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.
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?”
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.
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.
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 :-