Tag Archives: Opeth

The Big Story: Tin Can Men!


Pictures by Abhishek Gunaratnam

Back in the days of Orkut, Sriram was watching Ice Age and chatting with Tapass on a messenger from that age, Windows Live:

Sriram: Dude, the jamming’s great. I love how tight our band is! We’re gonna give a killer performance during our first gig.
Tapass: All that’s awesome man. There’s one thing though. We’re just gonna be speechless when someone asks us what we’re called. Our band doesn’t even have a name yet!
Sriram: How does Manny sound to you?
Tapass: No. Sid? Hehe.

Twenty minutes later:

Sriram: Scrat?
Tapass: That sounds nice! Let it be SKRAT though. You know, just to dodge copyright issues.

Eight years ago two buddies met after a long gap of two years. Skipping the hugs and pleasantries, Sriram got right down to business – to check if his friend, Tapass, was better at the drums than he was previously. And thank the Lord he was, because that’s when he began his guitar experiments. As all meetings go, they sat down and started chatting about nothing and everything. And as it always happens with guys who can play instruments, it struck like a bolt of lightning.

”Dude! We should so form a band!”

There were three others they knew who played instruments – one who played the keyboard and did vocals, another was a bass player and finally – a lead guitarist. Soon enough, they jammed. This group of young musicians transformed plain tunes into jaunty, spirited, feel-good music that got even the staunchest grey-haired man to revisit his juvenile past. Six days after the band was formed they bagged themselves a gig at Unwind Center, Chennai, where they had to open for Nerverek!

July 21st, 2006: This day was a big deal. The band arrived at the venue where the poster read: SKRAT OPENING FOR NERVEREK. The bassist – Satish, was staring blankly at what he had just read, “Dude, I thought we were the only opening band. Who on earth is Skrat?” And then it dawned on Sriram. “No! Tapass you were serious when you said you liked the name? Let’s go tell them that the name may be subject to change.”

The venue was packed, the incandescent lights, smoke, the energy –it was more than they had expected. They mused:  So this is what it meant to be in a band and play live. They got out of their reverie when their name was announced. “Macha, it sounds kickass. This is it. We’re SKRAT!” – Tapass was finally satisfied.

The Big Story: Tin Can Men!

The series of events that followed would take anyone by surprise. Nerverek updated their status to: “That Skrat band played some pretty cool music!” Skrat’s fan following on Orkut increased to 400 members, and frontman Sriram fondly recollects this incident as their “Kolaveri moment.”

Over the period of one year, this alt-rock band worked their charm in a number of South Indian cities. Their euphoric music gathered a frenzied fan following and by 2007, their inboxes were filled with requests to perform. Skrat made sure they were remembered in cities like Vellore, Bangalore, and not to forget, Chennai. Then, fate decided to drop a bomb. Their keyboardist/vocalist decided to leave, and after some contemplation, it was decided that Sriram would take over vocal duties. With that, Skrat emerged to be a 4-piece band.

2009: Progressive metallers, Opeth came to India for the first time to perform at IIT Madras and satiated Chennai’s metal hungry crowd. That was not all. Skrat’s winning streak was noticed by none other than Swedish band itself! Tapass ran out, yelling “I GOT OPETH’S PEDAL!”

Nevertheless, fate could not resist the temptation of fiddling with them. This happy series of events was followed by the departure of their lead guitarist Chirag, who wanted to pursue his second love, cricket and conquer the business world.

2010: Amidst college life, studies and exams, a compilation of 8 tracks, under the album Design was released in 2010. High on all this success, Tapass decided to take a step forward and go to UK for higher studies. While he took Appa’s and Amma’s blessings to study for a year, the Skrat guys were going crazy without their drummer. And then with the lemons that life gave them, they ordered some tequila shots. Before they knew it, they were on the next flight to UK for a gig!

While still recovering from a mind-blowing crowd response, they returned to India but with the absence of their drummer. That particular period of time hardly presented them with gigs, only because they had a filler drummer to keep the momentum going.

2012: Tapass returned to India and everything went on perfectly again, until a there was a sudden turn of events. Abhinav, the lead guitarist of the band found rock music dreary and moth-eaten, while pop was as attractive as Scarlett Johansson. This was followed by his resignation, for he wanted to try his luck with India’s growing pop scene. Sriram looked at the rest of his group and said, “Tapass and Satish, we’ve been the only members who have been consistent throughout. I’m done with any more additions. It is just going to be the three of us now.”

The Big Story: Tin Can Men!

Things did not look good though. Frustration gnawed at their insides as they were reaching nowhere. Their music was playing the devil with them, hanging around vapidly. Satish was the first person to lose it. “I AM TRYING AND TRYING BUT NOTHING IS COMING! (sic)” That was a moment that marked a change in the style of music they played. Rage directed Sriram to unplug his pedals and plug in directly to the amp while Tapass threw away his double bass and toms. They were back to the basics and what followed was completely insane as the trio came up with five brilliant songs in less than thirty minutes! Sriram was ecstatic. “That was perfect. After going through so much, I didn’t think giving up was the solution at all. This was amazing guys, let’s go celebrate now!”

2012: Rock n Roll fans were going gaga over new albums that were released by upcoming bands. Skrat did not want to lag behind in the rat race they were a part of and set to discuss plans to boost their name across frontiers.

“Should we release a new EP? Or maybe work on a new album?”
“Well, an EP would go unnoticed and what good would an album be? It’s going to get dismissed as just another album by the people. No, we need something bigger.”

How does a live video, consisting of five new songs, shot in a garage sound to you? No gaudy lighting, no ‘Indian masala’ – just a video with the band playing songs that gave people a glimpse of their sophomore album. Well, Skrat were dubious about it too. How would the audience take a 17-minute long video devoid of the tantalizing visuals or the typical incessant drama? However, the gripping music made everyone’s neck hair stiff as they connected viscerally with the music and the video. As always, with the help of the craftsman Mr. Toby Joseph (who has also worked with The F16s, Grey Shack, Franks Got The Funk etc), behind the sound, Skrat In The Shed was born. They decided to pool in all the money they had and flip the coin. The response was astonishing, with the numbers ratcheting upwards in terms of viewership. The transition in their style of music from funk to alternative rock hit the nail on the head. Fans increasingly started referring to them as Skrat in the Shed instead of just Skrat. What they did was groundbreaking in the independent music industry. Fans were eagerly awaiting the release of their next album, Bring Out The Big Guns.

2013: As badass as it sounds, ‘Bring Out The Big Guns’ sported the line-up and the sound changes that the band went through. Followed by the outrage of the indecisiveness of their past members, and the success of ‘In The Shed’, ‘Tin Can Man’ and ‘Smoke A Cigar’ hit the records and got the people to boogie down and bunny hop. Under the lining of the perky and exultant music, the lyrics and the instrumentation elicited something deeper. They underscored not-so-trivial issues, uproar and an ‘I-don’t-care-about-the-rest-of-the-world’ attitude. The album was their vent and their release. It celebrated the 3-piece band that Skrat is now, and the permanence of it. Overwhelmed, the frontman declared, “It’s just going to be us, our designers and our photographer. We are the Skrat family.”

A few months later…
Satish: “Machi, how cool would it be to perform on top of a bus? And it’s not namma local Chennai 5A, for your information.”
Tapass and Sriram were completely bewildered. “What are you talking about?”
And so they heard about the Red Bull Tour Bus Gives You Wings tour.

300 bands applied to play on the Red Bull Tour bus, and Skrat was one of them. 15 worthy bands got selected to play at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender on the bus! Videos were shot, uploaded, and the voting season began.

2014: Sriram goes mad with excitement and jumps on his très cher bed when he reads the numbers. Skrat had won 1,388 votes out of the nearly 5,000 votes that were registered, making them the winners of the Gives You Wings tour!

The band took the phrase “going places” to a whole new level, as they travelled almost 17,000 kilometers across the country. The most exciting part was when they entertained thousands of rabid fans and were having fun themselves while playing on the bus. It was an out-of-the-ordinary, unbelievable experience. Scoring an extensive and diverse fan base, Skrat’s gig record went through the roof. The Red Bull Tour Bus gig has carved a niche for itself in their memories. Climbing atop a bus and performing is no cakewalk.

The Big Story: Tin Can Men!

Later in September, the band released their third album, the much awaited The Queen! Their captivating album art was splashed all across social media and the teaser made people stand on their toes eagerly looking forward to the release. Shortly after the album release, the band had a gala time touring across five cities, performing at various legs of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender along with their local buddies, the F16s. This is one tour the band would go on for years as they gathered a whole new Skrat family, geared up for months to travel on road from city to city, and performed to have one of the most unforgettable experiences of their lives!

These were people who used to sleep in the staff room of a college because of a lack of accommodation, performed without good sound and were victims to many other bad tricks played on them. They spent the night at a restaurant, waiting to play for their friends, and sometimes all they got was the stone cold floor of the lecturer’s quarters to spend the night. Everyone seemed to extract their sadistic pleasure from them, and the band doubles up with laughter thinking about those instances even today.

Sriram chuckles as he ends his story. “This is who we are! We are three different people who share varied musical interests, but have managed to find the common ground. Satish loves the Goo Goo Dolls, Head in the Heart, Noah and the Whale, while Tapass loves anything and Everything. The Foo Fighters have been my greatest inspiration. I’ve also developed my music taste from my dad, who religiously listens to the classic stuff every morning. Collectively, we love the Foo Fighters, The Raconteurs, The Vines, Supergrass and so on. We have performed at a lot of places, and in the beginning, I used to source our gigs. However, we now have our dear old friend Nithin, who has been managing us for the past two and a half years. And if there is one place where we would want to perform, it would be the UK…or perhaps Australia. The garage scene is really good there! But as they say, home is where the heart is!”

The band started off as bored engineering students coming together, and today, the 26 year olds are more energetic and enthusiastic than ever. Skrat is known for their mischievous antics on stage, with Tapass and Sriram fooling around and Satish strumming his bass as an added effect.

This band has now played over 170 gigs in the country, and the growth has been tremendous. They keep modifying their music according to the changing trends, and place great importance on getting the audience to groove. They play solely for the entertainment of their audience, and have not succumbed to the monetary perks the industry provides. This is exactly what keeps the music running in their veins for when a hobby is made a source of income, “the attractive Mahatma Gandhi notes begin to take over the sanity of the artists.” They have attracted crowds that number 5000 people and that speaks volumes about everything they have done. They do as they please without thinking twice about the repercussions and Skrat is completely alive in its music because of that.


Ambiance de Danse by Amyt Datta


Amyt Datta’s work is for no casual listener.  The prolific nature of his work is no surprise to anyone who is acquainted with the Indian offshoots of experimental music. He began fiddling with the combination of uncharacteristic and apparently incompatible sounds before the recent popularity of Porcupine Tree and Opeth made it cool.  In his latest outburst of musical genius, Datta pairs up with Pinknoise and Skinny Alley drummer, Jivraj Singh to create the album that is bound to raise standards for musicians all over the country.

Ambiance de Danse is, like most of Datta’s work, unpredictable. Unlike Pinknoise, which  creates an atmosphere reminiscent of lounge music groups like Pink Martini or Lemongrass peppered with Indian condiment and effectively bellies their technical expertise, or Skinny Alley  that tries to draw from a mellowed down jazz-based, Dizzie Gillespie slash Glorybox-ish ethic, Ambiance de Danse takes on a more aggressive avatar.  Wholly instrumental, the songs are endlessly expressive. They mostly utilize a dominant synth sound which is accentuated and manipulated by subtle string work and muted drums. Take ‘Ironic Bironic’, for instance, it is a harrowing amalgam of sounds that are representative of emotional responses. The choral sound is easily appropriate for a  90s Broadway musical, something along the lines of the Rocky Horror Show.

The thing about Ambiance de Danse is that most of the tracks seem less meant to catch the listener’s sense of “groove” and more to elicit some kind of deeper emotive reaction. The songs all feature the same kind of sound but their arrangement is explosively different. ‘Camellia’ features a more ‘romantic’ sweep of guitar work punctuated by non-melodic sounds that rapid deflection of musical mood from wistful to cautious and back. Psychedelic influences are scattered throughout the album. ‘Electric Insenity’ and ‘Tymas Twins’ may feature a speedier progression than common, but the revolving sounds and the constant use of an extended background tone produces the unconventional primal sound psychedelia demands.

‘Dance Acoustica’ begins with a Carnatic sound and has the most noticeable and straightforward rhythm in the album. But, it is hardly simplistic. In every song, Datta and Singh establish their sound in a certain key and then take turns diverging from it and swerving off it, making the sound not just uncommon, but downright delightful. ‘Ambiance de Danse’, the eponymous track, literally forces you to expect the unexpected in about a thousand ways.

The clarity of the instruments creates a strange effect. Each sound in a song is heard distinctly, and yet all these sounds complement each other perfectly to form a flawless unit.  If one listens closely, the songs have been embellished with a multiplicity of little sounds which enable the creation of a specific …ambience, allowing the songs simultaneous specificity as well as spontaneity.

Both Datta and Singh have retained their signature styles, while departing completely from their previous compositions. Jivraj brings his dirty industrial inclination into the music while Amyt wanders into the alleys of boundless dissonance and exploration.  They come together in a flurry of improvisational-sounding pieces that , even without words, makes perfect sense to those who can listen and associate.

I wouldn’t call the album flawless, no album, not even Thriller or In Utero, ever has been. The sounds may seem repetitive, and it does take a while to settle into the music that makes use of no catchy chorus or an immediately likeable beat.  But for the serious listener, Ambiance de Danse spins its flaws into merits. In fact, to get a feel of their intent, I would recommend  the video for Ironic Bironic, crafted by Yoshi Sodeoka. This album guarantees a trip for your insight and intellectual aesthetics, but only when you decide to reach beyond any idea of literal interpretation.

Shreya Bose

Shreya Bose is an English grad who is rethinking her dedication to academia and trying to figure out the secret to personal sanity. Currently, writing seems like the only activity that offers both inspiration and catharsis. When free, she overdoses on Yukio Mishima and Kahlua.


Metal Wave at Xtreme Sports Bar, Hyderabad


For all the headbangers in Hyderabad, Metal Wave at Xtreme Sports Bar brought an evening of metal music which made for a perfect Saturday on the 19th of May 2012. Xtreme Sports Bar along with MetamorphiK and Tooth & Nail Productions had the stage set for metal bands from Hyderabad and this time around, there were new bands formed by the coming together of seasoned musicians sharing the platform with one of Hyderabad’s most popular bands and the headliners for the event – Skrypt.

Metal Wave at Xtreme Sports Bar, Hyderabad

Four Clover, a group of experienced musicians, who have played for accomplished bands like Sacred Groove and REALMS, came together with the objective to show that music is something that each and every individual can relate to. With progressive influences from bands like Pagan’s Mind, Pain Of Salvation and Hard Rock influences from bands like Blackstone Cherry and Alter Bridge, Four Clover kicked started the show with the groovy ‘Cochise’ by Audioslave. With Vocals by Ashok, Eddie on the guitars, Praveen on the bass and Rohit on the drums their music has progressive and hard rock elements along with some groovy tones. ‘Linoleum’ by Pain Of Salvation followed next and Ashok got the crowd into the groove. Four Clover gave its own touch to Alter Bridge’s ‘Before Tomorrow Comes’ with a bass intro. The entire band pulled the crowd in with Foo Fighters’ ‘My Hero’. The final was their first composition – ‘Dawn of Day’. The clean vocals, classic guitar tones, crazy bass and drums, and the fact that it was Four Clover’s first major gig made it just the right start for the evening.

Metal Wave at Xtreme Sports Bar, Hyderabad

Perpetual Void formed in February 2012 is a 5-piece thrash death metal band, the line-up of which includes Swaroop (Ex-Cerebral Assassins) on the drums, Roshan (Ex-Cerebral Assassins) and Chaitanya on the guitars, Kenneth on the bass and vocals by Pranav. They opened with ‘F**king Hostile’ originally by Pantera, which is one of the favourite bands of most heads. The rest of the set list included their original ‘Ministry of Death’, Opeth’s ‘Leper Affinity’, Lamb of God’s ‘Walk with Me in Hell’ and concluded with another original ‘Apostasy’. Their compositions were good with heavy riffs and lot of double bass drumming, and growls that reminded me of Underoath.

Metal Wave at Xtreme Sports Bar, Hyderabad

For all the fans of Shock Therapy, Insidious might turn out to be their next favourite since the band was formed by Jay (Shock Therapy), Aniketh (Shock Therapy) and Sumeet (MetamorphiK Productions). With vocals by Rahul(Shock Therapy), Jay and Santhosh (Cadent Slaves)on guitars, Sumeet on bass, and Aniketh on the drums these guys are influenced by bands like Slayer, Testament, Death, Motorhead, Judas Priest, Morbid Angel and Kataklysm. This was Insidious’ debut gig and they played a rather short set with Motorhead’s ‘The Game’, Slayer’s ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ and Kataklysm’s ‘Blood in Heaven’. With unusually deep growls, and influences ranging from heavy metal to death metal, their musical style is a mix of various subgenres.

Metal Wave at Xtreme Sports Bar, Hyderabad

This gig was the first of its kind for Skrypt especially because this time the lineup featured a few guests. Due to an unfortunate accident in which he fractured his forearms, the current lead guitarist, Joel, was unable to play. However, the show did go on with ex-guitarist of the band Ramya back on the lead. The rest of the lineup had Scenic on vocals, Ravi on the guitars, Abbas on the bass, and Rajiv on the drums, coupled with Alan (Pandora’s Box) as a guest guitarist and Ananth (Ex-Negator) as a guest vocalist.

Artifice’ from their EP Discord was their opening piece that was followed by other originals like ‘Constructing the Absolute’, ‘Anathema’ and ‘Supremacy’ also from their EP Discord. Their compositions are mostly thrash metal with elements of progressive and death metal. Their covers included Gojira’s ‘Clone’, Pantera’s ‘Mouth for War’, Slayer’s ‘Raining Blood’ and, on popular demand, Pantera’s ‘Cowboys from Hell’. While playing ‘Clone’, the band pulled up a guy onto the stage to headbang with them, who later dived back into the crowd. For ‘Mouth of War’, Alan played the guitars and for ‘Raining Blood’ and ‘Cowboys from Hell’, the vocals were handled by both Scenic and Ananth. As always, this was yet another entertaining performance by Skrypt.

Metal Wave at Xtreme Sports Bar, Hyderabad

There were quite a few glitches with the sound especially when Insidious played and a few slips here and there with the other bands. However, that did not stop people from enjoying the concert. The crowd went wild head banging, moshing, and diving from the stage into the crowd. All the four bands kept the enthusiasm of the crowd on a high throughout the concert.

Four Clover’s groovy musical style attracted the crowd, moving on to heavier music by Perpetual Void and Insidious and on to Skrypt – the perfect transition for an evening of metal leaving everyone with high spirits and a stiff neck caused by some extreme head banging!

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Vini Lilian

Vini works with an ad agency. She's a metalhead who can't play metal so she writes about it. She loves tattoos!


Summer Storm Festival 2012 headlined by Opeth at Palace Grounds, Bangalore


The fact that the Metal scene is exploding in India is pretty well known. Over the past half a decade, an unprecedented number of international metal bands have played at various music festivals in the country. Back in 2010, a hitherto unknown entity called Overture India got Lamb of God down, much to the Indian metal crowd’s joy. After a year’s hiatus, they announced that Opeth would be headlining the second edition of Summer Storm on 5th February, 2012 (which isn’t exactly summer, but we wouldn’t hold that against the organizers). Foreign bands Suidakra from Germany and Nothnegal from Maldives, as well as local metal bands Theorized and Eccentric Pendulum from Bangalore, were added to the lineup before the festival.

Summer Storm Festival 2012 headlined by Opeth at Palace Grounds, Bangalore

Palace Grounds in Bangalore has turned into a Mecca of sorts for the Metal fans in India, since most of the big Metal festivals are held there. On the day of the concert, all roads leading to Palace Grounds were thronged by kids in black t-shirts from all over the country, as well as neighbouring countries. The venue had all the usual food and metal merchandise stalls, although booze was nowhere in sight! However, it was heartening to see that adequate supply of water was maintained throughout the concert, since at most gigs fans get desperate to find water near the end of the gig.

Summer Storm Festival 2012 headlined by Opeth at Palace Grounds, Bangalore

The gig started on time around 4 p.m., with thrash band Theorized opening the proceedings. They had released an impressive debut EP, False Hope of Tyranny, a couple of years back although their setlist for the gig consisted of only two songs from it – ‘Dark Incarnation’ and ‘Raise The Dead’, while the rest of the set consisted of new originals. Theorized has improved by leaps and bounds, in terms of tightness on stage, crowd engagement and interaction, in comparison to the only time I saw them live 2-3 years back in Mumbai. The band plays new age thrash with tons of groove, which a section of metal fans appreciate well.

Summer Storm Festival 2012 headlined by Opeth at Palace Grounds, Bangalore

Progressive metallers Eccentric Pendulum were next up on the stage. Now this band is really progressive, unlike the plethora of metalcore bands that use djent to masquerade as progressive metal. Searing thrashy riffs accentuated by cleverly crafted guitar solos and intelligent progression typifies their music. However, their sound during the gig lacked the “fullness” since a guitarist was missing from their lineup. They played mainly from their debut full-length Winding The Optics and managed to get the crowd into a frenzy when they played the impressive ‘Mathematicians of Ambient Waters.’  Both, Theorized and Eccentric Pendulum, had their merchandise for sale at the gig, which included t-shirts and CDs.

Summer Storm Festival 2012 headlined by Opeth at Palace Grounds, Bangalore

The Indian bands finished playing by 6 p.m. after which the first international, and pretty unknown band, Nothnegal came up on stage accompanied by appropriately dark ambient synths. It was very mysterious that despite hailing from the tiny atoll called Maldives, Nothnegal had somehow managed to rope in drummer Kevin Talley (ex-Dying Fetus and ex-Chimaira) and keyboardist Marco Sneck (ex-Kalmah) who were part of bigger and much better bands. But what perplexed me the most was how a band with members from good bands managed to be so mediocre. To be honest, the first part of their set was above average, although the guitar soloing ability of the frontman is questionable. This was the part of the set where they had harsh vocals, metalcore-ish chug-chugging riffs ably supported by the impeccable keys of Mr. Sneck and tight drums of Mr. Talley. It was during the last two or three songs that the band threw a huge curveball by introducing a different singer with clean vocals. That was when they dipped below the waves of mediocrity and I headed to grab some of the Kaati rolls.

Summer Storm Festival 2012 headlined by Opeth at Palace Grounds, Bangalore

The Celtic metallers from Germany, SuidAkrA, took to the stage next. They are Celtic not by the sole virtue of having a bagpiper in their midst, but they do incorporate Celtic tunes and themes in their songs, and their evidently Celtic costume. They started off with the incredibly catchy ‘Pendragon’s Fall’, which was probably the first time many people, who had missed Eluveitie, heard a Celtic metal tune. They went on to play songs culled from almost all their albums, like ‘Wartunes’, ‘Dowth2059′ and ‘The IXth Legion’. However, they had to cut short ‘Stone of the Seven Suns’ because the mandolin was out of tune. SuidAkrA’s set was characterized by the highly infectious, energetic and upbeat Celtic tunes, which got the crowd suitably primed for Opeth. However, their set was marred by a mishap when a barricade collapsed on a poor guy’s foot who had to be carried off from the spot and SuidAkrA even stopped between two songs to enquire about him.

Summer Storm Festival 2012 headlined by Opeth at Palace Grounds, Bangalore

Opeth took a while to come onstage, which they did around 8 p.m. to a backdrop of the album art from their latest album ‘Heritage’ and ambient strains of ‘Through Pain to Heaven’ (a Popul Vuh track). They straightaway launched into playing two songs from Heritage, ‘The Devil’s Orchard’ and ‘I Feel The Dark’, back-to-back. The incredible proggy-ness of The Devil’s Orchard was too much to even properly nod your head to! The diminutive Martin Mendez has to be one of the best bassists in Metal at the moment. The groovy low notes he plucks from his bass are nothing short of exquisite!

Summer Storm Festival 2012 headlined by Opeth at Palace Grounds, Bangalore

Mikael introduced the next song as one from Martin Mendez’s first album with the band, before he started with the hypnotizing fingerpicking intro to ‘Face of Melinda’ from Still Life. Next, they played ‘Slither’ from Heritage again, as a tribute to Ronnie James Dio. With trademark self-deprecation Mikael introduced the next song as the only album he played bass in and not too well at that. The soothing cadence of ‘Credence’ from My Arms, Your Hearse and the one that followed it, ‘To Rid The Disease’ from Damnation, was made more mesmerizing by the haunting atmosphere and keywork provided by the “new kid on the block” Joakim Svalkerg.

Summer Storm Festival 2012 headlined by Opeth at Palace Grounds, Bangalore

As is the case with almost all Opeth concerts, Mikael, the standup comedian that he is, reserved his most biting ribbing for Mendez, calling him “chickenshit” for sporting a moustache like us Indians but hiding it in his beard. At this point, Joakim was facing some problem with his keyboard and Mikael fumbled with the order of the setlist too, provoking him to ask the audience to shout “F**k you, Mikael”, something he had been asking the audience to do all evening! After playing ‘Folklore’, from Heritage, he obliged the expectant crowd by revealing they were moving on to the heavier part of the set.

Summer Storm Festival 2012 headlined by Opeth at Palace Grounds, Bangalore

They chose ‘Heir Apparent’ from Watershed to start the Death Metal proceedings. I felt truly blessed when they next played one of my most favorite Opeth tracks ‘The Baying of the Hounds’ from Ghost Reveries, a song they don’t play live very frequently. The endearing part of this song is that it has all the Opeth ingredients in equal parts – the brutal part suddenly switching to mellower portions accompanied by heavenly ambience! Every great band has a crowd-sing-along track, and for Opeth, it is ‘The Drapery Falls’ from Blackwater Park, which they played much to the crowd’s frenzied joy. Coming back for encore, Mikael played the starting lick of ‘Deliverance’ joking all the while that Slash had stolen it from him! It was a fitting finale with its long drawn out, frantic headbang-inducing outro.

Summer Storm Festival 2012 headlined by Opeth at Palace Grounds, Bangalore

Many were apprehensive before the gig, about Mikael Akerfeldt’s ability to growl anymore and whether the set would be dominated by songs from Heritage, which had got mixed reactions from the Opeth faithful. All those fears were put to rest over the course of the evening, as Opeth probably played one of the best sets ever, with songs from all the albums, except the first two.

Summer Storm Festival 2012 headlined by Opeth at Palace Grounds, Bangalore

Overall, Summerstorm 2012 lived up to almost everyone’s expectations. The sound was decent for most parts, although it could have been better during SuidAkrA’s spell. The organizers were diligent enough to ensure that everything progressed smoothly. My only grouse is that there could have been a good mix of Indian bands from across the country much like the first edition of the Summer Storm Festival, and Nothnegal could have been avoided altogether!

Summer is miles and miles away, but Summer Storm is here to stay.


SummerStorm Festival 2012


Opeth Press Conference at Hard Rock Cafe, Bangalore


Vildhjarta – The 7 piece Swedish Djentlemen at IITM, Saarang 2012


The open air theatre of Saarang has been graced by Metal giants in the previous years, more specifically Swedish bands in the genre like Opeth, Pain of Salvation and Hammerfall. This year the 7-piece ambient/djent band Vildhjarta from Sweden visited the festival along with Indian metal bands Inner Sanctum, Blind Image and Scribe.

The show started off as dusk was falling, with performances from The Family Cheese, Crypted and 83 Mph, the finalists of Decibels – Saarang’s competition for semi-professional bands. Crypted was announced as the winner with The Family Cheese as the runner-up. As this mini-battle was taking place, the Open Air Theatre slowly started seeing a swarm of black tees entering the arena in high spirits.

Vildhjarta - The 7 piece Swedish Djentlemen at IITM, Saarang 2012

Inner Sanctum soon took the stage by storm and started off their set and it didn’t take long for the crowd to start head banging and raising their fists in the air, but we soon came to the realize that the sound mix was quite absurd. The drummer’s kicks were barely audible and the bass was missing at certain points. However, the nearly-synchronized headbanging by the members of Inner Sanctum and vocalist Gaurav Basu’s windmilling and powerful vocals kept the crowd engaged. By their final track, ‘The Guardian’ the sound issue was sorted out. Nevertheless, Inner Sanctum was very professional about it and got the crowd geared up for the rest of the night.

Vildhjarta - The 7 piece Swedish Djentlemen at IITM, Saarang 2012

Blind Image was next on stage and right when the crowd believed that the sound issues were fixed, they were plagued by yet another series of sound issues; only this time they were much worse. As soon as they started off with their opening track ‘Deciphered’ there were absolutely no guitars on the PA and this continued with the monitors going off for the bass player and drummer, and guitarist Pranav had his Pod X3’s adapter short circuited due to a power surge. Vocalist Noble Luke kept the crowd engaged amongst the confusion but owing to time constraints, the band had to end it with a short set filled with technical issues. Having heard that Blind Image have a reputation for being a very good live act, I thought it quite unfortunate that the band had to go through such terrible sound issues. Many Chennai metalheads were disappointed as they had seen Blind Image previously in several gigs where the band had put up amazing shows and the crowd expressed open disapproval of the constant technical issues by shouting “What the f**k!” along with vocalist Noble Luke. Word got around that there was a “bug” in the digital console that kept altering any equalizing and mixing that was introduced.

Vildhjarta - The 7 piece Swedish Djentlemen at IITM, Saarang 2012

Next up were the much awaited Mumbaikars, Scribe. The band started off with a song famous for being a Rajnikanth intro song that immediately got the crowd’s attention, with whistles and cheers from all around. While vocalist Vishwesh put paid to sour moods caused by the sound issues by talking to the crowds in Tamil, the sound issues were tackled by Scribe’s own sound engineer playing the role of a much-needed knight in shining armour! The band had to skip a few songs including ‘Street Archana vs. Vice Varsha’ due to the on-stage sound issues. Overall, the crowd seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed Scribe with mosh pits and circle pits in the OAT. First-time metal listeners and IIT volunteers themselves were seen headbanging in groups. Scribe’s track ‘Buddy’ saw members from Inner Sanctum, Blind Image, and Crypted headbanging and moshing on stage. Even a couple of members from Vildhjarta joined them and the OAT seemed to be suddenly engulfed by a bout of madness at this point!

After a careful inspection of the technical issues, Vildhjarta was ready with a line-up that included three guitarists, two vocalists, a bass player and a drummer- something that is very uncommon for metal bands in general. However, the three-guitarist-trend has been noted in popular bands like the American Periphery in recent times.

Vildhjarta - The 7 piece Swedish Djentlemen at IITM, Saarang 2012

“We are Vildhjarta from the World of War craft”, announced frontman Vilhelm Bladin as they took the stage. ‘Ben Blast’ was the first track they played and the crowd broke into a roar of howls. One could see that the band was influenced by Meshuggah and that the typical djent-styled riffing and the dual vocals were somewhat new to some people in the crowd. Metal noobs were unable to understand the riffing patterns and many were seen head banging off-time – something that, I must admit, was quite hilarious to witness. It was a treat to see the 7-piece band being an incredibly tight live act, though. The crowd roared its approval as the band played ‘Shadow’ the first track on the Masstaden album – with a slow, ambient intro pounding into heavy djent riffing. The dual vocals, with Daniel doing the screams and Vilhelm doing the deep growls, were a definite highlight. The next song ‘Dagger, which is the first off the Masstaden album to have an official video, was welcomed with metal fists and roars from the hardcore Vildhjarta fans standing up against the railing. The song comprises of alternate clean ambient parts and complex riffing; ‘Eternal Golden Monk’ came next, starting out with complex grooves and good use of the three guitarists in the band. ‘Deceit’, an instrumental track off their 2009 EP Omnislash that was infused with vocals and added to Masstaden, was filled with slow grooves and saw some intense head banging from the crowd. ‘Traces’, starting out with fast riffing, was the next song. It saw a circle pit instantly and was followed by ‘Phobon Nika’, a short 3-minute track that has quite a long clean intro and heavy breakdown riffs in the end.

Vildhjarta - The 7 piece Swedish Djentlemen at IITM, Saarang 2012

The three guitarists, two keeping rhythm and one playing lead, had perfect timing with their breakdowns and all of them seemed to have amazing guitar tones as well. The drummer, who seemed to have been playing along with a click track, was flawless and held the band together quite comfortably.

During a quick word with the vocalist Daniel Adel, he said that the band’s album Masstaden is based on the concept of globalization and its good and bad put together in the form of a fable; he added that his personal inspiration as a vocalist comes from Jens Kidman (Meshuggah) and Eric Kalsbeek (ex-Textures).

All these feelings’ was the last in their set; again, filled with slow grooves quickly switching to fast double bass drumming, it was a perfect ending to the set. The crowd thoroughly enjoyed the tight and intense performance and headbanged right till the end of the set, with the band performing ‘Dagger’ as the encore.

Sound issues were the only let down of the evening, affecting some bands more than the rest. This isn’t unusual and it’s quite evident that these things are sometimes unavoidable. At the end of the day, the OAT resounded with the sound of Metal and many people who weren’t as into the genre, went back home with the strong urge to give it a more serious listen.


Great Indian Rock 2010 – Day 1 at Palace Grounds, Bangalore


Heavy metal in India is big. Heavy metal in Bangalore is big. Gone are the days when the washed-up classic rock act toured India to promote their new album that no one else would hear. Nowadays bands in their prime want to tour India. They see it as an opportunity to connect to a wider audience. They are surprised when they see 3000 plus Indian fans singing along at a show. This familiarity is of course due to the Internet. Even the most obscure bands have ardent followers here and since listening to non-pop International music is still fairly niche in India, these bands get sufficient word-of-mouth publicity. This phenomenon especially rings true for heavy metal and all its sub-genres. India has seen many heavy metal bands in the last couple of years and these are bands that still have the ability to sell out stadiums anywhere in the world. Satyricon, Opeth, Amon Amarth etc have played to massive crowds in India and so it was no surprise when Meshuggah were announced as one of the headliners for the 14th edition of Great Indian Rock (GIR).

This year’s GIR, like the last, was a two day event with Swedish metal giants Meshuggah headlining. Local acts Bicycle Days, Slain, Kryptos and Bhayanak Maut were the opening acts, presumably lined in increasing order of loudness. Surprisingly the online buzz before the concert wasn’t as much as I expected. The ticket prices were slightly steep and/or there aren’t as many Meshuggah fans in Bangalore as I expected. I reached the venue early as I had backstage access and it was a privilege to see the band do their sound check. Watching vocalist Jens Kidman in particular blew me away as he seamlessly shifted from a meek ‘check check hey hey’ to a deafening guttural growl. Guitarists Thordendal and Hagstrom too toiled hard to ensure that they got their guitar tone perfect. Once they finished their sound check, I loitered around the venue and noticed it was considerably smaller than the previous concerts I’d attended. There was also just the solitary food stall and one tiny stall selling overpriced Meshuggah tees.

The Bicycle Days played in the dreaded opening slot to a lackluster crowd. The band seemed disinterested in the proceedings, robotically going through the first half of their set. I’ve always thought that TBD sound better in an indoor environment and that performance just proved it. They did find some energy when they played ‘27‘ and ‘Circles’ off their debut EP 42. Karthik Basker’s processed vocals adding a dimension to their psychedelic music.

The next band up on stage was Slain who, in my opinion, are perfect for an outdoor stage or arena. Their progressive/power metal reaches out to most audiences and it’s hard to dislike a performance by Slain. They performed material from their new album Here and Beyond and were consistent as always. Bryden’s lightning-fast, complex solos were impressive and so were the vocal harmonies that they managed to pull off.

Kryptos, who gig extensively across India was the next band on stage. Sadly Kryptos maintain a small repository of their songs on their live playlist. I love ‘Spiral Ascent’ to death, but even the most devout fan would tire of listening to ‘Descension’ live for the 50th time. They played out a predictable setlist of ‘The Revanant’, ‘Mask of Anubis’, ‘Altered Destinies’, ‘Descension’ etc. Bizarrely enough the volume on the PA was turned down (apparently due to a wedding happening in the adjacent grounds!). The audience chants of “Volume, Volume” grew louder but unfortunately the PA levels didn’t.

The same problem persisted with Bhayanak Maut too but the tragedy was that BM completely messed up their sound. This is a band that I love to see live because of their energy and stage presence but somehow they never got the audience’s reception that usually greets them. Even the band was appalled by the lack of enthusiasm of the crowd as they tried their best to force moshes but to no avail. Also, their new avatar with two vocalists seems completely pointless as new vocalist Sunneith doesn’t add anything to the band’s sound. ‘Twas definitely not one of BM’s better performances.

Finally, to quote an old cliché, it was time to witness what everyone had come for. Meshuggah have this reputation for being an excellent live act and considering the technicality and experimental nature of their music, it’s quite an achievement. Now I can say for sure why they have this reputation. The band completely made up for the disappointing decibel levels in the opening acts with their monstrous sound. The twin 8-string detuned guitars have this low frequency tone that perfectly captures the abrasiveness of their music. Thordendal’s off-scale solos were mind-blowing as he, with his guitar almost touching the ground, played every note exactly like the album versions. Vocalist Kidman too maintained the same level of ferocity with his menacing growls throughout the gig. They performed their obZen tour playlist as they displayed their prodigious talents with songs like ‘Rational Gaze’, ‘Bleed’, ‘Sane’ etc. Thomas Haake should be contender for ‘Best metal drummer’ as his machine-like drumming in odd time signatures seemed impossible. They also, to my great joy, played ‘Straws Pulled at Random’ which is my favourite Meshuggah song. The signature bass line was sufficient to get the small but ‘high’ crowd going. After pounding the crowd with their discordant metal for little more than an hour, they ended their gig with the popular ‘Future Breed Machine’. The audience was left a little disappointed as they didn’t play out an encore as they usually do but seemed satisfied with the whole concert experience. I heard the common ‘my neck hurts from headbangin’ refrain from excited teenagers as I exited the venue mentally ticking off yet another band from my list of bands-to-see-before-I-die.

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Sohan Maheshwar

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


Interview with The Scratch Card Winners


The Scratch Card Winners was formed on a lazy afternoon in 2009 with the sole intention of creating noise and waking up the neighbourhood and is one of the only active punk bands in Bangalore city. The Scratch Card Winners is Zoe(vox, lead guitars), Noel(rhythm guitars), Mike(drums) and Aamir (bass). WTS got in touch with them and spoke to them about punk music in Bangalore and more…

WTS: Tell us about how The Scratch Card Winners came into being.

Zoe: Before we started this band, I won a lottery. I won quite a lot of things including my current guitar which was given by Opeth when they were touring India in 2008. Around the same time, I formed the band, so I thought we could have a suitable name, it’s about guys who don’t have anything in life want to make it big, but how do they do that? – by earning quick money. That’s how the name came about. The band came out in the month of April 2009, I got my ex-drummer Shashi, and I had quite a number of jams with him, then I got my ex-bassist Gagandeep who had come all the way from Punjab, he came and joined my band around the same time he just came into Bangalore, that was the time when we formed the proper line up of The Scratch Card Winners.

WTS: What made you choose Punk as your genre?

Zoe: I was in a punk band from 2005, we were called String Sick , we started off as one band and then split into two – String Sick and Usual Suspects, we were the only bands who played punk music in Bangalore. Punk didn’t just come about because we wanted to be cool, it was more like a statement. We aren’t writing songs about using drugs etc. It’s not about that, it’s about things happening in and around us that are affecting us. If you Google it, punk stands for rebellion. We chose punk because it just came naturally to us.

WTS: Do you guys see the genre gaining more popularity in the coming years in India?

Zoe: It’s growing. I have seen the support for punk music change. Like Metal has death metal, doom metal and thrash metal, punk has different varieties, I have seen bands that play pop-punk but of late I have seen bands who’re playing underground stuff, more hard core stuff, which is the punk of the 80s and the 70s. I have seen the quality of the bands improve. Right now, I’m managing a radio podcast called One Punk Nation. I have interacted with most of the bands from Brazil and Asia and they want to know about the Indian punk scene and I’d be very happy to give them a list of the top ten punk bands from India, who could well be the future of punk music in India.

Noel: Before I joined Zoe, I hadn’t heard of any punk bands, frankly. Everyone was just playing rock and metal, and trying to make it complicated. Punk music is about keeping it simple and in-your-face, actually. Over here, I guess it’s catching up, everyone’s growing tired of the whole metal thing. If you listen to something complicated, it’s too much information. If you have a simple tune and sing your heart out, that’s the way to go. I’m kind of new to the band, Zoe does most of the composing and stuff like that, and the lyrics of course!

WTS: How has the response been to your music so far?

Zoe: Let’s say you like biryani, and suppose someone gives you pasta for a change, how would you like that? You may not like it, but you can never ignore it. During the first gig we had a mixed reaction. There were ten bands, eight of which were metal bands, we had the edge that time. It was something different that people took notice of. The kind of reaction we’re getting now – it’s still mixed, it’s gonna take us time. I think the Bangalore crowd is very intelligent, they know what’s good music, and as long as it’s good music, they will enjoy it. I think whatever shows we’ve done of late, they have enjoyed it.

WTS: What are the themes that your songs are based on?

Zoe: There’s this demo we had released sometime ago; it’s called ‘Time-pass Suicide‘, the song I wrote about a guy going through difficult stages, it’s about a guy who tried to commit suicide, but couldn’t do it. It’s the story of a loser who wants to do something in life. We have our own share of socio-political songs. A majority of punk bands have that. One of the songs is based on the Bhopal gas tragedy, it’s called ‘Devil’s Own Company‘. We wrote about the company which was a part of that disaster. I’m from the North East, we face a lot of racism from the Indian army. We’ve seen people from the army carrying girls from the villages just because they look different. So I wrote a song called ‘Freedom‘ that talks of the racial discrimination that goes against people from the North East. The song was about asking them to stop what they’re doing to us, to let us live in peace. Give a little bit of space to us and understand who we are.

WTS: What is distinctive about your band?

Zoe: The sound. We need a little bit of variety, where is the punk crowd? There are other forms of music. It’s dying or dead already. What sets us apart is we’re playing punk music, which is kind of extinct right now. We’re trying to revive that. Musicians are dreamers and they’re passionate about their dreams. We believe that the music is going to reach out to the audience at some time or the other.

WTS: What are your plans for the future? How do you plan to promote your music outside Bangalore?

Zoe: We have been asked to play in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. We are the first Indian punk band to be called for that. This is happening late October. I’m hopeful that if we have a local base which is as strong as outside then we’re going to do well.

WTS: What kind of antics can we look forward to from you guys when you’re on stage? Do all your bandmates sport funky hair dos?

Zoe: High volume, high energy. That’s all I’d say! We got banned in a pub because we spoke against the owner! (laughs) My new bassist is from Dubai, you can expect a Sheikh’s hairdo from him (laughs) , I used to sport spikes earlier but these days I wear a cap!

WTS: Have you ever received criticism for your performances and what are they mostly about?

Zoe: We have received a lot of criticism. It’s not been easy being a punk band. People think the music is easy, there’s more than what you see. We have to let them know that it’s not always about technicalities, its more about free and open music. People have said stuff like they’re three-chord-junkies, not technical, it is easy music. We have received a lot of comments. It’s a part of the game.

WTS: What led to Shashi’s departure from the band?

Zoe: Shashi was one of the founding members of the band. He’s a perfectionist, whatever he does, he likes to do it perfectly. When he was doing his job perfectly, the band was suffering and when he focused on the band, the work suffered, so he quit both. Now he’s pursuing his studies in CA.

WTS: What does the rest of 2010 hold for the band?

Zoe: Our album is in the process of being recorded. It is called Inertia. We are 40% done. The mixing is pending and some new songs have to be added. We’re going to make it available for free download, and for those who really like our music, they can pick up a CD too.

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Priyanka Shetty

Priyanka Shetty is the founder of What's The Scene? Follow Priyanka on Twitter @priyanka_shetty