All hail! The gods of Indian metal descend upon the garden city
The heavy metal clouds descend upon the garden city as Bangalore Open Air (BOA) returns with a sixth edition. Celebrated as the annual pilgrimage of every metalhead in the country — powered by the world’s largest metal gathering, Wacken Open Air, in Germany — BOA is one of the biggest platforms for performers of ‘distorted’ music.
Having roped in international bands like Kreator and Napalm Death in their previous editions, the festival has played a significant role in putting India on the global heavy metal map. With a great deal of inspiration coming their way, we track down some of South India’s up-and-coming acts who have the potential to make it to the global stage.
Kryptos | Bengaluru
Leading the Indian line-up at BOA this season are these Bengaluru-based veterans. One of the oldest and most revered active metal bands, the four-member team — Nolan Lewis, Rohit Chaturvedi, Ganesh K and Anthony Hoover — who have toured Europe multiple times, is currently preparing for yet another 45-day tour across three countries including Germany. All four of them agree that finding the balance between work, family and music is the most difficult part about touring. Ask them about the evolution of their sound through their four releases, and founder-guitarist Nolan says, “We’ve actually ‘devolved’, losing many of the earlier influence from extreme genres like thrash and even death metal.” Expect Kryptos’ BOA setlist to be focussed on numbers from the recent release Burn Up The Night, along with older tracks like The Mask of Anubis.
Speedtrip | Bengaluru
The idea behind Speedtrip’s upcoming album, Trapped in a Maze, is very simple. “We want something that will be received as a shocker,” says bassist Lohith Murthy. The recently released video, House of Horrors, with gory graphics and spine-chilling lyrics, encapsulates their dark aesthetic. With their heavy metal sound streaked with a dash of thrash, the album is characterised with screaming vocals, groovy riffs backed with powerful drum and bass lines. The act also features Kaushik Baruah, Rakeeb Javed, Govindan Potti and Sylvester Joe. The year-old band, who are taking the stage at Bangalore Open Air, were approached by the organisers, as they were on the lookout for fresh talent. “Our plan is to go out there and do what we do best,” offers Lohit .
Amorphia | Cherthala
Heavy music is generally deemed the product of big industrial cities. Yet, hailing from a small town in Kerala, this band has thrived by playing fast-paced thrash metal since 2013. With the nearest city, Kochi, lacking a consistent music scene, the trio, including guitarist and vocalist Vasuchandran M V, drummer Vivek Prasad and bassist Manu Ajayan, has gone to the extent of organising annual DIY ‘home-jam sessions’ in their practice space. Having travelled to cities like Mumbai and Bengaluru with their popular tracks like The Lieber Code, they are currently engaged in experimental demo recordings themed on war. “We are on the lookout for a producer to compile ten of our songs into an album by this year, so we have more traction to head out of the country for shows,” says the frontman.
Shepherd | Bengaluru
Most people perceive slow and metal as two different ends of a spectrum. Shepherd, a three-piece outfit, completely rewrites notions about the style with their stoner/doom-influenced sludge sound. “Although Indian classical music builds up slow, we’ve been conditioned to shorter song structures by pop culture,” explains drummer Deepak Raghu. With all three members — including guitarist Namith Chauhan and bassist Abhishek Michael — sharing vocal roles, their riff-driven 2015-release Stereolithic Riffalocalypse caught the attention of the international music media. Besides the release’s cover winning the Rolling Stones’ award for Best Album Art, the trio also boasts of having opened for German psychedelic rock group Colour Haze at the Indie March Fest last year. The band is set for the BOA pre-party with songs likeAgents of Nihil from their upcoming release.
Orchid | Bengaluru
This outfit is decidedly prog metal, but with elements of jazz, mathcore and psychedelic rock played with an avant-garde sensibility. “Lyrically, our EP was hugely influenced by films including David Cronenberg’s techno-surrealist film Videodrome (1983) and Japanese cult film Ghost in the Shell (1995),” explains Kaushal LS, the vocalist. Orchid also includes Mayur Nanda, Rahil Ahmed and Vinay Prasad. They listen to everything from hip-hop, rap, grime, electronic, retro synth wave to hardcore/crust punk and incorporate something from everything into their sound. “We plan to begin work for our full-length album soon, which we aim to release by the end of this year. And, of course, play more shows to help fund the album,” adds Vinay.
Godless | Hyderabad
Commitment to one’s art takes a new dimension with this collective, which brought in a Bengaluru-based vocalist after auditioning singers for nearly six months. “Our scope is not limited to Hyderabad and so we wanted members who are ready to prioritise for the band,” says bassist Abbas Razvi, who has been involved with the city’s metal scenario for over ten years. Playing a thrash metal sound loaded with death metal influences, this two-year-old ensemble also features Aniketh Yadav, Ravi Nidamarthy, Rohit Nair and Kaushal L S as members, who also perform with projects such as Skrypt and Eccentric Pendulum. Over the past two years, they’ve already opened for Polish extreme figures Behemoth and headlined the Domination Deathfest, one of India’s oldest heavy metal shows. With their four-track Centuries of Decadence having caught everyone’s attention, they’re set to play at venues like Shillong this year. Details: godlessindia.bandcamp.com
xrepeatx | Bengaluru
This outfit is as grindcore as it gets. Their entire EP clocks in at five minutes, with the longest song at a minute and twenty seconds. “We wanted all our songs to be short, fast, nasty, aggressive and mostly in your face grindcore, hence the EP,” says Vino Kumar, their vocalist. With songs like Public B*ner (23 secs), Airport Wh*re (36 secs), and F**k Doll (50 secs), it’s easy to see that they live up to their one-line biography, “We are not straight edge”. The band is now working towards a full-length album and takes inspiration from other bands such as Vitamin X, Casualties, Exploited, GG Allin and Discharge.
Spine Shatter | Chennai
Though once buzzing with talented funk and metal musicians (like Escher’s Knot), up-and-coming talents like the members of this band have become a rarity in Chennai. Right from winning their debut competition at the Powerchords competition at IIT Madras to recording the EP Ascendance within a year of formation, these groove metal enthusiasts have caught the music fraternity by surprise. “We had our own compositions ready by the time we hit the stage, and college competitions helped us financially to put out a collection — with five tracks including Vitality and War Within — without delay,” says 20-year-old bassist Shiv Rekhi. Preferring to produce originals than performing covers, the ensemble — with Tushar Nayak, Vishal K R, Akshay Thyagarajan and Pranav K R — says one of their best moments was opening for their idol guitarist Jeff Loomis from American act Nevermore.
Antakrit | Bengaluru
Though highly theatrical in their stage appearance with corpse paint and costumes, this four-year-old black metal quintet is not blindly following infamous Scandinavian predecessors of this metal genre. With a name inspired from Sanskrit, their aggressive style is an invocation for people to break free from religious shackles. “We want to create the charm of having a cult following — just like the age-old bands — before moving to recording,” informs frontman Sibarshis Dutta, when asked about Purity, their only single available online. Having played at venues such as the pre-party of Bangalore Open Air 2015, the Bengaluru-based project — featuring Ghosh Roy, Nikhil Narayan and two sessions musicians — intends to release a six-track EP later this year. “We hope to sign up with a record label from Europe later, as this will help us reach the right audience across the globe,” says the vocalist.
RAID | Hyderabad
Three performances in the span of four weeks is what this Hyderabad-based metal band’s tour schedule for June looked like. Formed in 2015, Rueban And the Imperium Division (RAID) is an extension of a solo project by Rueban Issac, known for his role in bands like In Heavens Eyes. “I put out a Facebook post, asking for people to be a part of an individual project and that’s how we started off,” shares the 32-year-old, who is a senior scientist at GVK Bio by profession. The four-member act has set themselves apart with their musical philosophy based on the inspirational teachings of Jesus Christ, paired with heavy metal rhythms. The band, which has released 16 songs online, also features Abishek Allapanda, Emmanuel Ojo and Bobbin Jaydev.
On our radar
Heathen Beast, originally from Kolkata, fights back against the tyranny of religion in India. The title of their 2016 EP, Of The Saffron Empire, speaks for itself. Mumbai’s Minerva Conduct brings together musicians from acclaimed bands such as Scribe, Reptilian Death and Demonic Resurrection, and plays a mix of experimental and progressive sounds. Sludge metal band Dirge from Pune sings about historical myth and fiction, while we also have our eyes set on Sikkim-based brutal death metal band Wrath, set to release their second single, Total Torture.
On stage at BOA
The 2017 edition of the festival will witness five acts (including Kryptos and Speedtrip), three of whom are flying in from abroad. “We’ve managed to get a diverse lineup with the bands playing various genres of extreme metal. Much like our second edition—which was crowded due to the diversity of music—we’re expecting a mammoth response,” says organiser Salman Syed.
Nile - American death metallers from South Carolina, who combine speed and technical skill with Egyptology-inspired lyrics apart from themes of mysticism, history, religion, as well as the works of H.P. Lovecraft
Coroner - A Swiss thrash metal band from Zürich, widely regarded as pioneers of fusing a technical style of playing with thrash metal.
Galaxy Crusher -Extreme death metal band from Joshua Tree, California, with lyrics inspired from astrology and metaphysics.
At Royal Orchid Resort, Bengaluru. BOA tickets at Rs 2,000.
- With inputs from A Harini Prasad