There has never been a formula for success as far as a metal band goes – more so for a band that is based in India. How do you make the average metal lover to take notice of your efforts? Does war-paint and crazy stage antics help your band’s cause? Do you stick to the basics and play it the old-school way? Or do you try and incorporate the new sounds that are redefining the entire metal canvas? What exactly defines a metal band and the perfect metal sound in the metal hotch-potch that is India?
Bangalore-based The Down Troddence seems to have found an answer to the above question. A musical style that is a marriage of the thrash and groove metal sub-genres, and also having large dollops of traditional folk music elements from Kerala, seems to have worked wonders for the band’s rise up the metal popularity ladder. The Down Troddence is one of the very few bands in the circuit who have successfully managed to incorporate Indian folk influences into their metal sound without it sounding either forced or cheesy. This is no surprise, since the band, having originally started their journey in Kannur (Kerala), are well acquainted with the folk sounds of their home state. The band’s musical approach has ensured that they do not sound like the typical run-of-the-mill Indian metal act, and indeed, their style resonates strongly in their original compositions, many of which are showcased in their debut album How Are You? We Are Fine, Thank You.
This is a commendable debut effort, and Keshav Dhar’s fine production and engineering is certainly a plus point for the album. The artwork, conceived by Abhijith VB, is interesting to say the least, and the artist has done a fine job in capturing the essence of the featured songs in his sketches. The overall album production and packaging get a big thumbs-up and based upon just these two factors, if you are a collector of albums from the Indian metal “underground”, then this is without a doubt an album worth purchasing.
It took one spin of How Are You? We Are Fine, Thank You to convince me that The Down Troddence are indeed a band for the future. Their debut album, while not the most original piece of musicianship currently in circulation, indeed has its moments – and luckily enough these far outweigh the clichéd elements that plague this otherwise fine effort.
The album opens with the acoustic ‘A.V.‘ and it is laced with some soothing South Indian influenced sounds. However this tranquil album opener gives way to some crunching guitar riffs and a barrage of power drumming to introduce the album’s second track, ‘Hell Within Hell‘. The groove metal influences on this track hit you square between the eyes and the menacing vocals of front-man Munz also lends an overall dark feel to this track. An enjoyable composition indeed, but probably not the most original – and you will definitely have heard similar sounds from countless other bands. The lyrics however add some depth to the track, and they talk about the politically motivated crimes that take place in their home-town.
‘KFC‘ is the next song and the band changes gear from groove metal to post hard-core. This track is an enjoyable listen no doubt, but it sounds way too much like a Scribe composition. This apparently clichéd approach from the band in the album’s first few songs may disappoint a few listeners who might have been expecting something a bit more radical after being labeled by many connoisseurs as an “experimental metal” band. However, for those of you who enjoy modern metal this would probably not be too much of an issue.
‘Death Vanity’ is where things slowly start to take shape. One of the band’s first compositions, this song too is heavily layered with both thrash and metal-core influences. The chorus section has a very rock-anthem like feel to it and it is one of the heaviest songs on the album.
The song ‘Nagavalli’ is a bone-crunching story of a woman who lets go of her suppressed anger to become the vengeful Nagavalli, a character from the film Manichithrathazhu. The religious chanting, the crushing guitar riffs and the top-notch drumming of Ganesh Radhakrishnan, make this a delightful composition and it is easily one of the best tracks on the album.
The moment you hear the hypnotic guitar intro on the song ‘Forgotten Martyrs’ you just know that Baiju Dharmarajan has lent a hand to this track. And indeed that is the case – Baiju’s unique guitar skills are the main focus of this composition, and you find yourself taking a trip down memory lane, to the days when another band from Kerala, Motherjane, ruled supreme. ‘Forgotten Martyrs’ is most certainly the stand-out song on this album, and try as you might, nothing but Baiju’s surreal guitar work seems to register in your brain throughout the duration of this song.
The next track ‘Muck Fun Mohan’ is a song about the plight of the common man, and it is another well thought-out composition, especially on the lyrical side. Musically, it is yet another amalgamation of the different metal sub-genres that feature heavily on this album – a mixed bag of sounds, but an interesting listen nonetheless.
The next track ‘Ortniavis’ takes the listener down the religious route – bell chimes and chants in a tribal Malayalam dialect feature heavily on this track, and this composition acts as the perfect intro to The Down Troddence’s massively popular ‘Shiva’. A brutally heavy song, ‘Shiva’ is sung totally in Sanskrit. As in ‘Ortniavis’, the bell chimes and religious chanting feature heavily on this track as well. The metal-core riffing and the breakdowns manage to blend in with the traditional sounds with sumptuous ease, and without a doubt the band are at their experimental best on this composition.
The Down Troddence closes out their debut effort with ‘Chaapilla’ – another effort in experimentation. The sonic layers that have been created here provide a distinctly ethereal effect to the song, and this all builds up until everything seems to come crashing down under an avalanche of guitar riffs towards the end of the track. Literally translated as dead foetus, ‘Chaapilla’ is a statement about the hopeless state of our country’s youth. The lyrics of this song are masterly, but this goes for all the featured tracks on this album – lyrically The Down Troddence is no flash-in-the-pan.
All in all, How Are You? We Are Fine, Thank You does indeed hold up as far as the music goes. Few bands these days make a conscious effort to produce an album that is complete in all respects, so to see this young band trying to achieve all-round perfection in this, their debut effort, speaks loads about the band, their dedication and attitude. The Down Troddence can indeed be proud of their album and a thousand eyes and ears will be on them, waiting for their next piece of work. Expectations and standards have indeed been set high – and the band should only blame itself if their next effort fails to appease their metal hungry fans.