Tag Archives: Metallica

Interview with Rami Mustafa of Nervecell

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One of the first extreme metal bands to emerge from Dubai, U.A.E. Nervecell has supported legendary bands such as Metallica, Anthrax, Morbid Angel and Suffocation are the torchbearers for a Middle Eastern wave of metal. WTS got the chance to interact with Rami Mustafa, the guitarist of Nervecell and here’s what he had to say about the band and their experiences… 

WTS: Nervecell has shared the stage with a bunch of international acts such as Metallica, Sepultura, Machinehead etc. How was the experience?

RM: Oh it was great! We are old fans of these bands, since we were kids, everyone one of us in the band grew up listening to Metallica, Sepultura, Machinehead and for us to get a chance to open for them, not only was it a great experience for us as a band, it was also a dream come true. Meeting our idols, the bands that made us get into music in the first place, and getting the chance to share the same stage with them, it is a feeling that we cannot describe. Especially with Metallica because Metallica is one of the biggest, if not the biggest metal band and to get a chance to open for them exclusively is a big honor for us.

WTS: Just watching a Metallica concert can be quite an experience so we can imagine what you guys felt opening for them! Did you get to hang out with the band, any cool backstage stories?

RM: Metallica is a very busy band so to actually get a chance to meet them was crazy! Because they have their own fan club with thousands of fans all over the world and they spent an hour and a half signing autographs backstage for these fans. We were lucky to meet them for five minutes after our set. When we finished our set they were actually jamming backstage – they have a small room where they practice before they go on stage. So all of us were listening to them playing ‘Creeping Death’ before they hit the stage and it was a privilege to hear them perform because none of us in the band had seen Metallica before. So they came out from the room and James Hetfield and Lars and us hung out. They were really cool. They told us that they liked our sound. It was a really quick chat because they had to go on stage. It was exactly 5 minutes before their stage time and we had only that much time to meet them. We were lucky and it was a really good experience to shake hands and take pictures with them. It was really great, they’re great guys!

WTS: So did Metallica influence Nervecell’s sound? What are the other bands that have influenced your music?

RM: We play a mix of thrash and death metal, the thrash metal sections are definitely Metallica, Slayer, Sepultura and Pantera influenced. For sure Metallica did influence us in one way or the other, the riffing obviously we’re heavier than Metallica and our style is heavier. The death metal section is influenced by Death, Morbid Angel and Cannibal Corpse. Basically old school death metal bands influenced us. We grew up listening to late 90’s death and thrash metal era. So these are the bands that affected our playing and influenced us.

WTS: Growing up in Qatar, did you guys have easy access to underground music and death metal in particular?

RM: When I was a kid, I was in Qatar that rarely had anything – the only access for me was TV you know, the only channels I used to watch were Channel V, MTV. This is where I first heard metal and before that I used to listen to rock music. Bands like GnR… I can’t really recall what other bands but the first metal bands were Megadeth, Metallica.

WTS: …Headbangers Ball!

RM: Headbangers Ball, exactly! I was six-seven years old and it was definitely not easy to find tapes or CDs and definitely no downloading, there was no access. My friends used to come from nearby countries like Turkey, Syria, Jordan and they used to have pirated music tapes from European countries. And whoever went to the States or Europe used to get me albums. Same with the other guys, Barney grew up in Dubai and he had the same experience. Dubai is more commercial but then again it wasn’t easy for Barney. Whatever metal music we had was through TV and magazines. As we grew older we subscribed to magazines like Metal Hammer and Rock Hard and we used to get music and compilation CDs and stuff. As we got older we started getting access slowly. But metal in general, when it came to finding CDs in stores, you’d never find death metal or thrash metal; you’d only find the commercial stuff like Metallica and maybe Slayer – nothing more than that. Nowadays you find everything. I think its getting better, man. It was a bit of a struggle then, it definitely wasn’t easy.

WTS: So now that there is easier access to underground metal, is there more reception to Nervecell’s music?

RM: Of course! When we started in 2001, the scene in Dubai was bad. But 2001 to 2005 it was really good. There were a lot of bands and a lot of underground gigs but people didn’t know too much about metal. They used to come to our shows and learn and realize – this is metal, this is death metal, this is thrash metal. We used to talk with everyone. We used to go out after our show to our friends and fans and have a chat and talk about bands and sometimes trade albums. It was a learning process. So yeah, for the past 3-4 years, I think the internet and YouTube and technology have helped the younger generation to learn about metal really faster than before, in a shorter span of time. Nowadays I find that musicians that can play a guitar lesson on YouTube! (laughs) It’s not a bad thing at all you know!

WTS: The Middle East is seen generally as a very conservative society, has there been any sort of opposition to your music and your lyrical themes?

RM: No, not at all! A lot of people get confused by countries like Dubai and Qatar, these countries are really modern, very globalized so it’s not a problem. What we sing about is really about humanitarian issues and personal issues, nothing extreme lyrically. So we’ve never had these problems. As kids, growing up in the society we learned that we have to respect traditions and morals no matter what. For me, it was purely about the music and then the lyrics. We were fine you know. Other countries have issues with metal at gigs and concerts. We’d have had some problems playing there but we’ve never been to these countries. We try to avoid trouble and we were very careful so there has been no problem.

WTS: So did growing up in the Middle East influence your music in any way?

RM: Yeah of course! The thing is James, he writes the lyrics, its a self-expressive kind of music and doesn’t necessarily have to be negative. A lot of it is about reality, it could be about what’s happening around us and it could be about things between close friends or could be about what’s happening in the world in general. We don’t really have topics that pinpoint and they are mostly general. What’s happening in the world does affect us but we don’t really take it to the level where it’s concentrated to the lyrics. We always concentrate on the music first.

WTS: Your second album Psychogenocide was released in 2011 and you guys received rave reviews for it. Could you tell us more about it?

RM: This is our second full-length album and it’s on Lifeforce Records and we had little time to work on it compared to our last album because we were touring. We had a lot of tours in Europe and a lot of festivals between the writing process for the album. Compared to our last release it’s more of a dark album and a heavier album… more death-metal oriented than our last album Preaching Venom, which was was thrashier and more melodic. Psychogenocide was a bit of both – heavy and dark. Some songs were very melodic and other songs were plain brutal. We really didn’t plan it. When we write – me and Barney on guitars, we both write the music fully. We concentrate on the guitar riffs and then put it into songs. The composition is very guitar-driven. When the songs form, we decide – this song is going to be death, more brutal…let’s continue, lets keep it up the same way we want to do it. The album has a bit of everything and is musically heavier than our earlier releases. And of course we toured everywhere – Middle East, Far East. We went on a South Asian tour, out first Asian tour. Went to the Philippines, Sri Lanka, came back to India when we were promoting it. We also did a European tour with Morbid Angel, which was a very big tour for us. Morbid Angel is a very influential band and a big name in death metal so we were busy for this album. We’re still busy!

WTS: Are you guys recording or writing the third album?

RM: The official writing process is going to be sometime soon but you know I write riffs, Barney writes riffs and we sit together and we compose. The writing process sure is going to happen soon, definitely this year. The new album should be out this year.

WTS: Is it a challenge to translate the energy of your live act into your studio album or vice versa? Psychogenocide is heavy, brutal and technical in parts. Is it challenging to play it live?

RM: Of course! When we write, we keep the live aspect in our minds. We always want to know if this is going to be a lively song or this will be a song that we can’t play live. Whenever we go as far as we do and even if we have complex parts we practice it a lot in the jam room and make sure we pull it off and a lot of our riffs are pretty groove-oriented so naturally it works out fine. Luckily! (laughs) It is a challenge but in time we got used to it and we became better, we matured and started learning more and more. We did a lot of touring with a lot of live appearances. We started feeling off, like this pack of riffs or this pack of songs is going to be more studio songs so we don’t really play it live. We do the songs that we feel would drag the crowds. It’s a bit of both. We never really sit and plan like this will be cool riff-wise. It doesn’t work like that. But luckily, we’re very fortunate that it works out, it starts to come out naturally. We’re very happy about this.

WTS: So what have you been listening to lately? Are there any current bands that you are fans of?

RM: Yeah, for me it depends on my mood. I listen to metal all the time. I’ve been listening to experimental bands and I’m a progressive metal fan. Also old bands like Camel and Rush. I listen to these bands all the time. Sometimes I’m in the mood to listen to some brutal, extreme stuff. Of the newer bands I really like The Faceless, they’re a really cool band. I’ve been listening to this new band called The Haarp Machine and these guys are killer! Really cool technical, progressive stuff. Really depends on my mood, I don’t really have a playlist all the time. It changes…I was just listening to Slayer couple of hours ago – totally random!

WTS: It was great chatting with you Rami. Thank you for your time!

RM: No problem! My pleasure. Thanks for your time. I’ve actually seen quite a few articles on ‘What’s the Scene?’ We’re really looking forward to playing in India soon. It’s been a while since we’ve come back to India and we love the fans there. The crowds interact with us really well, we feel like we’re neighbours and feel connected in a way. All our past experiences in India were great so really looking forward to it!

Sohan Maheshwar

Jack of all tirades, total shirk-off. Follow Sohan on twitter! @soganmageshwar

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XXX’Mas at The Kyra Theatre, Bangalore

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The XXX’Mas gig held on Christmas Eve, more importantly on Lemmy’s birthday, was supposed to be a tribute to those artists born in December who had inspired the bands playing that night. The artists being paid tribute were Dave Murray, Lemmy Kilmister, Ozzy Osbourne, Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich, Marty Friedman, Randy Rhoads, Daniel Antonsson, Jari Maenpaa, Mille Petrozza, Chris Barnes, Chuck Schuldiner, Keith Richards, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison.

There were a few hiccups before the gig began – Corrode (covering Dark Tranquility/Wintersun), Pushing Tin (covering Jimi Hendrix/The Doors) and Theorized (covering Metallica/Megadeth) pulled out at the very last minute. Shepherd, Djinn & Miskatonic and Dhwesha pitched in and agreed to play even though it was at such short notice.

XXX'Mas at The Kyra Theatre, Bangalore

Shepherd was a few minutes into their set when we walked into Kyra. Since we were not familiar with the band due to last minute changes in the line-up, the first couple of minutes were spent trying to figure out what they were called. Though they have a characteristic doom-laden sound, the down-tuned, but heavily distorted lead guitars and the processed, yet abrasive vocals were very much reminiscent of YOB, or even Acid Bath. The throbbing bass was prominent in the mix, and even though most of the tracks lasted a bit over six minutes, the sudden tempo changes surely made for an interesting set. We later found out that this was their very first gig, something that was perhaps evident from the zero interaction the frontman had with the crowd. Shepherd is certainly a band to look forward to in the future, especially for the sludge-like vibe from their sound.

Djinn & Miskatonic was the second band of the three last-minute additions that evening. They have a very interesting and unconventional line-up that consists of a drummer, a bassist and a vocalist (yessir, no lead/rhythm guitars!) D&M’s sound is primarily bass-driven (duh), with the rhythm section playing a tight, but plodding version of traditional doom rock grooves. The vocals range from laboured, almost drone-like sections sung clean, to low-pitched growls. The feel, if we could use the term, is one of horror films of days gone by, to be honest. Their brand of ultra-slow, trudging doom is not everyone’s cup of gin & tonic, and will certainly confuse a metalhead who sticks to the conventional riff-based gloom perpetrated by the likes of Sabbath, Pentagram and Candlemass.

XXX'Mas at The Kyra Theatre, Bangalore

Dhwesha was the third band in queue and put on a great show even though it was only their second live performance and they had little time to practise. They kicked off their set with typical, old school death metal ferocity and ‘Hoy! Sala’ was the first of the original compositions that they played. After enthralling the crowd with ‘Dhwesha’, ‘Ugra Narasimha’ and ‘Yudhabhumi’, they even managed to squeeze in a rousing cover – Bolt Thrower’s ‘Those Once Loyal’. Together with Djinn & Miskatonic and Shepherd they provided an excellent opening for the rest of the bands lined up.

Up next were Gorified, one of the bands from the original line-up. They were paying tribute to Cannibal Corpse and Death, more specifically Chris Barnes of the former and the Chuck Schuldiner of the latter (Schuldiner wasn’t born in December but passed away that month). As is their standard, they got the moshing started in no time giving the crowd a nice, strong dose of their brand of extreme metal. Their brutal onslaught included intense covers – Cannibal Corpse’s ‘A Skull Full of Maggots’ and ‘Stripped, Raped and Strangled’; Death’s ‘Denial of Life’ and Napalm Death’s ‘Scum.’ They ended their savagery with a song from Gani and Charlie’s older project Cremated Souls.

XXX'Mas at The Kyra Theatre, Bangalore

Mumbai’s Albatross were the next band on stage and their set that night was a tribute to Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Rhoads. They took a while to get started and set up but once their set began they were a sheer thrill to watch. The vocalist – Biprorshee Das has a solid set of pipes and terrific stage presence; he was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the night. They started off with classics ‘Bark at the Moon’ and ‘Crazy Train’ and had quite a few people singing along. Switching gears, they played Sabbath much to the crowd’s delight. Following their commendable covers of ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ and ‘N.I.B.’, they had a surprise for the crowd – Ganesh Krishnaswamy from Bevar Sea joined them for a brilliant rendition of ‘Paranoid’. Reverting back to Ozzy one last time, they played ‘Gets me Thru’ and ‘Mr. Crowley’. They had one last cover for the night – Wolf’s ‘Voodoo’ – and did quite a good job of it, especially Biprorshee, who nailed those falsettos with ease. The set ended with ‘In the Court of Kuru’, a song from their debut E.P.

XXX'Mas at The Kyra Theatre, Bangalore

Headliners Kryptos were doing an Iron Maiden tribute set (celebrating Dave Murray’s birthday). Much like a Maiden gig, they had U.F.O’s ‘Doctor, Doctor’ playing on the P.A. before taking stage, something that rather unfortunately went more or less unnoticed by a large chunk of the crowd. They started with ‘Ides of March’ and proceeded to play ‘Wrathchild’ and ‘Killers’ with Ganesh taking over vocal duties the second time that night. Nolan Lewis attempted the formidable task of singing songs from Dickinson-era Maiden and did quite a good job with ‘Children of the Damned’ and ‘Flight of Icarus’. Biprorshee joined Kryptos for a phenomenal cover of ‘The Trooper’, and everyone in the crowd was chanting along fervently with the band. Ganesh was back on stage once more to round up the set with ‘Running Free’ and ‘Iron Maiden’. Kryptos were hands down the best set/performance of the night. They were also the only band to play only covers that night (Pillbox 666 doesn’t count given that they’re a cover band).

XXX'Mas at The Kyra Theatre, Bangalore

The last act of the night, Pillbox 666, took to the stage to a reduced and slightly sluggish crowd. Their set was a tribute to the mighty Lemmy from Motorhead and Teutonic thrash legends Kreator (Mille Petrozza), though the original billing had them doing a Rolling Stone tribute too. Vikram Bhat, the vocalist, couldn’t make it and the vocal duties were taken over by Ganesh and Bharad Ravi (ex-Culminant). The first half of their set comprised of Motorhead covers, Ganesh pulling of an uncannily good impression of Lemmy, playing ‘The Chase is Better than the Catch’, ‘Killed by Death’, ‘Iron Fist’ and ‘Going to Brazil’ before handing over the reins to Bharad who closed the Motorhead set with ‘Overkill’. The next half – the Kreator tribute set – was equally fun to watch (more so since the songs were from Kreator’s first two albums) with them performing badass covers of ‘Under the Guillotine’, ‘Son of Evil’, ‘Total Death’ and ‘Tormentor’.

Despite the last minute changes in the line-up and the fact that almost half of the bands ended up performing original material instead of covers, the good turnout and the nostalgia associated with some of the artists that were being paid tribute to, made sure the audience had a good time. Given how city-centric the metal acts in our scene are, it was a refreshing change to see a band like Albatross to come over all the way from Mumbai to play here. Certainly something everyone would like to see more of in the days to come. No milk and cookies here for Mr. Claus though, beer and cigarettes are more rock n’ roll! Bet Lemmy would agree.

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Riff ’em All at The Kyra Theatre, Bangalore

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Riff ’em All was scheduled one day prior to Metallica’s much-looked-forward-to concert in Bangalore and was meant for all the out-of-towners who had descended upon good ol’ Bangalore to see what would hopefully be Metallica’s maiden show in India, and also for some Bangaloreans who were planning to skip the Metallica concert. Riff ’em All held a lot of promise and was all set to showcase some of Bangalore’s best metal bands.

After battling the rains that evening, I walked in right when Culminant had just taken stage (I had unfortunately missed Corrode’s performance). I’ve seen quite a few of their performances this year, and this is one band that has grown stronger with every performance. Starting off with ‘Wrath of the Fallen’ they held everyone’s attention and electrified the stage with their very first song. They played two more OCs – ‘Innate Instinct’ and ‘Realm of the Tyrant’ much to the crowd’s delight. What was supposed to follow was their cover of Slayer’s ‘Raining Blood’ which didn’t happen because the bass drum’s skin gave way and since there seemed to be no alternative means of going ahead, their set came to an untimely end. The band said their goodbyes, apologized for the short set and left despite people cheering for more.

Riff 'em All at The Kyra Theatre, Bangalore

The next band on stage was Gorified, Bangalore’s mainstay goregrinders. They played a longer set this time around, which included two covers. Gorified gave the crowd a good, strong dose of brutality and put on a pretty intense show despite the usual sound problems that plague Kyra, playing seven OCs. The first and the last songs from their setlist, ‘Autopsy Devourment’ and ‘Vulgar Display of Genital Flatulence’ elicited the best response from the crowd. They finally ended their set with two covers – Cannibal Corpse’s ‘Stripped, Raped and Strangled’ and the other surprisingly, Metallica’s ‘Damage Inc.’ this time with former Abandoned Agony drummer Shreyas Kamath on drums. They were the first and probably the only band that night which managed to get the crowd into a violent mosh!

Riff 'em All at The Kyra Theatre, Bangalore

The mighty Dying Embrace, one of the oldest bands in Indian Metal, the grand-daddies of the scene so to speak, finally came on stage. This performance was highly awaited and they did not disappoint. The horns thrown high up in the air and frenzied chants of ‘Dying Embrace’ stood testament to this fact. They played quite a great selection of songs, their set had ‘Blood Rites’, the Sabbath inspired ‘As Eternity Fades’, ‘The Passing Away’,  ‘Spawn of the Depths’, ‘Dagda – His Time has Come’, ‘Grotesque Entity’, ‘Oremus Diabolum’ and they ended with their tribute to one of the bands that have inspired them, a cover of Autopsy’s ‘Twisted Mass of Burnt Decay’. Great music apart, the showmanship was brilliant, each song had its own artwork displayed, Deepak’s drumming was impeccable, Jimmy’s solos were met with wild cheering and applause and had the audience hungry for more while Vikram Bhat absolutely owned the stage with his spirited performance. The set finally ended with them stating that their next appearance would be alongside Japanese Black/Thrash band Abigail in 2012’s edition of the Trendslaughter fest. Dying Embrace was most certainly the highlight of that night.

Riff 'em All at The Kyra Theatre, Bangalore

Bevar Sea, the penultimate act of the night was up next. The band has only played a handful of shows and yet is popular for its stellar performances and this night was no different. They kicked of their set with ‘The Smiler’ and the riffs and thundering rhythm sections hit the crowd with the force of a sledgehammer. The heavy onslaught continued with them playing ‘Universal Sleeper’ and finally a cover as was the trend that night, Black Sabbath’s ‘Lord of this World’. ‘Abishtu’ was up next and had a majority of the ecstatic crowd screaming along. What followed was a pleasant surprise – Bevar Sea, fresh from their Sabbath tribute in Chennai, decided to play yet another cover – this time it was Sabbath’s ‘The Wizard’. They played one of their original compositions ‘Mono Gnome’ and just when people thought their set had finally ended, they pulled yet another Sabbath number from the hat, ‘Sweet Leaf’. Though the set had a couple of fumbles along the way, it was one of the best that night.

Riff 'em All at The Kyra Theatre, Bangalore

The headliners Kryptos took stage after a slightly lengthy sound check. Decked out in trademark denim and leather, they brought forth their brand of blazing, old school metal. Their setlist for Riff ’em All was slightly different from what they had played throughout this year and it included two songs from their upcoming album The Coils of Apollyon. They started off with ‘Satyr-like Face’ and then played songs from the first two albums including ‘Order of the D.N.A.’ and ‘The Revenant’. ‘The Mask of Anubis’ and for the very first time ‘Spellcraft’ from Coils followed. ‘Tower of Illusions’ and ‘Forgotten Land of Ice’ were up next and the band had a surprise in store for the crowd, not another cover, but ex-member of Kryptos and current vocalist of Bevar Sea, Ganesh joined them on stage for the final song of the night ‘Descension’.

The organizers had arranged a massive merchandise stall which had everything from CDs, t-shirts and posters from a variety of bands, which included bands that were playing that night among others. It also served as a great place for interaction with fans and bands from other cities. All in all, the gig was great, had a responsive crowd with a massive turnout of around 350 people and some brilliant performances – a perfect prelude for the Metallica concert.

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Thermal And A Quarter at The BFlat Bar, Bangalore

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Before reaching The BFlat Bar on 29th of October 2011, where Thermal And A Quarter were set to play that evening, I was on a different kind of high having witnessed an exhilarating football match. I caught up with TAAQ’s vocalist/guitarist/frontman Bruce Lee Mani who acknowledged BFlat as one of TAAQ’s favourite venues. There was a slight uncertainty about drummer Rajeev Rajagopal’s whereabouts near the start of the gig and naturally, manager Divya Joseph appeared a tad concerned. However, after numerous sightings of Rajeev which could now be confirmed as positive, TAAQ took to the stage with Bruce surrounded with an arsenal of three lovely guitars, the “little guy” Prakash who did a quick tune-check of his bass and Rajeev behind the drums. There were no supporting artists to assist the trio this time, so it was an evening of pure, unadulterated TAAQ.

The band started off with a new number, ‘De-Arranged’ while a crowd gathered right in front of my table and I had to stand for greater parts of the show to actually see the band. The song had a groovy interlude and pithy lyrics which has become an integral part of TAAQ’s songwriting process. Before their second number, Bruce brought into context all those people in Delhi who were robbed of the Metallica show, a day before. That second number, ‘Sorry for Me’ had a fantastic guitar solo and the band expertly demonstrated their signature tightness. The sound was perfect and had few differences from the sound in their recent studio releases.

Thermal And A Quarter at The BFlat Bar, Bangalore

After the warm up, Thermal belted out another new number ‘Meter Mele One and a Half’, one of the standout songs of the evening. I would give it a 11 on 10 for songwriting simply because the band brought to the fore through their music, most of the emotions related to the titular quote that Bangalore rickshaw drivers use. A chorus in 6/4, a solo with a sporadic burst of notes and an absolutely amazing drum solo were the hallmark of the song. And some cowbell! This song is dangerously catchy however, and you should be well-warned to resist singing this while actually travelling in a rickshaw.

By this time, I noticed that TAAQ’s songs have brilliant chord transitions and an expert usage of multiple scales. The amazing fact is that there is very little similarity that you could find between TAAQ’s music and that of any mainstream western band. The music is unique and very Bangalorean indeed. The band showed great volume and tempo control using them effectively to convey a message. Rajeev’s drumming was crisp and his use of the right sounds to complement the rest of the band is worth a mention. The band was a tight unit and also sounded full with just three members. This is a testament to Prakash K.N’s surreal bass fills and his superb ability at keeping the pulse of the song running.

Thermal And A Quarter at The BFlat Bar, Bangalore

And then there was Bruce Lee Mani who isn’t just one of India’s greatest guitarists, but also a superb vocalist. His voice is an essential component of TAAQ’s sound. He belted out a brief falsetto in their next song, a Beatles cover, ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’ which had elements of reggae in it. Another standout song of the evening which had received a roar of approval from the now-packed BFlat, was ‘Bangalore Flowers’ dedicated to the women of Bangalore. The crescendo towards the end of the song got everyone to their feet and cheering!

After a song in 6/8 blues, TAAQ went on to cover Bill Withers’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’. Bruce ornamented the song with a Mayer-style fingerpicking intro and Prakash contributed with some slap bass in the interlude. The band improvised around the “I Know, I Know” line and Bruce even indulged in some twinning, scatting as he played the notes on the guitar! Prakash followed that up with a stylish bass solo of his own. ‘Billboard Bride’ was up next for which Bruce played a surreal legato solo with his Gibson Les Paul.

Thermal And A Quarter at The BFlat Bar, Bangalore

The evening progressed with numbers like ‘Birthday’ and ‘For The Cat’, the latter being a tribute to Cat Stevens. One of the last numbers was ‘Holy Jose’, a funky number which was probably the longest song of the set. Bruce used his whammy bar to support a bass solo by Prakash and Rajeev rounded off the song in a drum solo that included a run at the double bass pedals! And some cowbell! TAAQ strangely went on to cover Nirvana’s ‘In Bloom’, but I’m glad that they did it like TAAQ while retaining some of the essential grunge elements of the song.

TAAQ ended the evening with ‘Bend the World’, ‘Galacktiqua’, ‘Paper Puli’ and ‘Hey Jude’. Towards the end, Bruce seemed to ease into the songs while also letting the crowd handle some of the lyrics. He duly acknowledged the crowd’s rapturous response at the end of these songs.The band left the stage to a thunderous applause that lasted quite a while. If not already, the band has further cemented their position as one of the premier and most unique rock bands of the country. I could safely conclude that this was the ONLY thing that could have eclipsed the high I was talking about at the start.

Ganesh Viswanathan

Ganesh Viswanathan is a musician, a designer and sometimes both at the same time. Caffeine is known to derive its energising properties from him. Nobody knows the exact moment when he dismantles an idle mobile phone or steals food from another plate.

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Metallica at Palace Grounds, Bangalore

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The Bicycle Days at The BFlat Bar, Bangalore

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Dreadlocks, a leather beret and a familiar Floyd note was all The Bicycle Days gave us as an intro to their unique brand of psychedelic rock music. The Bangalore-based band performed at BFlat, Indiranagar, on Friday, 28th Oct. It was their new bassist Abhishek’s debut on home ground. The 8 p.m. gig started out with an experimental reggae-trance sound, making the 5-member band seem like an acquired taste. By the end of the evening, TBD settled into racier Radiohead-influenced material, which pleased their head-banging, foot-tapping fans.

The band’s opening number, ‘27′, had the much-required, shiver-down-your-spine effect on their early-bird audience. Taken off their 2010 debut EP 42, the song was first reminiscent of Pink Floyd before it suddenly sprouted alien sounds and drummed itself into something halfway melodic!

The second song, ‘Zorbing in Space’, confirmed the band’s non-conformity with the basic rules of song-writing. It gave us a glimpse of lead singer Karthik’s Marley phase. Following the half-hearted applause from the audience, they decide to talk to us about their third song. “This is Something Human”, said guitarist Rahul Ranganath, “It’s about humans.” Who needs long intros when the songs speak for themselves?

Around the time the Delhi-Metallica fiasco started dampening spirits at our table, The Bicycle Days kicked in with ‘Tele Drug Zombies’. It reminded us of Incubus with a slight jazz undertone. A hand full of die-hard TBD fans were lingering at the bar, mouthing the lyrics of the very aptly named ‘Fevered Ego Circus’ and bouncing up and down to the more upbeat ‘Something Human’. Little did they know that Karthik Basker had listed this song as ‘Something Gay’ on his tissue paper setlist that we managed to acquire post the show!

I like a band that doesn’t take itself too seriously and chills out with the audience more for the love of music than for the love of themselves! The Bicycle Days weren’t trying to be cute or charming. They didn’t play to the audience, but they did encourage applause. “We want more energy, Bangalore! Get drunk!” instructed Karthik just before their 5-minute timeout. “Awesome guys!” cheered the front row tables.

Our table, barely ten feet from the stage, was filled with half-empty beer bottles and Kung Pao potato. We were surrounded by the usual chilled-out Bangalore crowd, who just wanted to escape the Diwali bang-bang, which seems to be the only music we’ve been forced to hear over the past week! By the time we had soaked in the smells and sights of the tastefully decorated pub, the band had subtly returned with their sixth song ‘In This Moment’. It was the only song with a hint of Indian classical instruments, but it retained the band’s mysterious experimental tone. On their MySpace page, the band categorizes their genre as ‘Alternative / Experimental / Indie’ music. But I think the word ‘Alternative’ is the only one that truly captures their essence.

Seventh on that night’s setlist, ‘Radio Song’ was slow and enchanting. Maybe not as a much of a ear-pleaser, it had the energy to captivate listeners. Finally I could place Bicycle Days in the same zone as alternative rock band Radiohead’s OK Computer album. The band thanked the audience for the heartfelt applause that followed.

Mostly instrumental, ‘No Battery’ started off with dripping-water sounds and progressed into squeaky echoes of a child’s voice. Karthik had his arms folded across his chest and he randomly threw in some awkward hand gestures, which perfectly matched the song. The Bicycle Days had escaped into a world of its own. I sensed an element of disconnect, because of the lack of eye contact and verbal communication among band members. But more experienced TBD fans seemed to disagree. “Tonight the band is very ‘in-sync’ with each other. They’ve tremendously improved since the last time I saw them,” said Shruti Naik, who had attended TBD’s December 2010 gig at Xtreme Sports Bar, Bannerghatta.

As the night progressed, the 6-year-old video-gamer behind us fell asleep in his father’s arms. This didn’t stop his rocker-dad from head-banging and air-guitaring to ‘Circles’, the most popular song of the night. ‘Circles’ was the encore and came to be my favourite as well. The stick-in-your head guitar riffs caught my attention and sustained it through indecipherable lyrics. Considering I was a first-timer to a Bicycle Days gig and to B Flat, I couldn’t afford to be biased. But being a wordsmith, the absence of meaningful lyrics was my only pet peeve for the night.

The show met a ‘Sober Death’, which the band had strategically saved as the last song on their setlist. Throughout the gig, I was dying to ask the bassist, Abhishek, about the psychedelic stickers on his guitar but had to contend with staring at the equally psychedelic Dylan poster on the B Flat wall. Overall, I came away with an acquired sense of appreciation for the band’s music and a strong desire to see them live more often.

Parnika Reys Gamat

Parnika believes every song is a living person in an alternate universe she'd like to visit someday. You'll hardly ever see her without her headphones. Her other interests include travel, photography and poetry.

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Metallica at Palace Grounds,Bangalore

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It took them 30 years to reach the Indian subcontinent. Most of the people attending the show were not even as old as the wait. The most successful and the most popular heavy metal band of all time, Metallica was going to make its debut on Indian soil on the 28th of October 2011. When the D-day arrived, it wasn’t without its share of hiccups. The much-awaited Gurgaon show was cancelled at the last minute which resulted in a massive riot at the venue, the damage of expensive equipment and most importantly, the disappointment of thousands of fans who hoped to catch a glimpse of their favourite band.

Yet, fans from Bangalore were desperately hoping that there wouldn’t be a similar turn of events in their city. Here was this near-impossible opportunity to watch the band that has influenced so many hard-rock and metal acts in the past 20 years, live. The flood of tweets and status messages prior to the show only reinforced the already hard-to-contain anticipation.

30th of October, 2011 shall go down in history as the day Metallica tore Palace Grounds apart with their first ever show in India. After the Black Friday in Gurgaon, the threat of the concert being cancelled in Bangalore loomed large but thankfully, the stars aligned and the Gods obliged – the stage was set for one of the greatest heavy metal bands of all time.

Metallica at Palace Grounds,Bangalore

I did my bit by patiently standing in queue for about forty minutes before realizing there was a separate, significantly less-crowded entrance for media! Once in, the show kicked off earlier than expected. Bangalore’s very own Inner Sanctum kicked off proceedings with ‘Human Disregard’ off their debut EP Provenance. The sizeable crowd inside the venue was matched in number by scores of black-tee-clad-people who were patiently waiting outside in queue to enter the concert area. I stood close to the stage and could feel the thump of the bass drum on the side of my face. Sanctum was THAT loud. Their new song ‘Guardian’ followed the concert-staple ‘Agent of Chaos’ as Sanctum ended their abridged set with vocalist Gaurav throwing t-shirts into the crowd. The new-look Sanctum (Suraj on guitars is relatively new and Narayan was filling in for Michael on bass) had yet again raised the bar for Indian metal bands with their combination of technical skill and energy on stage.

There was a steady stream of people trickling in as Nikhil Chinappa dressed in a faux-rock outfit, appeared on stage to introduce the next opening act – Guillotine. He was warmly greeted with a sea of middle-fingers and “f**k you” chants! Since they also hail from Delhi, it prompted a tongue-in-cheek “Delhi Sucks” chorus from the audience, the Gurgaon no-show still fresh in memory. Sadly, Guillotine sounded very flat on the day. Their own-comps were a pointless mish-mash of many genres and to add to the band’s misery, guitarist Takar broke a string during a song. Inevitable FTN comparisons were made as the patient crowd could only muster a lukewarm applause when the band finally finished their set.

Metallica at Palace Grounds,Bangalore

Once Guillotine wrapped up, the concert crew set to work on readying the stage for the international bands to perform. Scottish alt-rock act Biffy Clyro‘s soundcheck took almost an hour to complete as the crowd stood expectantly in the pouring rain. It was getting increasingly difficult to stand or walk about at the venue owing to the annoying slush. I wasn’t sure what to expect when Biffy finally appeared on stage. The three-piece band hailing from Kilmanrock did have a unique sound but it wasn’t something that would whet one’s appetite for some Metallica. Most of their songs bordered on emo-ish indie rock although they did have some riff-y moments. Admittedly, I phased out for most of Biffy’s set, choosing instead to loudly crack Metallica PJ’s much to the annoyance of everyone around me. At this juncture everybody was on tenterhooks, eagerly awaiting Metallica’s appearance on stage. The slightest hint of  sound emanating from the stage during the subsequent sound check- a stray guitar clang, a low-end bass note or a snare hit were all cheered excitedly by the hungry crowd. Fans even took to singing along with the recorded music that blared through the PA system. The rain had subsided and much to everyone’s annoyance a roadie was giving the patient crowd lessons on safety. But at roughly ten minutes past eight, a thousand hearts unanimously skipped a beat.

The LED screens to the right of the massive stage played a clip from the iconic western – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly whilst Ennio Morricone’s ‘Ecstasy of Gold’ played out in the background. And then…the epic intro riff to ‘Creeping Death’. That was it. The crowd got their first glimpse of their heroes and went absolutely berserk. This was the moment everyone had waited for. Hell, up until the day of the show there was a certain apprehension as to whether the Bangalore gig would even happen. Even during the opening bands’ performances we were informed that the show would only happen if all the safety arrangements were in place. All the apprehension and uneasiness was lifted off our shoulders in an instant as we saw and heard Metallica. Live for the first time in India!

Metallica at Palace Grounds,Bangalore

They carried forward the energy of ‘Creeping Death’ into ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’. A good chunk of the elated crowd sang along to the chorus and chanted “Die! Die! Die!” with fists raised in the air. Astonishingly, Hetfield’s vocals sounded exactly like the studio versions of the songs. The last few bars of ‘For Whom…‘ gave way to ‘Fuel’ and I’m certain that a few heads exploded thanks to the sheer awesomeness of the moment. The pyrotechnics on stage lit up just as the “Gimme Fuel Gimme Fire” lyrics were heard. People around me were flashing texts on their phones with the probable setlist and were trying to second-guess the next song. Hetfield then asked the crowd if they liked the vintage stuff just as the ‘Ride the Lightning’ opening riff drowned out the crowd’s cheers. The live version managed to capture the sense of maddening paranoia of the studio version even though the tempo seemed a tad slowed down. Lars Ulrich and Rob Trujillo provided the solid rhythm section to Hetfield’s riffing and Hammett’s solos. Hammett teased the crowd with a solo that was the lead-in to ‘Fade to Black’. Hetfield, with only his silhouette seen against the backdrop of the giant LED stood on the upper tier of the stage while the rest of the band thrashed it out below. They then played ‘Cyanide’ from their latest album Death Magnetic (after Hetfield asked the crowd for permission to do so!) before playing the iconic ‘Memory Remains’. You would be hard-pressed to find an audience in the world who would sing the outro for a minute after the song was over but Bangalore did just that. Hetfield and Co. stood at the precipice of the stage and just soaked it all in, conducting everyone to keep it going. 40,000 fans sang in unison even after the music had stopped. The moment cannot possibly be described in words, the closest description I can come up with – perfect.

Metallica at Palace Grounds,Bangalore

Metallica’s newer work has been criticized in some circles but when played live it is a different beast altogether. The eight minute epic ‘All Nightmare Long’, one of their heaviest tracks to date, was played with ease. It didn’t escape my attention that most people weren’t too familiar with the newer tracks and chose to record the spectacle on their phone cameras instead. Helicopter and airplane dubs playing over the PA meant only one thing- the anti-war song (and my personal favourite) ‘One’. My trance-like state was mildly disturbed when everyone around me jumped up and down, devil’s horns held up in the air. ‘Master of Puppets’. That genius, Hetfield even did the evil laugh in the song much to everyone’s delight. People had travelled from far-flung corners of the country to witness this event and it lived up to all of their expectations and more. People clutched their foreheads in disbelief at what they were witnessing. Hetfield, clearly overwhelmed at the fantastic response thanked the audience before launching into ‘Blackened’ after which the lights dimmed for ‘Nothing Else Matters’. Words cannot do justice to how powerful their performance of this anthem was. It might sound repetitive when I mention 40,000 people singing in unison, but I can’t word it differently – it was precisely that! They closed their unbelievably good setlist with ‘Enter Sandman’. Scores of already-hoarse, nostalgic teens and young adults headbanged as fireworks went off above the stage. The stage was obscured by a sea of devil’s horns and whiplashing necks. This was as good as any climax can get.

Metallica at Palace Grounds,Bangalore

Metallica reappeared on stage for their encore and began with a cover of Diamond Head’s ‘Am i Evil’ (Did anyone spot the intro riff to ‘Frayed Ends of Sanity’ just before it?) The pummeling riffs of ‘Battery’ soon followed. For a band that has been around for 30 years there was absolutely no dip in the energy level. Every song was a tour de force that had a vibe that united everyone present there – they were a part of something special. They ended their set with ‘Seek and Destroy’ from their debut album Kill ’em All. The band members individually thanked the people present and Ulrich promised to come back to India for a gig in the future. Plectrums were generously flung into the crowd and so were drumsticks. Heck, even a policeman managed to get one!

While walking out of the packed venue, I heard a few people complain about Hammett flubbing a couple of solos and about the band not being as tight as they should have. Complaints about the organization and the security at the venue also echoed. But the concert had a greater significance in the grand scheme of things for such glitches to matter. For years now, there have been several untrue rumours about the possibility of Metallica touring India and when it finally happened it left an indelible mark on the metal fans of the country who had waited twenty long years (or more) for this opportunity. All the hype surrounding the event was justified as Metallica brought along a killer setlist and oodles of energy and badass-ness to Bangalore. If a future tour does indeed happen, splendid! If it doesn’t, the memory remains.

Sohan Maheshwar

Jack of all tirades, total shirk-off. Follow Sohan on twitter! @soganmageshwar

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Metallica’s Press Conference at Gurgaon

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Impending Doom II : A doomed original bill but still a good show

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Around two months after its first edition as Impending Doom, the much awaited sequel event, aptly titled Impending Doom II, was recently held in Bangalore. Back to probably the best venue for metal in the city, Kyra Theatre, the original bill had included a stellar lineup of bands from Bangalore and from outside the city, with an eclectic mix of genres for both the mainstream and underground metal audience, but all the out-of-city ones were cancelled due to one reason or the other. Undying Inc and 1833 AD from Delhi had to pull out due to lack of funds since one of the sponsors for the gig backed out. Silver Tears from Guwahati were added in as replacement; but their shows in Bangalore got cancelled probably due to the notices that were served to pubs in Bangalore. Lastly, Exhumation from Mumbai backed out due to their guitarist Prashant Shah catching a bout of Malaria just one day before the gig. Bangalore bands Dark Desolation, Final Surrender and Theorized were pulled in, making it an all Bangalore affair.

Impending Doom II : A doomed original bill but still a good show

Dark Desolation kick-started the gig; seeing them for the first time after Signs of Chaos, it appeared to me that they had dropped the grindcore songs from their set and were now focusing on their brutal version of black metal instead. To probably adhere to that image, they have started wearing face paint and this time their lead guitarist was spotted with face paint too. It was ironic to see them having a myriad of riffs in their music while the song they chose to cover was a one-riff song – ‘Satanic Blood’ by Von. They were great technically and were able to create an atmosphere but their songs appear to lack the memorability they once had.

Impending Doom II : A doomed original bill but still a good show

Familiar groovy drum tracks heralded the arrival of the next band; deathgrinders Gorified were doing their soundcheck, this was their first show after Trendslaughter I. They delivered a great set; the sound was not very overwhelming but intense enough, the volume levels were good. Although there weren’t moshes compared to what Gorified usually get, the adrenaline pumping brutality unleashed by the band was in no way any less. I don’t know if it was due to their absence from gigs but Ganesh’s guitars during ‘Obliteration Quandary’ just seemed so much more fast and furious! It was Charlie’s birthday and his friends in attendance didn’t miss out on the opportunity to sing the birthday song for him.

Impending Doom II : A doomed original bill but still a good show

Pillbox666 surprised us with a speedy opening, by covering Slayer’s ‘Black Magic’, which was apt considering the speed with which the previous bands played. Their usual covers of Black Sabbath, Metallica, Motorhead and Autopsy were there. A new cover was added to the setlist and this time it was of a band whose imagery the Pillbox666’s imagery matches the most – Sodom’s ‘Ausgebombt’. They sounded as relentless as the German thrashers did on ‘Agent Orange’. The crowd was up against the stage in no time, the backing vocals aptly coming in from the front row. We were later told they had an ace of a cover up their sleeve which wasn’t played due to shortage of time. Next Operation Pillage, may be, aye Vikram? The kadets are waiting in their trenches.

Impending Doom II : A doomed original bill but still a good show

Salman U. Syed (one of the organizers) was up on the stage next, asking people to behave as there were cops in the house. With the recent scrutiny on the local live music scene by the cops from namma Bengaluru, this wasn’t entirely unexpected. One of the two major gigs in the city that particular day, both marked as a protest to the notices issued by the police, we were anticipating cop trouble later in the day. But this warning was only followed by Final Surrender who came dressed in police uniform to parody the cops. They played metalcore in a style similar to probably As I Lay Dying along with some mathcore as well as progressive influences. The guitar solos seemed to owe a great deal to 80s melodic rock. Musically, they were a cohesive unit, with both the guitarists displaying a bit of virtuosity, even though the expressions of their faces were in contrast to each other, which was rather funny.

Impending Doom II : A doomed original bill but still a good show

Just as Theorized started, one of Sandeep’s guitar’s strings gave way but the set was saved by Kryptos‘ Rohit sharing his guitar. The band got on with the music which was a melting pot of their influences of melodic death, thrash, math and probably metalcore. Their twisted brand of metal isn’t everyone’s cup of tea; add to it, their new single ‘Genetic Variants’ which even has a Jazz-esque feel to it; especially in the solo. Madhav was very enthusiastic to get the crowd going, by jumping into the pit. Personally, I felt they don’t create a lot of thrashing tension and seeing them live, the influences seem a bit mashed up rather than natural. Having said that, there was indeed a lot of virtuosity on display with the extremely complex riffs and progressive/technical thrash elements.

Impending Doom II : A doomed original bill but still a good show

Bevar Sea took the stage immediately after Theorized. They played four of their songs this time. With less than 10 live gigs under their belt, most of which have comprised of originals, you would NOT expect the audience to sing along, but guess what? Almost everyone in there seemed to know the words to ‘Abhishtu’! Their new bassist Avinash fits in perfectly in the band. Their doom-laden sound has a certain infectious groove to it, while sustaining the heaviness that seems right out of the books of Mr. Geezer Butler & Co. Ganesh Krishnaswamy at the helm of affairs has proven to be a very enigmatic frontman. The artwork projected on the screen worked great with Bevar Sea with a different one projected for each of the ten-minute whoppers. This time, I noticed Rahul’s leads were markedly different from the ones on the demos and I still found them entertaining. Perhaps the most apt moment during their set was when Ganesh cried out while introducing the band “We are Bevar Sea and so are you!”

Impending Doom II : A doomed original bill but still a good show

The headliners Kryptos took the stage at last, to slightly dwindled numbers in the audience. In the beginning, it took time for the band to get the right sound, but once they got that, with a good setlist for that night, they ended up putting on a great show. They started off with a couple of songs from their first album before they played their more of staple live songs ‘Sphere VII’, ‘Heretic Supreme’ and ‘Descension’. The crowd, a tad exhausted from supporting all the six acts over the past five hours, seemed a bit low on energy compared to the guys on stage, all the headbanging and the beer that had flowed through the day had certainly taken a toll on them. Kryptos’ blend of classic heavy metal with thrash influences is catchy enough for the new kids on the block, yet heavy enough for the old school-ers as well. They didn’t play any songs from their upcoming album for which they’ll hopefully do another show!

If you are someone who likes to have a variety of genres in your metal concerts then Impending Doom II would’ve been perfect for you, ranging from black/death metal to stoner tinged doom. The turnout could have been better, but this one was a gig worth attending.

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