The last time I heard music of Native American heritage and influence was in the early 1970s, when Redbone released a number of pop gems, among them “Witch Queen from New Orleans”, “Wovoka”, “Come and Get Your Love” and the hauntingly spiritual “Message from a Drum”. Who can forget the ending of “Message from a Drum”, unless you weren’t born of course. It’s been a while, well 48 years ago. Well, Cheveyo (Spirit Warrior) now takes up the mantle with his band Akando, sharing the same tradition but in a heavier vein and in a different direction.
“Oath of Revenge” sets the scene. We are then taken apart with a tight volley of melodic heavy metal, strong riffage and rasping vocals. Further from Redbone in style it could not be. In fact it’s nearer to Scandinavian melo-death. The tribe chants. The aggression of the music reflects the anger of Cheveyo against the lying treachery of the pale faces. The defiant “Reservation” puts us on a war footing. The blackened death of “Raven Mocker” suits the theme. All the while the musical structure is strong, working between accessible metal, tension and crowd-pleasing melodies. This is very interesting indeed. “Wakan Akan Nici Un” has a strong and vibrant rock n roll feel to it. The lyrics – “no respect for nature, heinous like a sore, enslaving our children, abusing our wives, introduced diseases, it’s time to sharp the knife” belie the catchiness of the melody. It’s rousing but would be a strange one to sing along to. “Heavy Runner Massacre” carries on at a fair lick, and stylistically enters thrash territory. A Native Indian Dew Scented? Mind your head – you will bang it copiously. There’s some great guitar work on this song and indeed the others. The technical accomplishment is a joy. The chanted chorus could be more prominent, but we’re constantly reminded what this is about with the vocalist shouting “Massacre”. A spoken passage at the start of “Ancient Voices” puts on back on a level again, before we are taken into more strong riff-driven death thrash. The romp goes on with the cavalcade of thrashing rock n roll. It’s very easy to forget the them, but so too “Attack from Ambush” is easy to enjoy. To reinforce the point, as Akando do over and over, the chorus of “Two Wolves Dwell in Me” is both catchy and tribal. “Death Song” isn’t, and mixes spookiness with that Swedish style melodic death. I felt a little Tribulation in there, if we’re looking for comparisons. “The March of a Thousand Miles” covers the enforced evacuation of the Native Americans and is suitably sombre. It’s hard to say what would be a suitable ending, but what Akando go for is a final uplifting rock n roll number, with the final message: “may hope carry away your sadness far away”.
As Redbone is to melancholy, spirituality and pop, Akando is to defiance and energy. I must confess I found a slight incongruity between the grimness of the theme, and the lively jollity of this thrash n roll album. I guess we get the best of both worlds here. But what makes this album stand out is the freshness of the music. It’s unpretentious and highly skilled. “Attack from Ambush” is highly enjoyable as a collection of songs.
(8.5/10 Andrew Doherty)