Unpopular Metal Opinions – #1

Shouting out the opinions you won’t say out loud. This week: the 90s, Morbid Angel, Sepultura, and Meshuggah.

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With Metal comes passion, followed by analysis, followed by debates and disagreements, followed by a furious hornet’s nest of opinions.

Sardonic jokes aside, our passion to debate and defend Metal music is what makes it so interesting. But lately, it seems there are a lot of blanket opinions and ‘accepted truths’ on bands, albums, or eras of music that metalheads simply refuse to budge on. Make the slightest effort to challenge these assumptions, and you’ll probably be looked down upon like a Limp Bizkit fan at a Kreator concert — which is why a good number of us just shut up and nod along.

BUT, where’s the fun in that? With courage in my heart, steel in my balls and a lack of original ideas in my mind, here are my Unpopular Metal Opinions.


‘Illud Divinum Insanus’ is a GOOD Morbid Angel album

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BOY, are the Death Metal purists going to come after me for this.

‘Illud Divinum Insanus’ had a lot riding on it before its release, and a lot more going against it. It was the first Morbid album since 1995 to have David Vincent on vocals, the first album in almost 10 years since 2003’s ‘Heretic’, and the first not to feature long-time drummer Pete Sandoval. Moreover, fans had a sneaking suspicion that Vincent would bring over some Industrial influences from his wife’s band Genitorturers, which was confirmed as soon as they heard “Radikult” and “Destructos vs. the Earth” from the new album. And thus began the critical paddling session on this release, which continues to this day.

But here’s my rub: ‘Illud…’ is a classic example of an album misjudged by just a few of its songs. “Radikult” and “Destructos…” were destined to screw with Death Metal fans, but other tracks like “Nevermore”, “Existo Vulgoré” and “Blades for Baal” are sharp, brutal and heavy turn-of-the-century Morbid Angel. David Vincent’s vocals have never sounded better, and for all the shade thrown at the album’s drum-sampling, drummer Tim Yeung is certainly no slouch behind the skins. While it’s true that this album doesn’t have the dense layers and dark atmosphere of classics such as ‘Altars of Madness’ or ‘Domination’, it’s a perfectly serviceable Morbid album with its own sound, that doesn’t deserve its pariah status.

 

The experimental 90s NEEDED to happen

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Very few look back fondly on the dreaded 90s — when basically all the bands behind the ‘classic’ rock and metal sound moved as far away from it as they could. From Metallica and Iron Maiden to Judas Priest and Kreator, every one of them it seemed, had deserted the faith and bowed down to ‘popular trends’. But let’s look at this another way.

This experimental phase may not have been good for the old-school fans, but it did bring in a new group of alternative fans who could then backtrack to their classic material. There are a number of metalheads today who opine that their favourite band’s first album (and perhaps their first Metal experience itself) was something like Metallica’s ‘Black Album’, Iron Maiden’s ‘X-factor’, Kreator’s ‘Outcast’, or Testament’s ‘Demonic’. And that’s perfectly fine.

Moreover, it’s just a fact that every musical group wants to experiment with different styles. It’s part and parcel of being a musician in any genre. It was better for these bands to get all this experimentation out of their system in the 90s, when the Internet was still too primitive to provide the opinion boombox we have today. And more often than not, they then entered the 2000s with renewed perspective and returned to their classic sound — now with the support of both old-school and 90s fans on a more connected Internet. Could you imagine if say, Megadeth threw the curveball that was ‘Risk’ in the late 2000s or even now? The backlash would definitely be more intense, and even career-changing.

 

Derrick Green’s Sepultura is GOOD

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It seems that Sepultura will never escape the shadow of Max Cavalera, with persistent fans screaming that the band basically died with his departure. Truth is, Sepultura didn’t die — they just became different. And ‘different’ can be good.

While it can be said that their 2000s material just doesn’t hold up to classics like ‘Beneath the Remains’ and ‘Chaos A.D.’, it is fascinatingly different from anything the Cavaleras have ever put out. One thing that has always defined Max in any project is his primal intensity, fuelled by years of living in poverty and police brutality in Brazil. He writes in-your-face metal with simple lyrics, and rarely aspires to any high-minded concepts — and in most cases, we love him for that. Sepultura’s ‘Caval-era’ was the purest distillation of that anger, with the musical experimentation between ‘Arise’ and ‘Roots’ simply sweetening the deal.

But not so, post-90s Sepultura. With Andreas Kisser largely helming creative control, the band began to dig into more sophisticated themes. Sepultura has so far borrowed from works such as ‘The Divine Comedy’ (‘Dante XXI’), ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (‘A-lex’), and the German Expressionist masterpiece ‘Metropolis’ (‘The Mediator between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart’). Talk about heavy-handed! Could you seriously imagine the Cavaleras going along with all this if they were still in the band today?

And besides, we’re seeing a great turnaround in Sepultura since 2011’s ‘Kairos’. ‘The Mediator…’ was subsequently better than anyone expected, even with its preposterously long title and slightly muddy production by Ross Robinson. And if this new track from their upcoming album ‘Machine Messiah’ is anything to go by, Sepultura might just strike the remaining haters down with a vengeance.

 

The 90s were the best years for Heavy Metal

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Look, I get it. The 80s was a golden period for Metal, with the trio of Glam, Thrash, and NWOBHM dominating popular music in a way that has never been seen to this day. But as big as they were, Metal’s true global expansion only came in the 90s.

Death Metal emerged from Florida and Sweden courtesy bands such as Death and Entombed, Black Metal broke out of Norway in a flurry of church-burnings, Death/Doom and Gothic Metal made proliferated through the ‘Peaceville Three’ (Anathema, Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride), Death Metal further received a melodic treatment through the ‘Gothenburg Three’ (In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, and At the Gates), Industrial Metal started its journey with bands like Fear Factory and Ministry, and Pantera basically set the blueprint for the new wave of American Metal that would follow in the 2000s! And I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting a few more beloved subgenres that were established in this decade.

The point is, Heavy Metal’s genesis and high point may have been in the late 70s and early 80s, but to label the decade that came after it as the ‘worst years for Metal’ just because of the Alternative boom, is sheer lunacy.

 

Meshuggah are stagnating

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Meshuggah have had the same sound for 25 years. There, I said it.

Don’t get me wrong — I LOVE Meshuggah, and their’s are some of the most frequent songs on my playlist! It’s just that ever since the release of their new album ‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’, their music has sort of blended together into a homogenous brew of palm-muted riffs and erratic tempos.

In fact, it can be said that Meshuggah have taken just one sound through slightly different styles — the quasi-thrash of ‘Contradictions Collapse’, the fully-formed extreme-prog style of ‘Destroy Erase Improve’ and ‘Chaosphere’, the down-tuned grooves and polyrhythms of ‘Nothing’ and ‘Catch Thirtythree’, and the mélange of all these influences in ‘obZen’ and ‘Koloss’. And after all this, ‘The Violent Sleep…’ just seems to be a modern update of what they already did in the 90s.

So, where else could they possibly go from here? Their sound is all well and good, but they’ve never really shown any proclivity to go “full Prog” — like say, with keyboards and other instruments, or a completely different change in sound á la Opeth. Plus, they’ve got a fanatical fanbase who are perfectly fine with enabling their same old chug-a-chug sound for another 25 years. This, inevitably leads to stagnation in any band.

I don’t want Meshuggah to get stale like that, and I’m pretty sure you don’t either. I personally would be down to hear a symphonic, prog-rock, or industrial Meshuggah — if only to prevent them from being a victim of their own sound.

Unpopular Metal Opinions – #1

In Conversation: JARED SANDHY of FINAL SURRENDER

On the band’s new album ‘Nothing but Void’, their music and its ‘Christian’ themes, his other projects, and much more.

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Metalcore acts are a dime a dozen in today’s Indian metal scene. As a result, it takes some truly great music and showmanship to stay ahead of the palm-mute chugging pack. And Final Surrender from Bangalore have those in spades.

After six years as a band and two albums (the second distributed through US-based Rottweiler Records), Final Surrender’s ambitions haven’t dimmed a bit — this is especially apparent in their new album ‘Nothing but Void’, which has built on their signature sound and been supported through some successful national shows so far!

Centuries of Sin thus had a chat with co-founder and drummer Jared Sandhy on the new album and the band’s future, as well as his side- and solo projects, and his journey from one Christian-themed band in his past to Final Surrender now!


Hi, Jared! Thank you so much for talking to Centuries of Sin. How’re you doing?

Doing very well, thanks!

 

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Final Surrender in 2016 | Image: Facebook

Well, we’re finally on the new Final Surrender album, ‘Nothing but Void’! And I have to say that it sounds CRACKING so far. How have your fans responded to the new material in your first leg of touring?

The album is probably one of the best we’ve written till date, and the crowd on tour so far has been enjoying it and have had really good things to say about the record.

 

What’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed in your music and yourselves between ‘Empty Graves’ and the new album?

‘Empty Graves’ is definitely the album that got a lot of people talking about Final Surrender. It was intentional to that direction of sound we took as a band to experiment with Indian instrumentation and arrangements, though it was very appropriate to what I had in mind from when the songs were being written to when they were recorded. And yes, the album is probably gonna get a remaster done in terms of production, as it never really turned out the way I imagined with regard to the sound. This time around, it will be me completely handling the production aspect as I did for ‘Nothing but Void.’

 

From what I’ve heard of the album so far, ‘Nothing but Void’ seems to be making a shift from more orchestral elements in the music to more electronic and synths — especially since your one-off single “Smyrna” last year. Do you think that’s a fair assessment?

It’s because we never really follow a set of rules. We wrote things apt for the record and the sound it curbed its way into. ‘Nothing but Void’ is more along the lines of our 2010 debut release ‘The Expanse’ in relation to song-writing and production. A very raw, melodic, groovy, progressive, metalcore Final Surrender, so to speak. “Smyrna” was a single derived out of the songs we had compiled during the writing process of ‘Nothing but Void’ in the beginning of 2015. In fact, we had more than 15 songs from which seven are now part of the current album.

 

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Besides the usual themes associated with metalcore, I’ve noticed that a number of fans see a Christian theme in your music. Do you agree with this? And if so, how much of that theme do think permeates your music?

We write about what we believe in. We definitely are all practicing Christians and our faith is in Jesus Christ, but we don’t necessarily base songs off of scripture or Biblical references. We write about what we experience or what inspires us in the moment, or the specific lyrical theme/concept of the record. In this case, ‘Nothing but Void’ speaks about the void one finds oneself in because of an understanding of life obsessed to one’s own ways, and finally meeting only a scenario of running into a big black hole. Many live lives like this.

 

You’re a pretty hyperactive worker in projects outside Final Surrender as well — Mute the Saint, Day of Reckoning, and now your own solo material as well! How in God’s name do you manage to devote your time and energies to all this music?

It’s music and only music that drives me, man. Anything to do with music, I love and believe in. So there can’t be excuses and reasons to put it away or not find time for it. It’s a musician’s job to keep up to schedule and do things actively if he or she is passionate and really wants to contribute to the world of music. On the other hand, some exciting stuff is coming up with my other two bands, too. Mute The Saint is releasing its first self-titled debut record on December 1st this year. This is one of a kind, as it’s officially the first Indian instrumental Sitar-based Progressive metal album in the world. This release will be supported by Metal Injection and other big magazines.

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Jared with Rusty Cooley [far right] and his band Day of Reckoning | Image: Facebook
Day of Reckoning being one of my favorite projects is also in the production stage for our record ‘Into the Fire’. I finished tracking drums for it in Houston, Texas earlier this year before we went out on tour, and also had the opportunity to share the stage with Alter Bridge last month for their CD release show in Dallas’ House of Blues. Our record is a brutal, face-thumping 40 minutes of metal from start to end. We’re scheduled for some tour dates in USA and India early next year to support the release of the record.

Final Surrender is also finishing up its run of shows this month to have a small break for Christmas with family and stuff. Meanwhile, I have my solo stuff in the pre-production stage, and I am planning yo release it early next year too. So 2017 is gonna have some music coming in from all the projects I’m part of!

 

Touching on Day of Reckoning a bit, tell us the story of how you connected with Rusty Cooley and how jamming with him was!

So, my drum endorsers DDrum hit me up about Rusty Cooley auditioning for a drummer. And I gave it a shot, and was selected out of the 50 odd drummers around the world who auditioned. I then happened to discuss things with Rusty via Skype, got the paperwork sorted, and finally got to the US to rehearse and write music with the man. a couple of months later performed around the States and in the process recorded for our upcoming record. Working with one of the best guitarists in the world was amazing, also because apart from being an awesome guitar player focused on his music and instrument, he also happens to be really down-to-earth and an amazing friend to me. Rusty also happens to be a tutor to guitar legends like John Petrucci, Mark Tremonti, Karl Sanders, Oli Herbert and other guitar players, so as jaw-dropping as all of this sounds, it’s an awesome feeling to play with some of the best musicians living today. So with a jam schedule of 4-5 hours a day, we happen to be bringing some really interesting music next year for all the music lovers out there.

Your solo track “Love is” is a pretty straightforward, groovy metal track as opposed to the technical and progressive music you’re normally part of. If you take your solo music forward into an album or EP, how different or unique would you it to be from everything you’ve done so far?

The sound and direction in terms of technicality or progressiveness on my solo record is already decided. It’s gonna be different. Each song will have its flavour, and that’s what will make it unique.

It’s gonna be anything between Alternative metal, Progressive metal, and even Ambient music.

 

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Digging a bit deeper into your past, you started drumming with your very first band Slain at only 13 years old if I’m not wrong! Drumming and recording material at such a young age must’ve been quite something!

Yes, Slain was one of the bands that started it off for me. I still remember being in school for my boards and having to finish my exam and run to sound-check at Palace Grounds – the venue that used to host some of the most iconic independent and international festivals in Bangalore – because Slain opened for Iron Maiden that day! I had definitely committed to the music I was doing and compromised and sacrificed a lot of things young kids do at that age for music and drumming. I used to practice 5-6 hours a day, with no drumkit and at times, broken sticks found backstage which I taped together. I remember being awarded for ‘Best Drummer’ at NLS Strawberry Fields when I was 14, competing with some of the best acts in the country today. So yeah, all of this had led to this road and journey. And I always believe there is no stopping yourself in this industry, and that you have to keep pressing on!

 

Finally, tell us what’s on the cards for Final Surrender in the near future.

A worldwide release via our label in January next year. And hopefully some international dates, too!

 

Thanks for talking to us, Jared! We wish you and Final Surrender the best of luck for the new album and a future of great music!


Catch Final Surrender on – 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/finalsurrender/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/finalsurrender
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrBc7xLR6cfYaS0d2dTduVA

In Conversation: JARED SANDHY of FINAL SURRENDER

In Conversation: India’s METAL DISTRO’s

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When it comes to supporting the scene, we mostly think of supporting bands and artists. But what about the individuals who give us the music we love and the threads we wear? Those who go above and beyond to import and supply the best International CDs, vinyls, and merchandise? This feature is dedicated the cottage industry within the cottage industry of Indian metal — the Distro’s!

Centuries of Sin caught up with the owners of three of the most prolific and respected Distributors in the country — Ulf Bankemper of Metal Masala, Brijraj Agarwal of Slaytanic Distro, and Farzand Ali Bawa of The Hellion Distro — to talk about all things related to the business. Read on as these three “Metal entrepreneurs” talk about their journey so far, the perks and difficulties of running a distro, interacting with record labels and suppliers, the prevalence of bootlegged merchandise, and much more!


Greetings from Centuries of Sin, and thanks for talking to us! How’re you doing?

Ulf: Thank you for the interview! I am doing well; hope everything is fine on your end as well.

Brijraj: Hello, Sairaj! I am doing very good, thank you for asking. Hope you are doing better! Thanks for thinking of listening to me blabber on!

Farzand: Hi Sairaj, I am doing well. Thanks for the interview, and interest in The Hellion Distro!

 

First off, tell us about how you started your distro, and your journey so far!

Ulf: I started preparing for Metal Masala in February 2014, and managed to be online on February 15. The time in between was spent discussing the idea of starting a distro. Incidentally, Vikram (Bhat) of Mahatobar Distribution was the guy I wanted to get an OK from, as he is one of the guys (along with Sandesh (Shenoy) of Cyclopean Eye Productions, and Kryptos among others) who I have respected for the hard work he has put into the music for a long time. He and the other guys were my inspiration in wanting to contribute to the Indian metal scene.

The most difficult part was organizing all the required government permits and registrations. It’s amazing how much time those can take! Getting the logo designed and the web site running took some effort too, but I thought that if I want to start this venture, I might as well do it properly.

Making contacts for MM was relatively easy; a lot of labels, especially the smaller ones, have been very supportive. I made a lot of new contacts and friends among the metalheads, bands, labels, etc.

Clockwise from L-R: Brijraj Agarwal, Ulf Bankemper, Farzand Ali Bawa | Images: Facebook
Clockwise from L-R: Brijraj Agarwal, Ulf Bankemper, Farzand Ali Bawa | Images: Facebook

Brijraj: I belong to your normal Indian bourgeois. When I started my distro back in 2013, I had just passed my ICSE exams and my mother had increased my pocket money from 500 to 750 rupees, haha! The cheapest CD of any Indian band would cost at least 150-200 rupees, and that used to take a huge chunk out of my funds. Since I have always wanted to own all the music I like, I had to find a way out, and that is when Slaytanic Distro started! For the first 1.5-2 years, things were painfully slow and I was barely even breaking even. But since March 2015, when I borrowed some money from my dad to invest in the business, things have picked up pace! As of today, I don’t owe a single penny to anyone and have a humble collection of my own. So I’m pretty happy about it.

Farzand: I started The Hellion Distro sometime in late 2013. To be honest, the only drive back then was the pain I felt when I wanted to give something back to the bands who did so much for me in life, but couldn’t as there weren’t many outlets to do so. There weren’t many distros back then, and the existing ones were really underground, unlike today. But then, I used to see people like Vikram Bhat, Sandesh Shenoy, Kunal Choksi, and Osustho Mogoj of Old Distro, who used to risk their earnings for us to enjoy real music. That, and friends like Desecrator from Necrodeity, inspired me to give something back, and also help others support physical music rather than TB’s of MP3’s. Moreover, I had to be involved in metal, and since I don’t play an instrument, I found this to be a good option. Hellion also enabled me to do gigs like Pictavian Necromancy with Manzer (the French black metal masters), which would otherwise have never been possible.

 

Was it hard in any way to debut a distro with premium, higher-priced products in a metal culture that was — and still is — very much based on cheaper, bootlegged merchandise?

Ulf: I was lucky to find a lot of true metalheads who want to hold an original, physical title in their hands. I realize that the current culture of illegal downloads and bootleg merchandise is not ideal for such a venture, but I believe there will always be people who appreciate owning the real thing and listening to it the right way.

Brijraj: The best part about the “metal culture” is the fact that there are always those handful of fuckers who buy the original merch and music no matter what. As far as reaching out to the newer and younger audience is concerned, the problem lies with the funds. Since I am 19, and have friends around that age who want to buy original music but can’t afford it, I am very flexible in that regard. Most of them request me to hold their favorite albums for some weeks, and I oblige. It gives them time, and some credit doesn’t hurt my distro much. And the number of people who buy this original shit rises at the end of the day, too!

Farzand: To be honest, it was as hard as anything I have ever done. Firstly, the mindset of people had to change — what’s the need to get physical copies when MP3’s are there? What’s the need to get an official shirt when there are so many cheaper bootlegs of the same available at less than half the price? It took time, but people eventually understood.

 

How receptive are record labels and suppliers these days to distributors such as yourself? Especially the bigger International labels with the more popular bands and merch?

Ulf: Most of the labels have been very receptive and supportive so far. The difference between big and small labels is more pronounced in their processes rather than willingness. The big labels obviously have more people and divisions involved in the order process, which can cause some small problems, but never anything serious.

Of course, there also have been a number of labels that haven’t replied to my requests, perhaps due to technical reasons. Some of them have only replied after a couple of months because they didn’t see my mail until then. And as for the labels who don’t respond because they are not interested, who cares? I am very happy with the ones I am working with!

Brijraj: Any record label, big or small, wants sales, and that is what we are giving them. So, no problem there! They are usually amicable, but some of them play hardball, and I personally prefer to stay away from them.

Farzand: The labels need to grow trust, and since India is a relatively new market for Metal in general, they need a bit more incentive. But now, almost all the distro’s today have some tie-up with a big label, and the whole practice has picked up speed quite a bit!

 

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A sample of the merchandise offered by Metal Masala, and the Slaytanic and Hellion distros | Images: Facebook

I’ve noticed that your supply of merch is mostly populated by that of European and UK bands, and not as much by American ones. Is there any reason behind this phenomenon, or am I just seeing things the wrong way?

Ulf: I am from the land of Sodom and Kreator; European Metal rules! I have also built good contacts with American labels, but the only problem here is that the shipping costs with their merch are usually more expensive. But I am planning more orders with my American partners; some are in the pipeline right now!

Brijraj: I wouldn’t completely agree with that. Yes, you can say that we mostly import stuff from the European/UK labels, and not so much from the US ones because of the exorbitant postage rates. Fortunately, most big labels have a European division, which makes things easier.

Farzand: I for one, only stock the bands I personally enjoy and want to support in my small, humble way. It’s all for support in the end, so why would you sell stuff from bands you don’t want to support? Of course, there are others who do that, but that’s their way of running a distro. I want to keep it very straightforward and simple: distribute what you love. So, to answer your question, my repertoire covers every corner of the globe where I feel a band needs support.

 

Give us an idea about how difficult — financially and logistically — it is to source metal merch; especially with regard to India’s laws on imports, customs and licenses.

Ulf: Well, sourcing items is not a problem, but it has to make financial sense as well. There are so many costs involved besides the item itself, so I only try to import stuff which doesn’t become too expensive at the end, so that I can offer them at affordable prices.

India’s imports laws could be more supportive, but they are a reality we have to deal with. I just wish that things would be a little more professional. I’ve had packages lost after reaching India, and at other times, deliveries have been stuck in customs for many weeks despite the paperwork being correct. And sometimes, those packages reach me looking like they have been through a war zone! Changing a jewel case box isn’t a problem, but what do you do with a damaged LP cover?

Brijraj: I live in Cuttack — a very small town. Most of you probably haven’t even heard of the state of Odisha. The nearest customs office is in Kolkata; I will leave it to you to reckon my situation. The transit times are ridiculous, and I have had tens of packages being lost or held up at customs! It is very difficult to cope with these things.

Farzand: Customs screw you in all ways possible. You run into financial loss at times, but nowhere is it written that underground Metal made anyone a big shot, is it? Also, there’s nothing much you can do in a place like India, can you?

 

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Do you think Indian distros such as yourselves have successfully combated the sale of bootleg t-shirts and merchandise in India?

Ulf: Honestly speaking, no. We have hopefully managed to make life a little easier for people who want to get the originals, but that’s about it.

Bootlegging is not a new phenomenon; it has always been there. There were tapes in the early days, and now, there are downloads. The difference here is in scale. Where in the old days you actually had to know someone who had the stuff you wanted, today, anyone can get anything from anywhere without moving a muscle. Unfortunately, this has led to a devaluation of music in my opinion. If people download hundreds of albums, when do they listen to all of them? When you can basically download any song you want, and delete the ones you don’t like right after the first listen, can you actually invest time in really experiencing an album the way it was meant to be? There are a lot of brilliant albums still coming out, but it takes time to discover them, and that time and the willingness to spend it seems to have gotten lost.

Some people even claim that, since they download everything, they know more music and it thus makes them better metalheads. What bullshit! Then, there are people who feel that they are for some reason entitled to free music. I don’t think you can battle these mentalities; all we distros can do is to offer an alternative, and be happy about anyone who wants to invest into the music to actually get something out of it.

Brijraj: Not to a substantial extent. It is the same 100 people buying original music from me who used to earlier fetch it through other sources from abroad (mostly family or friends), or through the labels directly. Buying from us gives them the assurance of not losing their orders to the ever unreliable Indian post and customs. Although, since I mostly deal in music media and not merchandise, I can speak for CDs and vinyls only.

Farzand: Why only merchandise? Buying original music has also picked up! Think about this: illegally downloading a song doesn’t cost one paisa, but you still have to pay for a bootleg shirt. When people get ready to pay for something which earlier they thought getting for free was the most legit option, isn’t that the bigger win?

 

Let’s get a little light-hearted here. Tell us a story about a piece of merch, or kind of merch, that you had the hardest time importing or selling!

Ulf: I can’t think of a title which created such difficulties. I just remember the awesome feeling I had when labels which were so important in my youth — Relapse, Peaceville, etc. — suddenly replied to my emails. I was star-struck since, after all, I am just a fan myself. One reply I received was from a musician whose work I had admired for a long time, and suddenly, this guy was writing to me! What a feeling.

It was also very cool when a Bulgarian band called Serpentine Creation contacted me out of the blue, asking me if I wanted to distribute their titles. And now, after one year, Metal Masala has released their EP (a big thanks to Satanath Records for being the driving force behind this!).

There were quite a few moments like this which made me happy, proud, and proved to me that it was all worth it.

Brijraj: THESE PIECE-OF-SHIT VINYLS! Such a pain in the ass! They’re so fragile and delicate, but our postal departments treat them like elephant fodder. The vinyl sleeves are sometimes damaged in the process, making them very hard to sell. Unfortunately, not all labels pack them with the delicate precision of a chemist, and that just translates to more losses, haha!

Farzand: I have buyers not only from India, but from the sub-continents outside the country, too. So for me, the biggest issue at times is to send stuff to those places, as their customs are even more fucked up and difficult to deal with than ours.

 

 

What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to a person who wants to start distributing merchandise?

Ulf: The most important thing is to be genuine and reasonable. You’ve got to respect the labels and distributors you are dealing with, as well as the people buying from you. Try to do it your own way; don’t copy what the others are doing. Running a distro takes a lot of work, and one should be prepared to invest that time and effort.

Brijraj: Don’t! HAHA! On a serious note, although it is tough, you can have a go if you have the time, money and reputation, and if you think you can understand the eccentric Indian metal market.

Farzand: I would like to quote one of my great friends, who told me this when I was starting out: “Good things come to those who are patient.” So always be ready to be patient. And of course, before doing this, love the bands you sell. Don’t do it just for the money, like a rat.

 

Inversely, what do you think is the biggest mistake to avoid while running a distro?

Ulf: Doing it just for the money. This way, you will end up selling out. I know that there are people who don’t have a problem with that, and maybe I am too old-fashioned in my view, but I will only stock what I respect.

Brijraj: Not charging for postage! Postage charges eat up a huge chunk of your profits, so I have only recently stopped this free postage shit.

Farzand: There are some out-and-out retards in our “scene”. I hope I could have avoided them, but you only learn from your mistakes, don’t you?

 

Thanks again for talking to us at Centuries of Sin! We wish you the best of luck with your distro, and are definitely going to buy some stuff from you guys in the future!

Ulf: Thank you for the interview. Keep up the great work, and remember: we are all in it for the music!

Brijraj: Thank you very much for letting me speak. Looking forward to your order(s)!

Farzand: Sure, thanks for your time, Sairaj! The doors of the Hellion are always open for the true lovers of Metal music! Cheers!


Get your fix of Metal Merchandise from these Distro’s here!
Metal Masala: http://metal-masala.com
Slaytanic Distro: https://www.facebook.com/groups/428268480671887/
Hellion Distro: https://www.facebook.com/thehelliondistro/

In Conversation: India’s METAL DISTRO’s

In Conversation with RECTIFIED SPIRIT: New Album, Tours, & Flooded Jam-Pads

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It’s an unspoken fact that the North-Eastern states of India are a wellspring of Metal talent, spanning all sub-genres from Classic and Power Metal to the deepest depths of Extreme Death Metal. Maybe it’s something in the atmosphere or sustenance of the region that breeds die-hard warriors of the Heavy. Nonetheless, one particular group who have been garnering a boatload of buzz in the scene is one Rectified Spirit: a glorious amalgamation of the soaring melodies of yore, and the sonic heft of modern metal today.

Despite having been around since 2005, it was their sophomore album ‘The Waste Land’ – released on September 2015 via Transcending Obscurity – that finally grabbed the attention of the Indian music scene by the ear. Consisting of Samudragupta Dutta and Dishankan Baruah on guitars, Rainjong Lepcha on vocals, Himangshu Bora on bass, and Undying Inc. & Underside’s own Nishant Hagjer on drums, Rectified Spirit are finally making waves outside of Guwahati, recently qualifying for the national round of this year’s Wacken Metal Battle.

Centuries of Sin caught up with the mercurial metallers to talk about their new-found attention, their diverse sound, the new album, and how a flood almost ruined the recording of its title track!


Hey, guys! Thanks a lot for talking to Centuries of Sin. How’re you doing?

We’re doing fine, man! What’s up? It’s really nice to see your podcast gathering such momentum. Cheers!

Haha, thanks for that. First off, it’s safe to say that your new album ‘The Waste Land’ has successfully broken you into the larger Indian metal scene. You’re now getting more fans and gigs outside Guwahati! Did you ever expect this boom from just your second album?

We don’t know really, haha! We surely hoped just that, after putting a lot of work into the album. But besides that, we have played equally outside Guwahati earlier! In fact, considering the logistical disadvantages – and other factors like our band members being based in different cities since 2012 – it’s been equally difficult to play a gig in our hometown! As far as fans are concerned: we’ve seen throughout the years that the ratio has been kind of 50:50 between our hometown following and our outside fans. But we really have to admit that with the new album’s release through Transcending Obscurity (thanks to Kunal!) and the excellent PR work, we’ve been able to achieve a good online presence through regular reviews, singles releases, live videos & stuff, compared to our independently-released debut album. So, although we haven’t played too many gigs after the release, the album has (as you’ve assumed) made its presence felt in the metal community.

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Rectified Spirit’s ‘The Waste Land’ | Artwork: Mayur Saikia

How much growth and improvement do you see in yourselves and your music from your Self-titled debut album to ‘The Waste Land’?

To be frank, if we really want to use the word ‘growth’, it’s just a case of a lateral expansion, and us treading in a slightly different area of the musical spectrum. ‘The Waste Land’ has more aggressive, raw and straight-up material than the debut album, though it still has its progressive moments: like the 13-minute-plus Title Track, and the pro-aggressive “The Art of War”, haha! The debut album was more focused on the aesthetic part of song-writing – reminiscent of all the classic metal bands – and then crossing over to the ‘modern metal’ territory within the structural framework of a song itself. It had a touch of both the old and the new (like “Old Days Born Anew” by Textures!). It was our homage to the Gods that have shaped our sensibilities throughout the years. ‘The Waste Land’ is much more modern in terms of conceptualization, song-writing, execution and playing, though it still has its small share of the classic school of song-writing.

From what I’ve researched, you guys like to call your sound ‘Libero Metal’: perhaps meaning that it borrows from various metal sub-genres and thus liberates itself from any genre-binding or classification. Am I right in saying this?

Absolutely. Right. You. Are. In. Saying. That!

The bottom line on our song-writing in both our albums and the ones to come is that we don’t want to stick to one particular form, genre or style. We’d like to call this, ‘Libero Metal’; the idea of being liberated from all pre-existing forms, styles, habits, and generic consciousness.

While making music, a band is not at all aware about what kind of label will be used to describe their music over the years. Genre is something that evolves over a period of time, and fans may debate on what genre can be given to the band. However, if the band itself takes up the same exercise and puts itself in a pre-existing genre, the music stops evolving and merely revolves around a few reference points. This limits the finer parameters of music-making and also restricts the musical sensitivity of individual artists, which leaves no scope for a free-spirited approach towards making music. That is why we constantly hear bands nowadays saying, “we are a metalcore band / Technical Death metal band / neo-classical progressive metal band” and other such definitions. This also makes their music strained, repetitive, dragged-out, and predictable. Well, the bands that have earned these generic labels were not aware of what they were going to be labeled as over time. They’ve earned these labels on their own, and some bands even dispute the kind of label the press gives them. So, the idea of deciding a set genre is just absurd to us, and is also artistically restricting, and stagnant. After all, Tony Iommi – the undisputed founder of Metal – when asked once about Heavy Metal by a journalist, simply replied, “what the fuck is that?”

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First appearance of Rectified Spirit’s mascot ‘Phynn’, in their debut album | Image: Facebook

I’ve observed that the cover artwork of both your albums contains one common figure: a grim-looking, hook-nosed Bird-Man. Is he your mascot of sorts, or a central character to the stories/themes of your music so far? 

Yeah, he is precisely the Mascot of the band! His name is ‘Phynn’, and is basically a mutant crossover being between a human and a phoenix. He represents the immortality of the Human Spirit. His depiction centers on the theme of re-incarnation, and sort of tries to convey an idea that the human soul is in the perennial cycle of evolving and ‘rectifying’ himself. Each human birth that he takes is only a stage in that never-ending process. wherein his soul puts into effect the lessons learnt from all his previous births, and becomes a ‘Rectified Spirit’. In our debut album cover, Phynn is in a tumultuous environment created by each of the elements (Fire, Earth, Air and Water.) However, his indomitable spirit (and thereby the undying spirit in each one of us) is standing tall with the strength of the same elements that constitutes all of us. He is also a metaphor of the idea that all the troubles we face in the outside world have a solution which is inside our very selves.

Rectified Spirit’s early years are pretty interesting: you were in the Guwahati live circuit for four years since 2005, but then went on hiatus for two years after that. Samudragupta and Himangshu then restarted the band in 2011, but you’ve had a lineup change after that as well! Tell us more about those formative years before the first album. Did some songs perhaps come from that 2005-‘09 period?

Bulls-eye! A considerable number of the songs on the debut album like “There Is No Tomorrow”, “Vengeance”, “Where The Ashes Fell”, “Until We Expire”, “The Magician’s Birthday” and the Title Track are from that period. We worked on them again and gave them new structural amendments and musical phrasings while giving them the final shapes before recording. Those early years were all about playing gigs (though very few in those times), writing songs, and just dreaming big! The only problem we faced in those years was our individual time constraints. Because of those, even in spite of regular creative inputs in terms of new materials, the band could not concentrate on a full-length album. Luckily, our founding member and guitarist Samudragupta and long-term bassist Himangshu – after an exhausting and frustrating process – finally met the right kind of new people for the band.

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One of your songs – “Paradigm Lost” – was dedicated to Irom Sharmila, and also railed against the AFSPA in the North-East. I hope this question doesn’t sound insensitive, but did AFSPA and its abuse hit Assam’s metal crowd in any way? If so, is this happening presently? Heavy Metal does have a history of being persecuted in different parts of the world, after all.

“Paradigm Lost” was based on the imposition of AFSPA in the state of Manipur and not in the North-East as a whole, although Assam had its share of ill-luck on a few past occasions. It was our way of lending our humble voice to the Iron Lady’s silent struggle for a monumental period of more than 15 years now. Her one-of-a-kind will, strength and determination is perhaps unheard of and unseen in the entire world. Her’s and the people of Manipur’s protest is against the blind application of a draconian act that gives the armed forces absolute immunity from the law, and practically a license to kill a person on mere suspicion. That kind of legislation hits the population at large, and not just the Metal community. Although there is no imposition of the Act in the state of Assam presently, it definitely took its toll here in the past. The instances are endless to list.

Getting back to lighter stuff, are there any plans for music or lyric videos for the new album? You managed to make one for “Paradigm Lost” after all.

A music-cum-lyric video is just on its way! It actually might get released before this interview comes out, haha! It’s gonna be interesting, considering it’s based on one of the greatest movies of all times, and also sadly, on one of the most tragic chapters in human history.

How much harder is it for Rectified Spirit to jam, tour and record right now in your adult lives? Especially with Samudragupta working as an Advocate in the Guwahati High court and Nishant dividing his time between, like, two to three other bands?

Well, Samudragupta was a practicing Advocate even before he founded the band, so he has had sufficient practice (pun intended) both inside and outside the Court in managing schedules! In fact, it has always been like that; only now, with experience from past mistakes. To be frank, the whole scene has turned that way nowadays; every band seems to have its members working in other bands and side-projects. So, it has only to do with effective time management. Besides, working with different projects gives us additional perspective, approach, and lines of thought towards our music and our way of composing.

‘The Waste Land’ had a peculiar writing process, though! Samudragupta started writing material for it right after the release of our first album in December 2012. However, since our members were kind of scattered around different cities, the composition process had breaks in between while we waited for some of our members to come back to our hometown, so that we could finish the structuring process of the songs.

Rectified Spirit had a, shall we say, INTERESTING time recording the 13-minute title track of ‘The Waste Land’. Read on, as huge floods and hand-drumming ensue…

“We were ready with the rehearsal and practice of only seven songs prior to the drum recordings, as Samudragupta was writing the Title Track himself, which was his dream project for a long time. Nishant was not at all keen on recording this track during the June session of the recordings though, and wanted to postpone it for a later session. But as his coming back home wasn’t always certain, we had to convince him that postponing the track would delay the album as a whole. So, we decided to have a rigorous practice and jam session and have it completed within two days or so.

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Drummer Nishant Hagjer | Photo: Facebook

But as it turned out, there was a terrible artificial flood in the city on the eve of our scheduled jam, and his jam-pad got flooded! It was kind of devastating to discover his place in water-logged condition. But strangely, we decided to have the practice in the living room itself! Samudragupta plugged his guitar into an amp he had picked up from the jam-pad and started jamming as Nishant played bass-drum patterns on the floor with his feet, while using his hands on his thighs for everything else! And voila: the song was complete in less than two hours. We then entered the studio right away, lest we forgot anything, and within an hour, “The Waste Land” track was complete! I think this proved to be the most organic song in the album. Some of the progressive music lovers will love it because of the spontaneity in the recording process and the deliberation involved in the writing!”

On that note, what does the future hold for Rectified Spirit right now, in terms of gigs and music?

We now intend to promote the album after its release by going on tour and doing a number of shows across the country to showcase our live performance and get a response to our new music. Our permanent plan is to keep making music, and getting it out to the outside world by making more and more albums, exploring newer directions, crossing all boundaries in metal music, continuing to tour throughout our lives, and yes: NEVER QUITTING ON METAL.

Thanks a lot for talking to us, guys! We wish you continued success with ‘The Wasteland’ and hope you bring your ‘Libero Metal’ to Bangalore some time!

Thanks a ton, man! We seriously look forward to that; three cheers to that!


Find Rectified Spirit here :-
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Rectified.Spirit.Official
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbBaUkbGfR6GI-WP5GNL1Ew
Bandcamp: https://rectifiedspiritofficial.bandcamp.com

Also find them on Transcending Obscurity :-
Websites: www.tometal.com | www.transcendingobscurity.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/transcendingobscurity

In Conversation with RECTIFIED SPIRIT: New Album, Tours, & Flooded Jam-Pads

“The Kids are Alright”: In Conversation with SYMPHONIC ETERNITY

CoS-Pic10Is it possible to resist kids’ TV and advertising these days? Is it possible to avert your child’s eyes from the glut of sanitized, product placement-riddled cartoons and “sitcoms” from seemingly benign behemoths like Disney in favour of something more meaningful… and perhaps, heavy? Well, Symphonic Eternity are here to deliver the heavy to your ears (with a little bit of prog on the side) and prove to you that “the kids are alright.”

Consisting of (now former member as of February 11, 2016) Rohan Raveesh on vocals and guitar, Anish Mukund on guitar, Vijay Ganesan on bass and Anagh Nayak on drums, these dudes are starting to blow the roofs (as well as our minds) off venues in and around Bangalore with their prog-tinged alternative metal. After catching a gig of theirs at the Indigo Live Music Bar in the city recently, Centuries of Sin just had to catch up with these boys to find out more about the band and how they function, especially at such a young age. Our conversation follows below:

 

Hey, guys! Thanks a lot for talking to Centuries of Sin.  

First, just to satisfy a quirk in my mind; why name the band “Symphonic” Eternity? Your music sounds more like a mix of prog-rock and alternative metal to me. Plus, I don’t see any keyboards in the lineup for the “symphonic” part, haha.

Anish: “Symphonic Eternity” basically means “music forever”, and that’s what we intended it to be.

Rohan: “Symphonic” here refers to music in general and not any specific genre.

 

 

To start off, what attracted you guys to heavy and progressive metal music? Especially considering that the kind of music aimed at your age group is mostly kiddie pop and Bollywood songs…

Rohan: I feel that these kinds of music are more realistic than the usual programmed music we hear.

Anish: And a lot more challenging.

Anagh: I like it because it’s complex, heavy and not easy to design and play.

Vijay: I like listening to all types of music, and I like Symphonic Eternity’s music because it’s unique. One also requires a lot of skill to play this kind of music.

 

From what I’ve seen in your gigs, the metal crowd in Bangalore and other cities have received the band very enthusiastically. But have there been times where metalheads HAVEN’T taken you seriously, or have somehow dismissed you as a sort of “bachchu band”, pardon the expression?

Anish: This used to happen before we went up on stage.

Rohan: We started off as a band, when not many people knew of us, other bands used to look at us strangely, wondering what these kids are doing here.

Anagh: After we played on stage though, people would be shocked by our performance because they didn’t expect kids like us to play like that…

Vijay: Well, yeah, what they say is true… but it makes it a lot of fun, seeing their reactions!

 

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Your songs at this point are mostly about “kid stuff” ranging from basketball to bullying. Do you hope to explore deeper subjects and lyrics as you get older? Or have you already started doing so?

Anagh: I think our topics are not really kid stuff or deep either.

Anish: I’m not sure we think about this consciously. We have a new song called ‘Time’ which is about how time is persistent and ‘in-your-face’ constantly. We never planned it as a topic for kids or adults.

Rohan: We’re also working on a lot more songs on different topics, so we’re not really thinking about whether they are “kiddie” topics or not.

Vijay: Our lyrics depict who & what we are and what matters to us. In fact, people of all ages play basketball, so it doesn’t really count as kid stuff.

 

How do you divide your time between jamming and school? I hope the band hasn’t intruded too much into your academics!

Vijay: Hahaha… that we leave to our parents, actually. Moreover, our schools are supportive. We’ve all been doing well in school so there are no problems. We manage to jam at least twice a week most of the time.

 

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Symphonic Eternity Live at Indigo Live | Photo: Sairaj R Kamath

Have you had a chance to introduce friends of your age group to metal through the band? I say that more young blood and fresh fans in the scene are always welcome!

Rohan: Yes, I’ve introduced a lot of friends, classmates, neighbours and relatives to this form of music. Many get scared, but some have turned into metal heads!

Anish: I’ve introduced a lot of my friends to metal, including our own bassist Vijay!!

Vijay: That’s true, and I’ve done the same with a lot of my friends ever since.

Anagh: I’m still in 6th Grade. My classmates think that metal music means all instruments used by the band are ‘made of metal’, hahaha! I’m not having any luck converting friends of my age to metal, but I’ve converted my Mum somewhat!

 

If you’ll allow me to get a little serious here: it’s brutally hard to keep a rock or metal band going in this climate of digital downloads, piracy, lesser gig locations, etc. Plus, to be honest, very few bands here enjoy the family support that you guys have from your (incredibly cool) parents. Have you ever thought about this in terms of the band’s future? Or are you just enjoying your gigs and music as they come?

All: We’re just enjoying the gigs & music as they come. We’re just focusing on making more and more original music.

 


On to some lighter stuff, how has the response been so far to your debut EP ‘Diffusion’ (which if I’m not wrong was also the earlier name of the band before bassist Vijay joined)?

All: Yes, it was the name of the band before Vijay joined us. The response has been great, we think; people who hear the EP have told us that they love it. And at gigs, when we play our songs from it, we see the audience head-banging and grooving!

 

SE-Blurb02Give us an idea of some of the challenges you had with recording this EP, especially at such a young age.

Anish: For me, the hardest part was controlling the sound from my guitar and keeping it clean for the sections that we were recording as continuous takes!

Vijay: Controlling the tone of the electric bass was a bit tough as I was playing with a plectrum at that time.

Anagh: Making sure my sticks don’t collide or fall when I was recording, and some fast double bass sections were the difficult parts.

Rohan: Getting the right tone for my guitar and recording my voice without the band backing me live took a little getting used to. We’re based at Octavium and all our jams and recording happen at the pro-studio there. Cyril Prince, founder & frontman of ‘Grail of Destruction’, produced our EP and helped us through the whole process, making it easier.

 

Finally, what has been your favourite gig till date? Strawberry Fields, Saarang, IIM-B Unmaad? Give us a little recollection.

Rohan: Without a doubt, our gig during the World Music Day celebrations at Alliance Francaise on June 21st 2015.

Vijay: Well yeah, it was a very special gig because we were introduced by Bruce Lee Mani, and our EP was released by him & Jeoraj George!

Anish: We had a full house audience that was rocking with us for every song. It was awesome!

Anagh: Even after the gig, so many people came and congratulated us. Many musicians and members of other bands playing there came and took pictures with us too. It was so much fun.

 

Thanks once again for talking to CoS, you guys. I think I speak for most of the metal scene when we say we wish you good luck with your future endeavours!

All: Thank you so much!

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Check out Symphonic Eternity’s EP ‘Diffusion’ here: https://www.oklisten.com/album/diffusion
Symphonic Eternity’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/symphonic.eternity/
Also browse CoS’ photo album of their performance: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1653213881617712.1073741863.1495988187340283&type=3

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“The Kids are Alright”: In Conversation with SYMPHONIC ETERNITY

Gig Report: STORM BREED Presents – A Tribute to LAMB OF GOD

CoS-Pic08Some may say that the very culture of Indian rock and metal music was built on cover songs. Even the best and biggest bands in the scene today had to start off somewhere, and that “somewhere” was more often than not a jam room, garage, or a band mate’s house, where they would test the waters by playing songs by THEIR favourite bands; usually Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Pantera, and the like. Although our metal bands have largely left that behind to make their own names with their own great songs, they wouldn’t rule out one big, blow-out tribute to the Metal Gods that inspired them. Case in point, the Storm Breed Festival’s Tribute to Lamb of God that happened on August 16th at the Indigo Live Music Bar in Bangalore.

The tribute was helmed by a [literally] devout bunch of musicians: Bangalore-based “Christian metal” band Final Surrender, known in the scene for their eclectic metalcore sound and tight live performances. Moreover, they were joined by three big-name guest vocalists through the course of their setlist, who we’re going to talk about later on.

Despite some trouble at Indigo Live’s gates which led to the actual gig starting only at 9pm, the show started off well enough. Final Surrender got off to a blistering start with “In Your Words”, going on to blaze through fan favourites like “Laid to Rest”, “Ruin”, and of course, the perennial “Redneck”. Bassist Eric G Martin and guitarist James Stephenus kept the low-end, riffs and distortion rock-steady throughout, allowing for the rest of the band to work their magic on Lamb of God’s greatest hits. Drummer Jared Sandhy and lead guitarist Sanjay Kumar deserve special mention, with the former missing nary a beat even on faster tracks like “Set to Fail”, while the latter played his riffs, leads and solos with aplomb. As for their enigmatic frontman Joseph Samuel… there were moments when he almost went out of control with his frenzied vocal and performance style, but he still did justice to Randy Blythe’s signature vocals.

Final Surrender [Clockwise from left: Joseph Samuel, Sanjay Kumar, Jared Sandhy, Eric G Martin, James Stephenus] | Photos: Sairaj R Kamath
Final Surrender [Clockwise from left: Joseph Samuel, Sanjay Kumar, Jared Sandhy, Eric G Martin, James Stephenus] | Photos: Sairaj R Kamath
Another thing that really worked in the band’s favour was the excellent live sound; crisp, clear, and rarely muddled up during the more chaotic songs in Final Surrender’s set. The best part was that it didn’t try to ape Lamb Of God’s leaner, meaner sound and guitar tones, instead opting to preserve Final Surrender’s thicker, more metalcore sound. It also helped that the event had a drum raiser to actually let us see the drummer for once. In any case, the band had the crowd hooked, and even got them singing the iconic lines from songs like “Omerta” along with them.

But what of the three big-name vocalists I mentioned earlier? Storm Breed [and in all honesty, this blog itself] had been teasing their appearance for a couple of weeks before, and they didn’t disappoint. Just about halfway into the set, the audience was greeted by Abhijith Rao of Chennai-based prog-death metallers Escher’s Knot, while Samuel slinked off to the green room for a much-deserved breather. Rao then proceeded to scream his head off to “Black Label” – one of the earliest LoG tunes – perfectly mirroring Randy Blythe’s savage screams of that period. His was one of the more “faithful” covers in the set that way.

Escher's Knot's Abhijith Rao screaming bloody murder on "Black Label"
Escher’s Knot‘s Abhijith Rao screaming bloody murder on “Black Label” | Photo: Sairaj R Kamath

About four songs later, Final Surrender were joined by the hirsute Munz of self-styled “Kannur Metal” band The Down Troddence for an epic rendition of “Walk With Me in Hell”. His performance was as hyperactive and expressive as ever, as he lent his slightly deeper growls to the song and whipped the crowd into frenzy. Munz has always been a crowd favourite where frontmen are concerned, and this most popular of LoG songs only exemplified his and the band’s performances.

Munz of The Down Troddence commands the crowd to "Walk With Me in Hell" | Photo: Sairaj R Kamath
Munz of The Down Troddence commands the crowd to “Walk With Me in Hell” | Photo: Sairaj R Kamath

Barely a song when by after this [“Dead Seeds”, FYI] when Final Surrender, possibly saving the best for last, invited none other than Gaurav Basu of Inner Sanctum on-stage for “Blood of the Scribe”. The Acid Toad of Bangalore started firing on all cylinders, beer in hand and delivering his typical roaring vocals to an ecstatic crowd.  Basu even took a moment to have a “beer bath” by pouring said drink on his head, like he was an overheating radiator in need of a drastic liquid cool-down.

Gaurav Basu of Inner Sanctum takes no prisoners during "Blood of the Scribe" | Photo: Sairaj R Kamath
Gaurav Basu of Inner Sanctum takes no prisoners during “Blood of the Scribe” | Photo: Sairaj R Kamath
Have you tried Basu's "Acid Toad Beer Shampoo" yet? | Photo: Sairaj R Kamath
Have you tried Basu’s “Acid Toad Beer Shampoo” yet? | Photo: Sairaj R Kamath

And so, after Samuel’s return to the stage, Final Surrender ended their mammoth set with the raw and emotional “512” and “King Me”. It almost made you feel bad for the portion of the audience who were held back at the door at the beginning of the event [for contrived reasons that I won’t get into here]. Nevertheless, the sweaty and tired yet emotionally exhilarated band capped off the tribute on a high note, later leaving the crowd to disperse with dishevelled hair and big grins on their faces.

Oh, and group pictures and a HUGE late-night dinner for the band followed as well.

Yes... we have to put up with THIS at every gig. | Photo: Sairaj R Kamath
Yes… we have to put up with THIS at every gig. | Photo: Sairaj R Kamath
This job has its perks, though. DELICIOUS perks. | Photo: Sairaj R Kamath
This job has its perks, though. DELICIOUS perks. | Photo: Sairaj R Kamath

See the Full Photo Gallery of this Tribute here!

Gig Report: STORM BREED Presents – A Tribute to LAMB OF GOD

INTERVIEW: Reuben Bhattacharya’s “Disasterpiece”

Image: Sairaj R Kamath | Graphics: ©Visual Amnesia.2014-2015. All Rights Reserved
Image & CoS Logo: Sairaj R Kamath | Graphics: ©Visual Amnesia.2014-2015. All Rights Reserved

Any fan of American metal masters Slipknot will know of their cornucopia of creepy and vivid imagery. Each era of theirs has had a distinct artistic feel: from the “carnival of horrors” imagery of their debut album and the goat motifs starting from ‘Iowa’, to their grisly interpretations of death and hell in their latest release ‘.5: The Gray Chapter’. Spearheaded by the demented mind of percussionist M Shawn “Clown” Crahan, Slipknot are now known as much for their visual identity as their balls-out brutal music.

Well, one of the Indian metal scene’s very own has added his little piece of art to the band’s legacy. Enter, Reuben Bhattacharya.

Known as both the bassist of Delhi extreme metallers Undying Inc and the art and brand designing entity Visual Amnesia, Reuben is one of the Indian music scene’s go-to guys for album and concert artworks. However, his profile was taken to a whole new level a few months ago, when his was the winning entry in the “Design a T-shirt for Slipknot” competition by Creative Allies. Reuben’s art is now set to appear on the t-shirts for the band’s latest ‘Summer’s Last Stand’ tour as well as their Knotfest festival.

Centuries of Sin had an in-depth chat with the Visual Amnesiac to talk about his Slipknot design, its elements and meaning to him and the band, his creative process, and more! Read on below…


Reuben's fiery Slipknot design | ©Visual Amnesia.2014-2015. All Rights Reserved
Reuben’s fiery Slipknot design | ©Visual Amnesia.2014-2015. All Rights Reserved

First off, congratulations! Now that some of the heat has died down after the competition, how do you feel about your winning design right now?

Well, it’s a surreal feeling knowing that the band has selected my piece of art from thousands of entries from across the world and that so many maggots from everywhere voted for it! I’m deeply honoured that an artist like M Shawn “Clown” Crahan, the Creative Director of Slipknot, chose this piece of art and what it means. There is a deeper connection here, which once established transcends things like contest winning

I still remember when I had got the tape of their first album and was blown away at how they had reinvented the art in metal. They have reinvented that circus of sickness countless times to make Slipknot into what it is today. Not just the music, the lights, the image, and the live production, but of course the masks and motifs and uniforms and the interrelated story that binds this madness together. It’s like an epic movie that elevates Slipknot to a spot that legends are made of.

It’s not just a “band” but a legacy in utterly insane art that delves into everything that’s nasty about humanity and brings out something positive at the end of it. No wonder they are the biggest metal band on the planet right now! I was waiting with bated breath over a load of e-mails, for the prints to start going out to Knotfest and the start of the Summer’s Last Stand Tour at the end of this month. So these past few weeks have been unreal, and the heat for the print is just beginning.

For the layperson who might not know of Slipknot, can you take us through all the themes and visual elements [i.e., the get-up, the pig’s head, the book, etc.] of your artwork?

Like I just said, Slipknot itself is a form of art. I just wanted to be straight-up honest with it and stay true to that image; it’s what makes people like me Slipknot fans at the end of the day. Slipknot wanted a piece of art to “cripple hearts and distort minds”. My attempt was in the memory of Paul Gray: that all hope was not gone, and neither was his legacy. From the idea of ‘.5: The Gray Chapter’ represented as a book of unholy text, I tried to visually represent everything that makes Slipknot what it is today! History has shows us that greatness in Metal has always come through tragedy and chaos; always “Creation after destruction”.

I wanted it to be epic and dramatic like the band itself, and created visual elements around that theme. This was a vision of the iconic ‘S’ symbol goat becoming “The Devil In I”, the devil himself reborn in Paul Gray’s #2 garb, taking on a new form. Thus, I created a new version of Paul’s mask and a new uniform inspired by Corey Taylor’s first “priest” uniform from when the band was being formed. The whole idea was also reflected in the sacrificial offering of the older image, which was the pig’s head as a homage to how the band has constantly reinvented its image.

The nightmare-inducing "Xenomorph" design for Sleep Terror by Reuben | ©Visual Amnesia.2014-2015. All Rights Reserved
The nightmare-inducing “Xenomorph” design for Sleep Terror by Reuben | ©Visual Amnesia.2014-2015. All Rights Reserved

What was your mindset at the time of ideating and starting on your design? Did you have a clear vision for the design from the beginning, or did it develop in a free-form way over time?

I always start with a clear vision of what I want the art to be. I need to have seen it in my mind’s eye before putting any lines down.  Daydreaming followed by drawing. However, there is always that last 20% of inspired free-form that does happen over time. Most of the times I start with something, and then out of the blue, something happens during the end of the piece that takes it to a new level. To be honest, I don’t really know where that part comes from! I haven’t been able to figure that out, but it has happened with all the pieces that have been close to my heart.

What is the one major aspect of Paul Gray that you wanted to show in this piece of artwork?

That his image is an immortal one and larger than life! The sneer from a mouth full of nails and reflective eyeballs are the very center of that piece, the very expression of how #2 was viewed and in direct contrast to the loving, caring, fun, homey dude that he was in real life. Also, I did want to represent the ethic of a bassist, of creating great things from behind the scenes. Most Slipknot fans don’t know his full contribution to the picture. He was just the guy playing bass, he was the guy building the base for ideas, always driven to try something exciting.  Paul here is engulfed by that fire of unrelenting passion that no amount of money can buy or fans or friends can replicate, but only one that comes from within.

Give us the full scope of how and when your artwork will be applied to the ‘Summer’s Last Stand’ tour, and any other prizes coming with that. Will it be used on anything besides the t-shirts and other merch?

It’s the official art for the tour, and so it may be used on other merch too at the band and its management’s discretion. But of course, there are prizes, exclusive signed goodies, access card/passes and some other stuff.

What did you think of the other entries in the contest? Were there a lot of designs that were tough competition to yours?

I really liked a lot of the designs in the contest and personally voted for quite a few of those. There were so many great ones, especially from the growing number of Indonesian artists in metal. Those dudes are killing it!

Fans of Textures have gotten a taste of Reuben's art through the 10th anniversary tour t-shirt of their album 'Polars' | ©Visual Amnesia.2014-2015. All Rights Reserved
Fans of Textures have gotten a taste of Reuben’s art through the 10th anniversary tour t-shirt of their album ‘Polars’ | ©Visual Amnesia.2014-2015. All Rights Reserved

Would you say there are more online opportunities like these nowadays to help Indian graphic artists and designers get noticed on a global scale?

Yes, of course. Back when I first started out, there were never any opportunities like this. I would get referred to people by word of mouth. Now there are bands, labels and agencies getting in touch with me from all over the globe thanks to the exposure I received with my Black Sabbath and Slipknot designs.

Let’s run through what Visual Amnesia has done so far: album art for Aberrant, Zygnema, Fuzzculture and British tech-metallers Aliases, the 10th anniversary artwork for Textures’ debut album ‘Polars’, tour art for Kryptos’ “Into the Spectral Void” tour, merch artwork for Sahil ‘Demonstealer’ Makhija’s solo album, and even some designs for official Breaking Bad merchandise! No sleep for the wicked, eh?

Absolutely none, and a lot more in the pipeline for August! There are phases when I have slept for 3 – 4 hours a night or not at all. My ability and tolerance for random social chit-chat has drastically reduced because of that. There have been times when I’ve wished for 48 hours in a day.

I think I badly need a port on the back of neck to connect a DARPA slavebot. Just a simple bot with some amount of AI, some chips, basic circuitry, 2 go-pro eyeballs and a pair of arms to reply to emails, shoot pictures of products, catalogue and follow up on things, while I can continue drawing and creating stuff. This is why the mountains are so important for me to visit every once in a while. It helps to maintain some thread of sanity in the midst of all this madness.

Thanks a lot for talking to me, Reuben! We really hope to see your sick design on some new Slipknot merch ASAP. That is, if its supply isn’t kept from our part of the world.

Thanks for having me here, Sairaj! I’m sure no supply will be restricted. If the fans really love it and the numbers add up to make it viable for production post the tour, it could be made available to fans worldwide in due time.


Catch Visual Amnesia’s Slipknot design in the following dates for the ‘Summer’s Last Stand’ tour:

Jul. 31 – Saratoga Springs, N.Y. @ Saratoga Performing Arts Center
Aug. 01 – Wantagh, N.Y. @ Nikon at Jones Beach Theater
Aug. 02 – Hartford, Conn. @ Xfinity Theatre
Aug. 04 – Boston, Mass. @ Xfinity Center
Aug. 05 – Holmdel, N.J. @ PNC Bank Arts Center
Aug. 06 – Pittsburgh, Pa. @ First Niagara Pavilion
Aug. 08 – Toronto, Ontario @ Molson Amphitheater
Aug. 11 – Washington, D.C. @ Jiffy Lube Live
Aug. 12 – Virginia Beach, Va. @ Farm Bureau Live
Aug. 14 – Indianapolis, Ind. @ Klipsch Music Center
Aug. 15 – Chicago, Ill. @ First Midwest Bank Amphitheater
Aug. 16 – St. Louis, Mo. @ Hollywood Casino Amphitheater
Aug. 19 – Denver, Colo. @ Red Rocks Amphitheater
Aug. 21 – Salt Lake City, Utah @ USANA Amphitheater
Aug. 24 – Vancouver, British Columbia @ Rogers Arena
Aug. 26 – Concord, Calif. @ Concord Pavilion
Aug. 28 – Las Vegas, Nev. @ MGM Resort Festival Lot
Aug. 29 – Phoenix, Ariz. @ Ak-Chin Pavilion
Aug. 30 – Albuquerque, N.M. @ Isleta Amphitheater
Sep. 02 – Austin, Texas @ Austin 360 Amphitheater
Sep. 04 – Houston, Texas @ Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
Sep. 05 – Dallas, Texas @ Gexa Energy Pavilion

Check out more of Visual Amnesia’s art here:
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INTERVIEW: Reuben Bhattacharya’s “Disasterpiece”