Tag Archives: Workshop

Celebrating Amit Saigal’s B’day at Blue Frog, Mumbai

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The Dawn of Consummation and Emergence by Reptilian Death

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Sahil Makhija, aka The Demonstealer, is a busy person. If he’s not busy with his flagship project Demonic Resurrection, then he’s busy trying to rub your funny bone with Workshop. Or maybe (if you’re lucky) you get to be his guinea pig for the day and sample his demonic cooking (damn I wished I lived in Mumbai!) And let’s not forget his solo projects, his guitar and processor endorsements, his endless promotion of the Indian metal scene, and god knows what else! With his fingers in so many pies it is amazing how he manages time to bring out another album for his death metal project Reptilian Death.

Titled The Dawn of Consummation and Emergence, Reptilian Death’s sophomore effort is characterized by some very sleek production, making it a novelty buy for collectors of original Indian metal albums. Even the artwork on the album cover is an eye catcher, and it really does arrest you, though whether you like it or not is a different question altogether. The album name as well as the names of each of the 12 tracks on hand make for good reading too!

The album opens with ‘Primeval’ a short intro that does well to put into place the mood for the rest of the album. Next, ‘Inchoate’ starts off with some very vehement riffing that lays the foundation for Vinay Venkatesh to growl his way through the remaining duration of the song. An enjoyable track, however the Bhayanak Maut mark on the album is already very evident despite it being just the second song. ‘Stimulate, Hike, Impel, Tear’ delivers much the same but the drumming stands out and it lends a lot of high intensity energy to the song. The song’s lyrics too are a delight to read and quite graphic. The next two – ‘Soaked With The Imperfections Of Puerile Blood’ and ‘Emerge, Hatred, Emerge’, are among the better tracks of the album, and especially the latter with its gradual decrease in tempo towards the song’s end. The guitars are tight and they add a lot of texture in conjunction with Sahil’s tight drumming and Ashwin Shriyan’s confident basslines.

By now you pretty much know what the album is all about and you can’t but help find the songs a tad repetitive. The drums sound great, as does the bass, the riffs sound aggressive and the vocals are what you would expect from a vocalist who sounds as monstrous as Vinay. A great package all round, but not too many surprises so far. In fact at this point you’d probably find the song names more interesting than the actual music. Track number 9 is next in line for your listening pleasure, and it is a song simply titled as ‘O’.‘O’ successfully manages to break away from the tediousness that was in danger of taking this album down. Featuring a catchy guitar solo from the guest artiste, Demonic Resurrection’s very own Daniel Rego, this song has a lot of brutality and also that small dose of melody which keeps ringing in your head for days. The variety in texture as a whole makes ‘O’ a pretty decent composition and probably the stand-out track of the album for me. On to track number 10 and ‘Now You Graze Upon Me’ turns out to be another interesting song that also successfully avoids becoming monotonous; with impressive vocals, you almost feel like Vinay is breathing down your neck, waiting to rape you or maim you or something equally deadly. Also impressive is Sahil’s use of the double bass in this track. The album ends well with track numbers 11 and 12, ‘Marvelous Gods – The Apple Of My Eye’ and ‘Emergence – The World, Your Playground’, although the feeling of “been there, heard that” seems to creep upon you again, ever so slightly. But there are parts which make these songs stand out, including another nice guest appearance by Monsieur Rego, whose melodic guitar solo brings this album to its conclusion.

After listening to The Dawn of Consummation and Emergence it is very apparent that its lack of raw viciousness is something which lets this album down. Every top-notch death metal ditty ever composed has a rawness which would churn your stomach and which would blow your brains out on one listen. But the absence of this x-factor and also the very distinct Bhayanak Maut stamp on the album will not endear it to many fans of this sub-genre, especially to the old school death metal lover.

But that does not mean this is a bad album – far from it. What it lacks in the classic raw element, the album makes up by embracing the more mainstream metal aspect. And as pointed out, while the band might not have actually presented a signature Reptilian Death sound, yet there will be many takers for this album, including fans of both DR and BM. So if you love your music heavy and aggressive, if you are a fan of Vinay’s verbal vicissitude, hell, if you enjoy listening to Sahil play havoc on the drums, then you have more than enough reasons to get hold of this album and give it a spin. Chances are you won’t be disappointed, even though the repetitious nature of some of the songs might bog you down.

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Ashmaan at Jamsteady, Princeton Club Kolkata

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It’s interesting to see the number of projects that we find established musicians being involved in nowadays, outside of their main bread-and-butter band. Sahil Makhija is a prime example – Reptilian Death and Workshop are very popular and successful projects, however the Demonstealer shall always be primarily known as the front man of Demonic Resurrection.

Likewise, in Kolkata, many musicians aren’t solely committed to just one band or one music project these days. Sometimes they take the opportunity to collaborate with other musicians – these collaborations are like an adventure into the unknown, where the musician tries to get out of his/her comfort zone to explore different forms of music – something that generally wouldn’t be possible due to commitments with their main band. Sometimes, however, these partnerships end up being for the fun of it or because the musician in question is just plain old bored and needs to spend some time letting flow his/her creative juices, a temporary way to get rid of boredom.

Ashmaan at Jamsteady, Princeton Club Kolkata

How Sukanti Roy of the Kolkata giants Cassini’s Division got involved with Ashmaan is something I have never asked him. Ashmaan’s electro-acoustic sound is definitely a far cry from the alternative/grungy riffs that are so typical of a Cassini’s Division song. And so the question strikes you – why Ashmaan? Is it just some time-pass side project that the guitarist is involved in before something bigger comes his way?

In order to find out the answer to my question, I decided to take in an Ashmaan gig at the Princeton Club on Friday the 31st of May – they were one of the 2 featured bands for that week’s Friday Jamsteady session, and they were the first act up on stage.

Ashmaan at Jamsteady, Princeton Club Kolkata

For the benefit of our readers here, it should be mentioned that Ashmaan are an electro-acoustic duo with Sukanti Roy as the guitarist/programmer and Anushree Gupta the singer-songwriter. Anushree’s vocals are a delight to the ears. Her voice sounds like a nightingale and yet has that very gypsy-like feel to it. Sukanti uses his acoustic guitar and an eclectic mix of electronic music to great effect to paint a very solid backdrop for each song performed. They are a vernacular band and their originals are in Bengali but they also cover a lot of folk music in various Indian languages.

Ashmaan at Jamsteady, Princeton Club Kolkata

An hour’s performance was enough time for the band to mesmerize the crowd in attendance that evening. Their set-list of 10 songs included both originals and covers of well-known Indian folk songs. They started the proceedings with a very soulful rendition of the popular Lalon song ‘Shomoy Gele’, with Anushree’s vocals hitting you at all the right places. This was followed by one of their originals, ‘Ishita’. The combination of the song’s lyrical intensity intertwined with Sukanti’s acoustical arrangements made it a delight to hear – a beautiful original indeed.

Anushree is well-known for her love of roots music and thus the Ashmaan repertoire includes a vast number of popular Indian folk songs – ‘Rangi Sari’ (Haryanvi), ‘Kinna Sona Tenu Rab Ne Banaya’ (Punjabi) and ‘Piya Re’ (Punjabi) were belted out in quick succession and these covers were made all the more interesting due to the trippy, ambient treatment that each of these songs were given.

My personal favorite for the evening was their original ‘Du-paa’ – the musical arrangement and Anushree’s lilting melody hits you, and you can feel the emotion in her voice transport you across a different plane altogether. Add to that, Sukanti’s excellent musical layout provides the perfect backdrop for this song – a song so very simple in its composition and yet projecting so many layers that it touches your heart instantly.

Ashmaan at Jamsteady, Princeton Club Kolkata

Baul music, indigenous to Bengal, has in recent times gained a huge level of mainstream popularity amongst music lovers. Ashmaan too is known for their love of this form of music, and so it was no surprise to see them cover the popular Baul song ‘Motike Gourange’ – that the crowd loved the acoustic rendition of this number was evident by the way they swayed to its earthy melody. It’s difficult to miss the passion in Anushree’s voice when she goes into her Baul zone, and if by now Ashmaan’s music doesn’t hit you then it’s a sure shot that their music – and roots music in general is not for your ears.

A quick turn-around and Ashmaan go electric for their final two numbers. The extremely popular folk numbers ‘Jugni Ji’ (Punjabi) and ‘Morni Bagama’ (Rajasthani) get the electro-Ashmaan treatment and the crowd is dancing now. Sukanti is in his elements with his electric guitar in hand – a riff here, a riff there and with Anushree hypnotizing us one final time, Ashmaan brings the curtains down on a powerful performance that speaks volumes of their passion and commitment to the band.

Ashmaan at Jamsteady, Princeton Club Kolkata

I had a question that was bugging me before I attended this gig. An hour later, I had my answer. To label Ashmaan as Sukanti Roy’s “side-project” would be an insult to not only just Ashmaan but to the musical prowess of both him and Anushree. That Ashmaan is more than capable of standing on its own two feet and making itself stand out amongst all the new projects that are evolving in the burgeoning musical circus that is Kolkata is testament to the hard work, talent and dedication that this duo display. And it also helped me realize that being overly “rock” or “metal” should never stop you from appreciating music of any form. Especially if the music touches your soul, the way Ashmaan’s did. A big thumbs-up to this duo and to their music – based on this evening’s performance I would definitely recommend music lovers to go check them out!

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The Jack Daniels Rock Awards 2013

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The eighth edition of the annual Jack Daniels Rock awards was held on the 22nd of February at Mehboob Studio amidst little hype and no fanfare. The invite-only event hosted by Sameer Malhotra and The P-Man (Rohit Pereira) saw successful rock bands from the scene, across genres, being feted for their musical efforts over the past one year, by people who had little or nothing to do with the scene.

Bombay punk rockers, Blek kick-started the evening performing songs from their debut album, Hexes + Drama & Other Reasons for Evacuation to an audience of around 100 people. Their half hour long set included some of their popular songs like ‘Minus the Makeup’ and ‘Fog + Strobe’ which was also nominated in the best song category. Blek’s set was followed by the first set of awards which saw Shantanu Hudalikar win the best producer award. Advaita’s The Silent Sea and Swarathma’s Topiwalleh shared honours for the best album art while The Blue Frog, Mumbai was adjudged the best live music venue.  The emcee then made Michele Obama’s virtual presence at the Oscars seem less random by calling upon a Bollywood designer along with an eye-candy model to give away the next set of awards – Blek were back on stage to collect their award, after being declared the best emerging band of 2012. The next award handed out was for the best keyboardist which was shared by Jason Zachariah (Jason Zac Band) and Zubin Balaporia (Indus Creed). The designer-model duo then gave a priceless tip of advice in fashion to the musicians gathered (who, judging by the vibes, couldn’t care less), before handing over the best drummer award to Jai Row Kavi (Indus Creed). Bombay Jam band Something Relevant was up next on stage, playing a half hour long medley of songs from their second album, We Could Be Dreaming which was released last year.

Actor Suchitra Pillai was then accompanied on stage by Ken Ghosh (Bollywood director) to give away the next set of awards – Tony Guinard of the Ska Vengers tipped my personal favourite Roop Thomas of Blakc to win the best bassist award. Thermal and a Quarter frontman Bruce Lee Mani deservingly bagged the coveted best guitarist award, having being nominated alongside other stalwarts like Keshav Dhar, Baiju Dharmarajan and Mahesh Tinaikar. A clueless Mandira Bedi then walked onto stage to hand over the awards for best male and female vocalists – Vivienne Pocha won the award for the best female vocalist scoring over equally good singers Samara C (Ska Vengers) and Suman Sridhar (Sridhar/Thayil), while Angaraag “Papon” Mahanta overpowered the likes of Uday Benegal, Rabbi Shergill, Bruce Lee Mani, Gareth D’mello and Vasu Dixit in a star studded list of nominations for the best male vocalist.

The Rolling Stone all-star jam that followed, showcased artists from bands like Something Relevant, Split, Goddess Gagged and Colour Compound, recreate the magic of some of India’s most popular rock songs  – from Siddharth Basrur and Gareth D’mello’s duet take on Them Clones’s ‘Zephyretta’  to Rachel Varghese’s cover of Junkyard Groove’s ‘Imagine’, Saba Azad’s cover of  Orange Street’s ‘Candywalk’ to  Gareth’s beautiful delivery of ‘Lucy’ by Zero, Suman Sridhar’s horror screams and deafening screeches on Workshop’s ‘Pudhe Sarka’ to Rachel Varghese’s rendering of ‘Trapped’ by Indus Creed,  the wonderfully selected set list for the jam had something for everyone’s taste and gave the attendees a lot to cheer about.

The Rolling Stone jam session was ensued by the last set of awards that saw Keshav Dhar’s Skyharbor bag the recently introduced – best metal band award before Papon made it two for the night after ‘Boitha Maro Re’ was adjudicated the best song, overshadowing some splendid tracks like ‘Maeva’ (Skyharbor), ‘Fog + Strobe’ (Blek), ‘Dissolve’ (Indus Creed) and ‘For the Cat’ (TAAQ). Former Miss India, Yukta Mookhey was then called out of oblivion to hand over the last couple of awards – Advaita’s ‘The Silent Sea’ won the top honours bagging the best album award, however it was Indus Creed who won the bragging rights and took home the 5 lakh rupees prize money after being adjudged the best Indian band for the year 2012.

Despite oddities of the award presenters, a no-show by most winners and a kitty cat on the loose, the award show at large went off smoothly, thanks (largely) to the free flowing Jack at the event.

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Made Love To The Dragon by Workshop

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After almost a four-year long break, the Demonstealer is back with his funny hard rock outfit – Workshop, with their second studio release Made Love To The Dragon. Post the release of their first studio album – Khooni Murga in 2009, the Bombay band has witnessed a couple of line-up changes with Devesh Dayal and Aditya Kadam replacing Rajshri Battacharya and Riju Dasgupta, on guitars and bass respectively. Much like their previous album, the band mostly uses comical, lyrical themes to tickle your funny bone; however the guitar tracks through the album, song compositions and the production quality in general have gone up several notches. My only real concern with the album is that Sahil Makhija sounds like every man but himself in most of the songs, from sounding like Eric Cartman in ‘Down to Dahisar’ to impersonating a constipated middle eastern man in the ‘Bunty aur Mallika (Habibi Mix)’ the demon, has truly discovered his vocal depth with this album.

The album kicks off with the title track, ‘Made Love to the Dragon’ which slowly eases you into Workshop’s scheme of things with hard rock/pop composition, flipped out lyrics, and sweetened guitar work. The second song, ‘Down to Dahisar’ mirthfully captures the essence of living in suburban Bombay, and is a hostile reminder of the skyrocketing real estate rates in the city. ‘Bhoot Bungla’, with its evocative riffs, haunting vocals, reggae ghost narrator, and other random spooky elements makes it a really fascinating track. The fourth song of the album, ‘Munni Jawan vs Sheila Badnaam’ is probably the only song in the album I didn’t get hooked onto despite playing it on loop several times. The next track, ‘Gajanad Dhige’ is a hilarious portrayal of the stereotypical small town Indian man in quintessential workshop style, and is perhaps my favourite track of the album along with ‘She Came’ which is a beautifully composed satirical narrative on arranged marriages in India and the adverse effects it has on women and their needs. The seventh track of the album, ‘Naagin Ki Nazaar’ is an outrageously funny song to the say the least, the parallels drawn between the ‘Naagin’ and a certain part of the male anatomy is hysterical, and the lyrics will surely make any first time listener laugh out loud. The next song, ‘Blues Motion’ has a ‘metal meets the blues’, ‘demon sings the jazz’ feel to it, with the signature chorus melody associated with bluesy songs (if I may call them so). A re-mastered version (habibi mix) of that epic track from Khooni Murga – ‘Bunty aur Mallika’ feels like a last minute add-on to this 9-track album, however I must add that the obscure vocals will in all likelihood, make you chuckle.

In a nutshell, Workshop’s second coming – Made Love To The Dragon is a more than worthy successor to their rib-tickling debut effort Khooni Murga. Hamza ‘Hamzoid’ Kazi, carries on the good work from the previous album and provides the band a sturdy foundation to work with. Aditya Kadam fills in the void created by Riju with consummate ease, while Devesh Dayal is in top form through the album and it’s really not hard to decipher why he’s tipped as the most exciting young guitarist in the Indian music scene.

Musically, the album is way superior to its predecessor and I would definitely recommend it to everyone. Thanks to Sahil’s marketing genius, there are plenty of ways you can get hold of the album, there’s a cash on delivery option for the physical copy, you can download the digital copy online, apple users can buy the album from i-tunes and fellow Nokia users like myself can download the entire album absolutely free from the Nokia music store. Yes, you heard it right.

Since, I didn’t pay for the album I can’t say it was worth my money, but it was definitely worth my time and it was definitely worth deleting Path of Totality to accommodate Made Love to The Dragon in my phone.

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