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Editorials, Scene Report

An In-Depth Look Into the Indian Metal Scene Featuring Quotes From 15 Bands

Posted by on February 1, 2017 at 12:05 pm

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When I think of metal, the countries that come to mind would include UK, Norway, US, and maybe some other parts of Western Europe. But never before recently had I pictured India as a thriving hub for metal music. And maybe I'm being a bit ambitious by using the word 'thriving' to describe their current status, but overall the metal community there is a lot larger and more active than I realized.

After receiving multiple emails from Indian metal bands, I decided to do some research and find out more about their current music industry. I gathered what I found to be a diverse mix of acts from the country and asked a few questions to each in hopes of finding a better understanding. Below you can find a brief bio, interview questions, social media, and music links from each group featured. Of course, there are other influential bands within India that are not included in this article, yet if there is enough of a demand, perhaps we will do a sequel piece with more Indian bands included. Furthermore, if there are any other countries that you see with a growing metal community without exposure, let us know and maybe we'll have a similar 'An In-Depth Look Into the Samoan Metal Scene' article.

Credit to Demonstealer (Demonic Resurrection), Reuben Bhattacharya (ex-Undying Inc.), Sidharth Kadadi (Zygnema), Samron Jude (Systemhouse33), Riju Dasgupta (Albatross), Nolan Lewis (Kryptos), Krishna Jhaveri (Goddess Gagged), Adhiraj Singh (Noiseware), Vibhas Venkatram (Eccentric Pendulum), Arindam Sen (What Escapes Me), Rishabh Seen (Mute The Saint), and all the other individuals who contributed a significant amount of information and writing towards this article.

DEMONIC RESURRECTION

demonic resurrection indian metal

It sure is difficult to consolidate a sixteen year history into a brief intro, but here goes nothing. Demonic Resurrection has released an EP and four albums, the last two being with Candlelight Records. Coming from Mumbai, they have been making festival appearances in Europe and the UK since 2010 including performances at Wacken Open Air, Sonisphere, Bloodstock, Brutal Assault, Metaldays, and more. They also won a Metal Hammer Golden God award in 2010 for the Global Metal category and were featured in Sam Dunn's 'Global Metal' documentary in 2007. The blackened death metal group will release their fifth full-length album this year.

How would you describe the current Indian metal scene?

It's definitely a work in progress and easily about fifty years from being a sustainable scene for bands. Right now, it's miles ahead of where we started. When I got involved back in 1998, it was filled with cover bands and hardly any festivals and practically a dead scene so to speak. There were maybe a handful of bands with albums or any recorded music and most bands apologetically threw in 2 of their own songs in a 10-song cover set. Fast forward and we have more than 1 album being released every month not counting singles. We also have way more shows in general. Earlier, the metros were the only cities you'd find English music, let alone metal, and now even some of the smaller towns are starting to find an audience. I think it's evolved but it's a long way before it can become sustainable for anyone.

What are the pros and cons of being a metal band in India?

The pro is that you are Indian and it's something interesting for people outside the country. Like they didn't know metal existed here. The flip side is we're fucked trying to tour anywhere outside. Right from visa hassles to the sheer financial burden that it is. It's about 4,000 euros just to get to Europe and the worst part is our currency is so weak against the Euro/Dollar/Pound that it's really a lot of money. If the currency was a bit better it would be much easier.

Has the Western metal scene (US/Europe) affected or influenced your band?

Absolutely. Not a single metalhead in India would exist if it wasn't for the masters of metal. Everyone from Metallica to Maiden to Slayer to Behemoth to Nile to Blind Guardian to Periphery to Gojira. Everyone in the band has varied influences and we come together and write our stuff.

Listen to the epic and symphonic track "Death, Desolation and Despair" off their 2014 album, The Demon King below:

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SKYHARBOR

skyharbor indian metal

This prog-rock/metal outfit started performing and touring about five years ago and have released two full-length albums since then through Basick Records. In 2013, Skyharbor won nearly all the categories at the Rolling Stone India awards. The following year, their crowdfunding campaign for their second LP raised over £20,000. More recently, the group embarked on their first ever North American tour alongside Tesseract, The Contortionist, and Erra. They plan to release a new record soon as well.

How would you describe the current Indian metal scene?

Talent wise, there are heaps of amazing bands here and heaps of not so amazing bands as well, which makes it just like any other scene in the world. The difference would be as a territory that is geographically far away from the major touring markets for rock and metal, it is hard for a band to break through into the international touring scene once they've done all that they could within this territory with the limited performing/touring opportunities that are available. It's only getting better and better though. There's killer music to be discovered from here and the world is only getting smaller as we move into the future, so it'll get there eventually.

What are the pros and cons of being a metal band in India?

I don't really know if there are any pros to it at all, except maybe sometimes it can be a bit easier to pique the curiosity of random people to check it out because for a lot of folks it seems to be a very unusual place for people to be into rock and metal music.

Has the Western metal scene (US/Europe) affected or influenced your band?

Yes, of course it has. Those are the two scenes that shaped the way metal is the way it is today, and with good reason. I'm sure if we had to all make a list of our top 5 all-time favorite bands, at least 3 or 4 would be from either the US or Europe/UK. Karnivool (from Australia) being the other one for all of us of course.

Listen to a spacey, prog adventure on "Out of Time" with their newest vocalist Eric Emery below:

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UNDYING INC

undying inc indian metal

This group's music combines speed, groove, and aggression to form something truly engaging and extreme. So far, Undying Inc has reached into international lands quite well being featured on such compilations as Japan's Metal Asia 2007, Middle Eastern Mayhem 2013, and Metal Hammer's 'Planet Metal' 2010. The band's performance history includes support for Meshuggah, Tesseract, Enslaved, Satyricon, Intronaut, Sikth, Amon Amarth, Carcass, Belphegor, and Napalm Death as well as festivals like Great Indian Rock, NH7 Weekender, Deccan Rock, BIG69 Metal Festival, and Bangalore Open Air. More recently, the Delhi-based quartet have have been working on their third LP.

How would you describe the Indian metal scene?

The current Indian scene we feel is at a sort of crossroads. It's at a tipping point of sorts. On one hand we have established bands that started out with the first major wave around the early 2000's including us and a few others (Demonic Resurrection, Kryptos, Bhayanak Maut), who have already made a mark on home turf and are now slowly garnering attention internationally. And there's new bands coming out and using the power of the internet to reach out to a larger audience very quickly. There are pockets of subgenre based audiences such as black metal, death & doom metal, thrashers, and the modern metal movement with the djent bands, so there definitely is variety. However, it is still really fragmented and is not a united entity. It still needs dedicated support to get organized and really come into its own to be at par with worldwide counterparts. But the tides are turning and the world is waking up to the huge potential of the metal market in India, mainly because of the sheer numbers. An average pub crawl metal night has a turnout of a 250 – 300 audience and large metal festivals go anywhere between 6k – 15k people, conservatively speaking. But even that is a massive number for say when a Norwegian or Finnish metal band comes down for a show. The festivals seems to be gravitating towards a formula of only booking international bands as headliners for metal fests which again is eating into the space the local bands spent years building up. The thing now is to get the massive numbers organized and aligned to a festival circuit instead of being a floating audience that goes from one sporadic event to another.

What are the pros and cons of being a metal band in India?

To be honest, there isn't any other metal specific label of repute here besides Transcending Obscurity, who also release a load of international underground bands. Most of the pros and cons are similar to anywhere else in the world, it's pretty much DIY. You are a metal band and metal is a fringe movement. The challenges of that reality is the same all over the world. However, it's a lot harder here because there are a lot of political, social, cultural, and religious barriers a metal band must break in order to rise up. Everything is a challenge, especially when the industry and the audience is not organized in a manner where crowd funding or touring will be a viable platform for metal bands to survive. Most club venues that host metal shows have shut down or don't last long. Bigger venues have an outright 'no metal' policy or use it for the night when there is no DJ around. Most lifestyle brands are shy in promoting heavy music such as a Monster Energy, Affliction, or Vans does elsewhere. When lifestyle meets music is when an industry happens as there are other peripheral things to prop up the bands and fans. Band merch and sporadic sets of festivals and shows are the major sources of sustenance here as nobody really buys music anymore.

Has the Western metal scene and music industry (US/Europe) affected or influenced your band?

Yes, of course. All of us in the band have grown up at various stages of turning points in music that influenced us. The guitarist and I, we are 90's tap trading kids and grew up on American hard rock, groove metal, post-thrash, industrial, alternative, punk, hardcore, doom, and death metal. Our vocalist is more into the nu metal, metalcore, and alternative era of the 2000's. And our drummer is from the current generation of modern progressive metal and djent. So we collectively have a very wide palette of influences, which I think is the best thing because we have a more unique and all encompassing viewpoint on metal as all of this influenced us equally without any socio-cultural genre cliches that came along with it. Like skate punks not understanding what the tech death guys are about. We loved Helmet and Atheist equally and still do. That I think is a very positive and powerful thing, as it helps push our music forward.

Listen to their Dimebag Darrell tribute "Beyond Trendkill" (Great Southern Trendkill + Strength Beyond Strength) below:

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ZYGNEMA

zygnema indian metal

Also located in Mumbai, Zygnema brings groovy thrash to the next level. They have released two full-length albums since 2010 including Born of Unity followed by What Makes Us Human Is Obsolete. The group has also performed at Osnabruck Metal Fest 2011, Wacken Open Air 2012, and Inferno Metal Festival 2013. At the Rolling Stone Metal Awards, Zygnema have previously won best band, song, and album awards over the years.

How would you describe the current Indian metal scene?

The Indian metal scene is slowly evolving. We don't see a massive growth in numbers, but the quality of music and musicians is definitely improving. I'd say we have a niche and dedicated audience who share the same love for original music. About eight to ten years ago, Indian metal bands were all about playing covers. A band used to be judged based on their ability to nail a cover song, but the scene has drastically changed now. Indian metal bands are going gung-ho with EPs or albums. So yeah, the change is steady and concrete, but the growth curve needs to take a leap upwards.

What are the pros and cons of being a metal band in India?

Playing Western music is a privilege. It's like an expensive hobby and you need to have a day job to support this expensive hobby of yours. Metal music is also a far off thing. To be in a metal band, you have to make up your mind and tell yourself that you won't be able to make a living off this. Major labels wont support independent music and give them that push to survive. If you don't have a label then your reach is not that great. Touring is a concept that is yet to hit our metal scene. We managed to pull off a nine city tour all by ourselves simply because we were releasing our second album. If you don't have anything major happening, the venues or promoters will think twice. The day a metal band tours and plays 20 shows in 40 days is the day when Indian metal will have something to talk about.

Has the Western metal scene (US/Europe) affected or influenced your band?

Definitely. We have grown up listening to bands like Pantera, Metallica, Megadeth, Black Sabbath, Sepultura, Testament, Morbid Angel, Slayer, Meshuggah, Decapitated, and so many other bands. In fact, we can proudly say that we got to share the stage with quite a few of those bands at various festivals or gigs. We supported Megadeth last year here in India at NH7 Weekender Fest, Testament and Kreator somewhere in 2012, and Behemoth in Nepal in 2013. So yes, Western metal bands are our primary influence to keep doing what we are doing. Someday, we might get noticed for our work and who knows what's in store for us.

Listen to some undeniably sweet riffs on "The Phoenix Effect" from the What Makes Us Human Is Obsolete LP below:

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SYSTEMHOUSE33

SystemHouse33 indian metal

SystemHouse33 is a groove, death-thrash metal band from Bombay, India that is currently unsigned. The band has performed all across India in the past 13 years of its existence and released five albums. SystemHouse33 is the first metal band to emerge from a small town in India called Nagpur, which has no metal scene before shifting base to the city of Mumbai. They are honored to have the opportunity to take their heavy brand of Indian metal to USA and Europe next year. They have previously toured with Six Feet Under, Dying Fetus, The Acacia Strain, Black Crown Initiate, and more.

How would you describe the current Indian metal scene?

The metal scene in India has seen the rise of more bands than before, but it has not developed much as a very few number of bands actively tour and the access to technology has also sadly brought a certain level of mediocrity. Although we do have a few international acts performing in the country, it's not that regular due to the lack of venues. Overall, the Indian metal scene is largely DIY here as this genre of music doesn't get the support it needs owing largely to cultural differences and the preference for Bollywood music, cover artists, and EDM, but we hope it gets better in the near future. That is also one of the reasons SystemHouse33 has put in a lot of effort to get our music out to the world.

What are the pros and cons of being a metal band in India?

Interesting question, yes, there are always two sides to any scene. The pros would be everything is cheaper compared to many other countries. You can jam with your band at a nominal fee. We also have the ability to write on various issues and incorporate it into the music, like how we turn our everyday frustration into the inspiration for our albums. As for cons, there is a lack of the availability of good equipment. And there's little or no metal shows and negligent metal tours/festivals, mainly due to the fact that most existing venues don't support heavy metal. Lastly, no record labels want to sign underground artists due to the mighty power of Bollywood.

Has the Western metal scene (US/Europe) affected or influenced your band?

Yes, the Western metal scene has influenced us in a very big way. Bands are more serious, passionate, and committed to their music and give it their 100% in their albums and tours, which is something every band needs to do. That passion and attitude is an essential aspect to every musician and after touring in Europe and USA with some legendary bands like Dying Fetus, it has given our band a new dimension of belief, understanding, and faith in our music. Bands like Pantera and Meshuggah have proved that bands from smaller towns can be inspirational and being a small town band ourselves, that really motivated us.

Listen to the track "Detestable Idolatry," which becomes increasingly stronger with every new riff introduced below:

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COMMENTS

  • Ken Graved

    Great post. Wish you guys had checked out some more bands like Gutslit. Great article nonetheless.

  • MD

    Excellent article… I got introduced to a couple of new bands through this post….. and of course there are tonnes of bands that aren't on here that I think people would love to hear. Great going.

  • Poo in the loo is my fav new Indian metal band.