs reminded me of bands like Grim Reaper, Riot, Tokyo Blade, or Judas Priest. It has a New Wave Of British Heavy Metal formula that’s executed with a Chicago-style flair. The album kicks off with the title track and it’s pure Chicago metal. There’s a certain timeless grit to Chicago metal, and Shokker carries the traditional sound and attitude into the next generation. I think about growing up with bands like Hammeron and Paradoxx, and this is an extension of that respected lineage. Quinn’s vocals on the opening track are instantly magical and magnetic. She draws you in with incredible strength and power, and keeps you bound to the song with her overwhelming confidence. She jumps over the top of these songs, grabs you by the throat, and looks you straight in the eye. A sacrificial lamb she is not. If you can possibly imagine (and I know it’s difficult) an American Doro Pesch gifted with a Grace Slick-like trill singing Rob Halford’s Painkiller vocal parts, you might have a sample of what’s going on here. Quinn is in the high voice for most of this record. She is impressive at every turn, but I especially crave songs like “Blessed Be” and “Hello,” because they slow things down and showcase even more of the monumental vocal acrobatics she’s capable of. “Life & Despair” might be my favorite song on the record though, because it blends a bit of the low voice, a lot of the high voice, great lyrics, and a really tight instrumental contribution. I would turn to “Hammerhead” if you want to experience Quinn at her most dynamic, though. You get some lows, the highs are at their highest, and the vibrato, well, it’s just not human. And don’t let anyone tell you that she “screams.” Each and every “scream” is a clear and precise note, with tone and depth. This is a pure singer doing what she does best - singing.

Guitarist Casey Tremont is razor sharp throughout the record as well, laying down a cutting riff to open just about every song. His solos are not only shred fests, but they also have some rhythm and personality. I guess these songs could get a little tedious for some because they don’t change pace very often, but the fast pace they keep is so impressive that I didn’t have too much trouble overlooking that aspect. Tremont jumps out of just about every song with a speedy riff, and the rhythm section of Guillermo and Dash rapidly rumble underneath it all.

All this raving, this must be the perfect record, right? 
Well, I wouldn’t call it perfect. I might ask for a better mix and some sharper production, or for a few more songs that utilize Quinn’s low register. I’d also love to see what they might do with a more patient yet punishing Sabbath-like grind, but that’s nitpicking. We’re talking about a self-funded, self-produced independent band. This is a damn impressive record, and one that I would list as one of the best I’ve heard this year.

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