Three bands of varying stripes — Children Of Bodom, Demonic Resurrection, and Advaita — were at the Kingfisher Great Indian Octoberfest.
Depending on where you stand in the metalhead spectrum, Children of Bodom are gods – or thrashing, growling freaks. At a recent press meet before their gig at the Octoberfest, the former category came out in full force: the room was filled with fans attired in their Children Of Bodom black tee-shirts.
It was the Finnish metal band’s first time in India. They’ve been variously categorised as ‘black’ metal, ‘melodic death metal’, and ‘power metal’. To the lay listener, the sub-genres perhaps don’t matter; if you’ve heard them, you’re familiar with the furious rat-a-tat of drummer Jaska Raatikainen and the tiger-like growl of lead singer and guitarist Alexi Laiho.
Arguably, it’s keyboardist Janne Wirman who adds the ‘melodic’ element, with shimmering intros and fast-paced symphony-style tunes. And if you want a good bit of genre-crossing amusement, we recommend you check out their cover of a Britney Spears track, from their cover collection album Skeletons In The Closet.
“I hope we don’t mellow out any time soon,” Wirman says. “We are getting older now, but when we go into a show, we feed off the energy of the fans.” Why does Finland have such a strong culture of metal? “Probably because it’s so cold and dark,” he offers.
Children Of Bodom has been around for nearly 20 years now, producing consistently angry music. “I don’t think we’ll ever run out of that,” he grins. “It’s not about being angry, it’s just our thing, it’s what we do.”
Demonic Resurrection is one of the oldest Indian metal bands; indeed, one might argue that they’ve pioneered the genre in India. Founded in 2000 in Mumbai, the band has gone through many changes in lineup, and currently has Sahil Makhija on vocals and guitar, Jetesh “Mephisto” Menon on keyboards, Daniel Rego on guitars, Ashwin Shriyan on bass and Virendra Kaith on drums.
“We’ve become a more serious band now,” says Sahil, over phone. “We’re looked at as a professional band, and not just a college band.” The band started out to give the country a taste of ‘extreme metal’; over the years, they’ve managed to craft their own sound. “We’ve got better at what we do; our live performances are tighter.” The Return To Darkness
But why is metal restricted to college crowds in India? Surely there are other people who identify with the frustrated aggression it represents. “English music itself is consumed by a small proportion,” he explains. “Concerts are a luxury. For the average person, Bollywood and other film music is accessible. Metal, being so aggressive, appeals to youth who are rebelling against the force-feeding of Indian culture.”
There’s another curious aspect of the band’s frontman. Visit Sahil’s Facebook page, and his cover image — at the time of going to print, at least — isn’t a gig picture or some dark iconography; it’s a delicious looking plate of spaghetti, with a tomato sauce and some crumbly cheese. Sahil has channeled his love for food and metal into a show called Headbangers' Kitchen, where he meets a metal band, interviews them, and feeds them. “Metalheads are like normal people – they like good food,” he explains.
Delhi-based electro-fusion band Advaita is on a roll. The eight-piece fusion band’s latest album, The Silent Sea, just won at the Global Indian Music Awards, in the “Rock Album Category”. They’re fresh from a series of gigs at top-billed festivals such as the Weekender and the Octoberfest. “It’s our first time winning a major award,” says guitarist Abhishek Mathur. “It’s amazing we had a chance; it’s a pleasant surprise.”
Even to those unfamiliar with the band, their rousing performance of ‘Ghir ghir’ from their album Grounded In Space performed on Coke Studio a few years ago might ring a bell. The octet — which is, incidentally, celebrating its eighth anniversary — came together after interactions on the Delhi music scene.
The band mixes Hindustani classical music with a western framework, and has Ujwal Nagar on Hindustani vocals, Chayan Adhikari on western vocals and guitar, Anindo Bose on keyboards, Aman Singh on drums, Gaurav Chintamani on bass and Mohit Lal on tabla, besides Suhail and Abhishek on sarangi and guitar respectively.
The ‘fusion’ format adopted by the band doesn’t lead to worries about being hackneyed.
“There are so many rock bands, for instance. It’s not like they all sound the same,” says Anindo. “It’s about the songwriting. And all of us have different influences, so we can’t be repetitive.”
Abhishek admits that at a personal level, there is an effort to not fall into formulaic fusion. “For ourselves, to challenge ourselves more than anything else,” he clarifies. While they’re thrilled about the increasing opportunities for bands, there’s still a sense of caution about the support for full-time musicians. “We’re definitely getting more gigs,” says Chayan. “But the scope of the professional musician has to widen.”
Having stuck around for eight years, the band sees itself as having a responsibility to the “scene”. “We have a responsibility to make the scene better, to help raise the bars,” says Anindo, referring to Indian Ocean, which has hugely influenced Advaita. “We want to emulate them, by sticking around for a while.”