BANGALORE OPEN AIR 2015: The Highlights

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By now, the good folks of Bangalore Open Air must be experts at pulling off spectacular tricks at the last minute. Just when things seem at their bleakest (i.e., Sodom pulling out of BOA 2013 and the failure of BOA 2014’s massive crowdfunding campaign), Salman U. Syed and team use an ace in the hole (i.e., bringing down Iced Earth for BOA 2013, and Destruction and Rotting Christ for the year after) to keep the show going.

For this year’s edition of the festival however, the BOA crew plotted their trail of destruction well in advance by booking British grindcore legends Napalm Death, Austrian black metal ghouls Belphegor and Colombian death/thrash stalwarts Inquisition. The aforementioned “last-minute trick” came in the form of an announcement just a few months before the main day that a host of bands from around India would be brought into Bangalore city to make BOA 2015 a week-long affair. I was fortunate enough to catch as many pre-gigs as I could in the week, as well as the main day itself, and witness a smorgasbord of local talent deliver tight, varied, and fuck-off-loud metal!

I regrettably missed the pre-gig at 1522 The Pub featuring Albatross, Hellwind and other heavy-hitters since I was thousands of feet in the air in an airplane from Mumbai (excuses, excuses). Fortunately, Albatross’ Dr. Hex was pulling double-duty as mild-mannered bassist Riju Dasgupta of pre-gig headliners Primitiv the night after at The Big Pitcher. Before that though, we were treated to a mega-serving of sludgy doom metal by Witchdoctor, The Grim Mage and Dirge! The contrast between Witchdoctor’s slow, meandering riffage and The Grim Mage’s scream-fueled sound right after worked very well, while the more experienced Dirge gave us the best of both worlds with their apocalyptic set.

Witchdoctor (top 3) and The Grim Mage (bottom 3) | Photos: Sairaj R Kamath
Witchdoctor (top 3) and The Grim Mage (bottom 3) | See full gallery here
Dirge | Photos: Sairaj R Kamath
Dirge | See full gallery here

As for Primitiv, they provided a welcome adrenaline shot to the festivities with their death metal sound. Not only did they invite Bharad Ravi of black/thrash supergroup Witchgoat on-stage for a song, but they actually managed to give the tune “No Quarter” by the almighty Led Zeppelin a death metal makeover. And holy smokes, was it good.

Primitiv | Photos: Sairaj R Kamath
Primitiv | See full gallery here

*****

Fast forward three days, a time-span in which I missed two more BOA pre-gigs (due to family commitments) that included hardened metal bands like Antakrit as well as grindcore acts like Necrophilia and Grossty. Sigh… this post is starting to have more holes than the AVN Awards.

ANYWAY, the Indigo Live Music Bar on the night of June 4th was the scene of not only a gig by progressive metallers Eccentric Pendulum, but also of the Wacken Metal Battle prelims. Two particularly brutal contestants were Amorphia and Counterplot Theory; the former went for all-out, speedy thrash metal reminiscent of 80s Slayer, while the latter added a more progressive and “teutonic” touch to their thrash metal template. However, the winners that night were The Down Troddence, who didn’t let their limited performance as a four-piece that night get in the way of delivering moshpit-inducing riffs and tribal grooves.

Amorphia (top 3) and Counterplot Theory (bottom 3) | Photos: Sairaj R Kamath
Amorphia (top 3) and Counterplot Theory (bottom 3) | See full gallery here

As for Eccentric Pendulum, their music isn’t particularly known to start off a good circle pit, but you can damn well be sure that they blasted some proggy madness through their amps! Their set almost reached Opeth levels of duration and variety as they debuted two brand-spanking-new songs near the end, giving a teaser for their new material to come.

Eccentric Pendulum (top right, top-left, bottom-left) and The Down Troddence (bottom, bottom-right) | Photos: Sairaj R Kamath
Eccentric Pendulum (top right, top-left, bottom-left) and The Down Troddence (bottom, bottom-right) | See full gallery here

*****

The very last BOA pre-gig at Vapour on June 5th was by far the most special for me. For one, it was the site of the Wacken Metal Battle finals, featuring some of the best homegrown talent I’d ever seen till that point. Indore death metallers Zero Gravity and Mumbai alt-metal band Anthracite surprised me the most in the vocalist department; ZG’s Kratika Bagora could give Arch Enemy’s Alissa White-Gluz a run for her money with her death metal vocals, while Anthracite’s Abhishek Nair proved to be the man of a dozen weird-but-cool voices coupled with his Fred Durst-like vocals. Also, I’ve gotta give props to Kolkata’s Scarface for the interesting guitars and soundscapes in their “modern metal” style.

Clockwise from left: Zero Gravity, Anthracite, and Scarface | See full gallery here
Clockwise from left: Zero Gravity, Anthracite, and Scarface | See full gallery here

But the real competition that night was between Sycorax from Darjeeling and the blessedly full line-up of The Down Troddence. With enough dreadlocks to whip an entire slave galley, Sycorax commanded the most intense moshpits of that night with their extreme death metal setlist. You could be mistaken for thinking that a live pig was being skinned onstage if you didn’t see the squeals coming from their vocalist Trivinesh Subba.

Sycorax | See full gallery here
Sycorax | See full gallery here

That’s not to say that The Down Troddence didn’t put up a fair fight as well. Finally complimented by the mezmerizing keyboard lines and soundscapes their music is known for, they burned through their popular hits and got the crowd headbanging like a collective, metal-as-fuck metronome. Of course, frontman Munz sported very little of his iconic black face-paint, but I’ll take what I can get. In the end though, Sycorax ended up being the winners of the WMB, but it was a damn well-deserved victory.

The Down Troddence | See full gallery here
The Down Troddence | See full gallery here

It was then time for the three headliners of the night to take the stage: Slohawk, Dying Embrace and Kryptos.

I really didn’t know what to expect when Slohawk came up on stage. Consisting of big names like Rahul Chacko of Bevar Sea and Ganesh Krishnaswamy of Kryptos, I remember nipping inside the smoking room with a buddy of mine while they were fiddling with their instruments, only to come back 10 minutes later and realize that they had been playing an improvised stoner-doom number all along! From then onwards, the whole venue was awash with trippy stoner-rock grooves and solos that could relax a cheetah on a sugar-high. The band cheekily continued playing well after their time-slot, but no one was complaining… except the poor organizers, of course.

Slohawk | See full gallery here
Slohawk | See full gallery here

The doom-y atmosphere in Vapour then took a darker turn as Dying Embrace came on stage. Vikram Bhat and co. had both the young metal loyalists and the members of the old guard hooked with their classic tunes, as well as a well-placed Bolt Thrower cover. Whatever they supposedly lacked in stage presence and movement, they more than made up for with spot-on playing and just a good, old-school vibe unseen in most bands today.

Dying Embrace | See full gallery here
Dying Embrace | See full gallery here

But now, it was time for the mighty Kryptos to end the night in style. With guitarists Nolan Lewis and Rohit Chaturvedi having enough patches on their jackets to mend ratty bedsheets in a slum, the band positively oozed 80s rockstar style as they thrashed through their crowd favourite songs. I guess they were probably too busy snarling at the audience to notice Barney Greenway and Shane Embury of Napalm Death looking down at their set from the upper level, and they just may have been impressed by Bangalore’s finest. It kinda makes you wonder about exactly who Rohit was showing off his bod for during his performance.

Kryptos | See full gallery here
Kryptos | See full gallery here

*****

Finally, the afternoon of June 6th had arrived. FYI, I stay 10 minutes away from the Royal Orchid Hotel in Yelahanka, so I was clad in my finest metal attire and camera, ready to witness India’s finest metal bands as well as the three mega-headliners. And I did… NOT. Once again, I was sidelined by family duties till about 6:30pm, with the result that I arrived at the grounds just as Belphegor was about to start their set.

*cries a little inside*

*still crying inside, give it a minute*

*ok, I’m good*

All things considered, I think Belphegor had the best stage presence that night. Occupying the main stage in a fog of deep red lighting and… well, fog, the band even had their backs faced to the rabid audience before dramatically launching into blackened death metal brutality. Belphegor’s whole set in front of the epic backdrop was a sight to behold, not least due to the fact that Helmuth’s mic-stand seemed to be made up of grisly goat bones. What’s the expression I’m looking for right now… “KVLT”? “KVRWA”? “NVTTERBVTTERS”? Anyway, the band burned through their set staples like “Walpurgis Rites”, satisfying the crowd’s appetites for all things black metal.

Belphegor | See full gallery here
Belphegor | See full gallery here

Inquisition followed up with their performance on the Jeff Hanneman Stage opposite, and they were the break-out stars of the show that night. Many of the old-school thrashers in the venue were already milling around the stage before showtime, curious about their sound. Well, suffice it to say that they were blown away by the tidal wave of black/thrash metal that came from the two musicians of the band. Yeah, that’s right, TWO. Proving themselves as the epitome of “doing more with less”, vocalist/guitarist Dagon and drummer Incubus played to an amazed and whooping audience that night. This only left a few stragglers hanging around the main-stage barricades, saving their places to witness the fury of Napalm Death next.

Inquisition | See full gallery here
Inquisition | See full gallery here

AND THEN… my Grindcore dreams came true. As the whole crowd that night concentrated themselves in front of the main stage, Napalm Death opened explosively with “When All is Said and Done”. One of my favourite songs of theirs, no less! Their whole set then blazed by in a wave of angry, louder-than-hell riffs, drums and roars. At that point of time, the answer as to how the hell vocalist Barney Greenway and bassist Shane Embury could still do this so well night after night for so many years was WAY beyond me. Honestly however, the audience in front kind of pulled a dick move by incessantly screaming for ND’s older hits as the band played their newer stuff. This was almost to the point where Barney had to repeatedly say “patience, patience!” in a joking voice, but I got the feeling that this was all in good spirit. Perhaps to respond to this, the band ended their headlining set with their seconds-long masterpiece, “You Suffer”. And no, I didn’t just phrase that sarcastically.

Napalm Death | See full gallery here
Napalm Death | See full gallery here

All in all, this year’s Bangalore Open Air extravaganza was one I’ll never forget, and I’m sure that’ll be the case for many other friends of mine who were there. Kudos, thumbs up, and cheers with beers to Salman and his team for pulling this massive shindig off!

But you know what? The next BOA will be an even more memorable experience for me, even though it hasn’t even happened yet! Wanna know why? Because it will include my favourite melodic death metal band of all time and space: SOIL-MOTHERFUCKING-WORK! My original band t-shirt of theirs will now be stained in my tears of happiness!

Oh, and Vader‘s gonna be there as well. S’all good.

*****

BANGALORE OPEN AIR 2015: The Highlights

Photo Diary: NE OBLIVISCARIS @ IIM-B Unmaad 2015

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Well, I seem to be stretching this “Photo Diary” shtick quite a bit, don’t I? In my defense, one of the biggest upcoming talents in Progressive death metal DID hit our shores about a week ago. And this was none other than Australia’s Ne Obliviscaris, who performed at IIM Bangalore‘s “Unmaad” fest on January 30th!

Admittedly, I was a little late to the festivities that evening as I had to travel straight from college with my mates. At that point of time, the dudes at NeO had already started judging that evening’s competing local bands as part of the ‘B-School of Rock’ event.

Many of the bands put up a good fight in the race for first place. But for my money, up-and-coming Indian fusion band Pineapple Express (insert stoner comedy reference here) totally blew away both the band and the crowd. The sheen and fluidness of their sound as well as their fine use of vocal effects totally won me over. It also helped that they won the competition at the end of the event, which was all the more amazing given that they started out only about four months ago.

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After the competition, Bangalorean prog-metal stalwarts Ec{c}entric Pendulum burst on to the stage as the support act for NeO. While their music was madly technical as usual, their performance was perhaps madder still. It wasn’t enough that they played like Tool gone high on crack and metalcore CDs; they wanted the crowd to mosh like there was no tomorrow. While that effort of theirs was somewhat successful (I personally couldn’t help but stand like a potted plant to click their pictures clearly), they nevertheless put up a performance worthy of preceding the Aussie guests.

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And then it was time for Ne Obliviscaris to take the stage. The band got the crowd cheering and whooping even when they did their small sound-check, after which they immediately barreled into their catalogue.

Simply put, NeO’s performance was that rarely-ever-seen mix of the brutal and the ethereal. Much of the heavy lifting was done by Matt Klavins and Benjamin Baret on guitars, Brendan “Cygnus” Brown on bass and the elusive Daniel Presland on drums, as they belted out their dizzying array of progressive black metal mixed with avant-garde and jazz influences. However, no one was quick to disregard the vocal talents and showmanship of the band’s singers, Marc “Xenoyr” Campbell and violinist Tim Charles.

Marc had a brooding, almost gothic stage presence reminiscent of the late Peter Steele (Type O Negative), which was all the more exemplified by his harsh death metal vocals. Tim however couldn’t have been more different from his counterpart, as he triumphantly sang his clean vocal parts in the songs and played his violin with gusto and emotion. He was also the more social side of the band, taking over the mic at times to express the band’s sheer pleasure about performing in India for the first time.

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The special part of the night was that all the bands kept themselves open to interaction with the fans at the end of the event. There were multiple hands being shook, gushing words of praise, autograph-signings and BOATLOADS of clicked pictures with the band members. And yes, even I was guilty of that sin with NeO. Nevertheless, It really added a personal touch to the event, and up until that night wasn’t actually something I ever saw in any big-time metal concert.

All in all, the perfect end to a perfect night. May You All Not Forget this gig for the rest of your lives… if you were there.

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(To see the full photo gallery on Facebook, click here.)

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Photo Diary: CULTFEST Launch Gig @ The Humming Tree

CoS-Pic04First of all, let it be said that the balls of the CultFest team are worthy of being featured in a Steel Panther album. Being the black sheep that it is in India’s musical landscape, starting up a music festival for Heavy Metal in India is no mean feat in this socio-economic climate. But launching the very first edition of your fetival with two of the biggest death metal bands (OR a death metal and “deathcore” band for all you genre elitists out there) on the planet? GODDAMN. Of course, I will reveal that line-up at the end of this photo diary for dramatic effect, even though half the Indian metal scene and their moms know of it by now.

And so it was with a weird feeling of trepidation mixed with excitement that I drove to The Humming Tree on 100ft Road, Indiranagar on the evening of January 14th for CultFest’s launch gig. Featuring Chase ‘Em Wolves, Cheisrah, Necrophilia and Neolithic Silence (with the launch video set to be screened at the end of the gig), CultFest turned the otherwise “family-friendly” restaurant and lounge into a hotbed of moshing, pig squeals, and loud-arse guitars. And Centuries Of Sin has photographic evidence right here for your enjoyment and/or envy.

 

Chase ‘Em Wolves

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Necrophilia

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Cheisrah

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Neolithic Silence

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(For the full album on the CoS Facebook page, click here.)

Oh, and now for the line-up. CultFest is going to have CANNIBAL CORPSE and SUICIDE SILENCE in Bangalore on April 11th. Commence orgasms.

Order your tickets here.

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Photo Diary: NH7 Weekender Pune, Day 2

IMG_8341After all those years of waiting, hoping, and offering animal sacrifices to my makeshift idol of Dino Cazares, Fear Factory finally made their first appearance in India as part of the NH7 Weekender music festival. Of course, the flip side was that they gave NH7’s Bangalore edition the snub, choosing instead to perform at the Pune and Delhi editions. And so, after a lengthy bus ride to the city with my backpack and DSLR, I finally found my way to Day 2 of NH7 Weekender Pune on November 22 to catch the Industrial metal giants.

What I didn’t know was that I would have a bigger treat than usual that day, since the Bacardi Arena and Red Bull Tour Bus stages that day played host to a great number of India’s in-house metal talent like The Down Troddence, Zygnema, Providence and Bhayanak Maut, as well as the later sets by International players Skyharbor and Fear Factory. And today, I’d like to present a small photo diary featuring some of my own pics of that day’s performances. What you’ll see here is the result of a Canon EOS 1100D camera, a LOT OF PUSHING through NH7’s crowd, and some image-processing trickery.

 

Providence:

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Skyharbor:

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Fear Factory:

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Yes, I could’ve clicked pictures of the rest of the line-up… but come on, I wanted to mosh too.

See the rest of the pictures here on my personal profile:
Providence: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.937007102977586.1073741833.100000049155169&type=1&l=3a4a97496d
Skyharbor: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.934126466598983.1073741830.100000049155169&type=1&l=7487f35342
Fear Factory: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.934841233194173.1073741831.100000049155169&type=1&l=532aacbe61

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