Viva La Vida

Coldplay, EMI

CD, Rs. 350

What would you get if you connect the dots between an exhibition by the late Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, a painting by French painter Delacroix, some Eastern santoor, a Chinese chant and love in Japan? The latest album by British rock band Coldplay, “Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends”.

Perched comfortably atop the popularity charts, it is natural for them to want to experiment with a more complex sound. For this they worked with Brian Eno of U2 fame and Marcus Dravs who’s produced for Bjork and Arcade Fire. They wrote on complex themes and tangled images, threw in some “world music” and tried to dabble with vague historical/political references. However, the end result is a grand stew of sorts.

Their sound is along the same lines as their previous works with stadia-intended notes and singable choruses. Bold and experimental would be a complete overstatement. The sound reeks of U2’s signature style, most notably with Johnny Buckland’s guitars. Working with Eno and incorporating slender oriental, Arabic elements does not translate into a genuine attempt at ingenious music but remains a blatant, commercial attempt to keep fans happy and convince them that their music has “evolved”.

Perhaps, the enormous hype surrounding this album billed as a “new sound” and even deeply political, works against them. They start off the album with the sweet santoor backed instrumental in “Life In Technicolor” and end with the stadia intended ‘O, Ohs’ ending the song. With acoustic guitars and handclaps “Cemeteries Of London” and “Lost” follow with the ghost of U2 continuing to haunt the ground. “Lovers in Japan” and the hidden song “Reign of Love” have a mellow, vague Eastern sound and slow vocals. The theme follows through “Yes” and the nondescript hidden “Chinese Sleep Chant”. “Viva la Vida”, which means Long Live Life, is epic in nature and built with violins; it is the grandest as far as their lyrical compositions go. “Violet Hill” which has made it to the top of the music charts is mainly about stadium-sized choruses and combines with “Strawberry Swing” to probably form the lowest ebb of the album. The alternate title “Death And All His Friends”, the last track, sounds ambitious but with simple, sombre lyrics and ends with the band getting energized and Chris Martin screaming that he wont follow death and all his friends.

In all, it’s a tight album which tries to stray from the very romantic and almost prissy boyish material in earlier works. On the one hand, these compositions lack the sweetness and simplicity that made the band appealing. On the other, there is something discomfiting about the vague, inconsistent and non-committal political messages. Coldplay has managed to put together their Eastern sonic explorations to produce what can be called at best an advancement from their previous works and an okay listen. It is by no means a departure from their formulaic music.

The Ark Of Gemini

Kryptos, OSM Records

CD, Rs 300

Heavy metal music in India may have been around for decades, yet no band has been able to crack that glass ceiling and make it big internationally. This sophomore album by Bangalore-based Krytpos is excellent, well-crafted metal, to say the least, and may as well be the one to make that mark. The band spells world class local talent and rises above the usual overcooked local acts that may cater to niche audiences at best.

‘The Ark of Gemini’, follows the critically acclaimed ‘Spiral Ascent’ (2004). Unlike the previous time when they produced, marketed and sold their work — quite popular and widely recognised at local rock gigs — this time they’re working with California-based Old School Metal records (OSM) to produce this album.

Billed as a “killer thrash” metal band, this genre of music is on the lines of heavy metal with gruff vocals, bordering on melodic and power metal. This is no mish-mash, rip-off band, with vocalist/guitarist Nolan Lewis, drummer Ryan Colaco, Jayawant Tewari on the bass and Rohit Chaturvedi on guitars.

The album kickstarts its way up the energy meter with ‘Sphere VII’ which begins with an excellent heavy metal riff and a soaring Eastern guitar lead. Nolan’s sub-sonic growl comes through to reveal the true nature and inherent finesse in the music, and that quality which sets them apart. Next comes the faster “Order of the D.N.A.” the shortest on the album, but packs a mean punch. The song stands out for its speed and the musical vision. ‘Heretic Supreme’ follows, with a small intro speech, a format made popular by several British metal acts. ‘Tower Of Illusions’ with a slow, gloomy guitar lead marks the turning point in the album. ‘The Revenant’ begins with Russell Crowe’s speech from “The Gladiator” and is the starting point of several songs exhorting bravery, victory and battle along power metal lines. “Vulcan” is another great listen with powerful vocals and a great sound.

“Trident” follows talking about how those different are forced to walk the threefold path of their life, their travails, work and passion. The band proves their musical brilliance and amazing outré in ‘In the Presence of Eternity’ — with its hymnal quality and use of a pipe-organ and strings to craft a serene, peaceful instrumental; a perfect swan song for an honest piece of work.

The string of high melodic quality runs through the album, reminiscent of good old heavy metal; simple and without any fringes. Fans of Indian metal will surely hear of it and purchase it, and for those oblivious to the big, bad, brave new world of desi heavy metal: this is a perfect place to start. Log on to