Doing something different today. The following is an interview of two of South Asia’s finest exporters of quality doom metal, done together. The first is Pakistan’s Dionysus who play a majestic, and insanely memorable style of music that blends black metal, old school death metal, neo-folk and even some post-rock with a strong foundation of doom that has blown away audiences in their hometown of Lahore. The second band, India’s Dormant Inferno base themselves in Mumbai and play a heavy, crushing, keyboard aided brand of pure doom/death where every guitar riff is dipped in melancholy and every growl comes from the most miserable places of the human mind. These two South Asian doom titans are on the verge of releasing a colossal split release that will be unleashed upon the unsuspecting masses soon by Transcending Obscurity India. The following is my interview of Sheraz Ahmed (Dionysus) and Sunny Bhambri (Dormant Inferno), who are the chief guitarists and songwriters for the aforementioned bands.
– Hello boys. How’s the songwriting for the split release going?
Sheraz: Hey, songwriting for the split is still in progress. We’ve wrote 2 songs so far, its coming into shape nicely. We’ve put out a new songs which is named “Beneath the skies of war” on Doom metal front zine’s Tunes of the rising sun compilation.
Sunny: Hey Hassan! Well we are going to record next month. We are going to have to re record one of the songs which was mostly recorded but we lost it due to a computer crash!
– For the benefit of those being introduced to your bands for the first time, a brief bio please, and how you two came into contact with each other.
Sheraz: Dionysus was formed in summer of 2010. We released our first demo named Burial Ground in June 2011. After that we started working on “Hymn to the dying” EP which was released by Salute records (Sweden) in October 2012 and was later reissued by Total Annihilation Record (Holland). Our music can be best described as Black/Doom. But there are a lot of other elements present in it, all in all our main aim has always been to write something that’s memorable, something that you can fucking sing along to. haha. I got to know about Dormant Inferno when I started getting into undergrounds from across the border. I was totally hooked to In Sanity EP, mainly cause I could relate to the songwritings and song structures that these guys follow. Its my kinda doom. haha. I got to know about the band members through facebook, of course.
Sunny: Dormant Inferno is a Doom/Death Band from Mumbai, we started back in 2009. Our focus is to play simple but dark and crushing music with melodic and ambient elements. I had heard about Dionysus through our vocalist Gautam Shankar, then one day Sheraz just happened to ping our facebook page..And we’ve been in contact since then.
– It’s been an interesting journey so far for both bands. Both bands have an EP under their belt, both of which got rave reviews by Doom enthusiasts and subcontinent metal fans in general. Did you expect any of this at the start?
Sheraz: I knew where to promote my music and how to do it, so it wasn’t that much of a surprise to be honest. Thanks to all the zines/labels/internet blogs who have supported us in one way or another.
Sunny: We for sure were just playing and making music for ourselves. Simply because there was no band in the Indian scene which was playing the music which we were looking out for.. so Gautam and I decided to form a Doom/Death band ourselves! You know so there was no pressure of ‘presenting’ the songs to an audience, we just made the music the way we would want to hear it. Totally unadultrated with any genre boundaries or expectations.
As for the appreciation, it was certainly a surprise. The listeners from India as well have been very open minded and welcoming towards our music. It is definitely a good thing, especially in a place where the scene is mostly dominated by the noisier, faster types of metal.
– Of course, the two of you are now poised to do a split together on Transcending Obscurity India. Who’s idea was it in the first place to put Dionysus and Dormant Inferno together? Do you see more India-Pakistan metal collaborations happening in the near-future?
Sheraz: Sunny and I were talking randomly on facebook about music etc and he tossed the idea of doing a split someday and I wanted to do that already. After that he talked to Kunal Choksi and he showed interest in releasing the split which resulted into both bands getting signed to Transcending Obscurity for the split release
Sunny: Actually we were talking online once, I was just about to ask him regarding the split, just then Sheraz stole my words. So technically it was Sheraz’s idea Lol. But it was bound to happen I guess, because Dormant Inferno and Dionysus are kind of on a same page, like you said both bands have on release. We also do have a plenty of favourite bands in common, so it was only natural for us to collaborate. And both bands have been patient with this. We had planned this last year, its materialising now. About the Indo Pak collaborations, I can only speak about the metal genre, Dying Embrace and Dusk split is happening simultaneously I guess. There was this Rise of the Eastern blood CD a few years back with bands from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. I dont think nationality matters when 2 metal bands are collaborating and more collaborations should definitely happen.
– Dionysus and Dormant Inferno each have a defined sound by now. People are now aware of the type of music you guys make and they’ll be expecting stuff in a certain vein. With that in mind, how are you going about composing the new material?
Sheraz: We’re not afraid to come up with something totally different than what we do already. haha. Its always good to keep things spontaneous and let the music come out naturally and not bound yourself. If we like it, its good! Other people’s opinions are secondary. But yeah, you can check out the new song Beneath the skies of war on the compilation to get a hint of what’s new to come.
Sunny: To be honest with you, the 2 new songs which will be up on this split were supposed to be on our EP ‘In Sanity’ But due to time constraints we could not complete writing these songs. So if someone has enjoyed ‘In Sanity’ they will definitely be getting a similar vibe from these 2 new songs. As for the composing, its pretty much random. We don’t limit ourselves with any genre boundaries and just let the music come out naturally.
– Doom Metal has grown in the sub-continent over the years. Some of the older bands from the region also tended to play Doom/Death Metal, but nowadays there seems to be a real thing for Doom on both sides of the border. Why do you think Indians and Pakistani metal fans are gravitating towards Doom?
Sheraz: When we started playing Doom back in late 2010, I only knew about Dusk who played Doom/death from Pakistan. There was no other band. And I’ve always loved Doom more than any other form of metal. Doom and old school death, that’s my metal. Even though I also play in a thrash, black and also in a grind core band but doom is where I feel most comfortable. A lot of people in Pakistan have been getting into doom after the release of the Hymn to the dying EP, bands like Irritum, Khorne who also have demos/EPs under their belts and are still developing their sound. Its really good to see people taking break from covering Metallica and Iron Maiden over here on the live front and also putting out proper material, not just one single over a year. Now, talking about India/Pakistani metal fans, it also has to do with the “old school wave” going on all over the world. Its not just doom, its every old school form of music actually.
Sunny: I really do not know the exact reason for this surge of doom metal listeners. One reason could be that there are more bands playing this genre now. Or maybe people are appreciating it because its just something totally new to their ears! you know? Its better than listening to 10 death or black metal bands all sounding the same. There’s so many awesome bands in the Doom Metal genre, its amazing.
– Both bands have members spread out across different cities. With that in mind, how do both of you go about composing your bands’ songs and playing live?
Sheraz: It was of course better when Waleed lived in Lahore, and we had our own studio. But now since he has moved to Karachi, we’ve to cordinate through internet and phone calls and the studio is divided into two parts, I’ve my own recording equipment over here in Lahore, Waleed has his own setup in Karachi. Umair and I do the guitar/drum parts and then send them to Waleed and he edits them and add his own parts. That’s how the song comes into being. I’ve been doing the same thing with my black metal band Ilhaam and my experimental band with Olga, Flaw. So yeah, its nothing new for me.
Sunny: Well we haven’t written anything new in the last 3 years that Gautam has been away so I can’t tell much about that. But we did participate with our cover in the Motorhead Tribute album, we recorded our instruments here and Gautam tracked his vocals from the US. It was a very smooth recording to be honest. But its ideal if all the members are present at once, its easier to make new stuff that way. As of now we are having Kunal Gonsalves as our live vocalist.
– Since I just touched upon the subject of playing live – how do the live shows usually pan out? How many live shows under your belt and what’s the general situation in the metal scene as far as gigs are concerned?
Sheraz: As you know, there is a dearth of proper metal gigs/organizers over here in Pakistan. Dionysus has played 2 shows, one was in early 2012 and other was in July of this year. We’ve had a great fucking time whenever we played live, the crowd is always great! They also know our songs so its really cool. We’re gonna be playing at Hellfest 3 in Islamabad in early 2014 along with my other band Foreskin, so really looking forward to that.
Sunny: We have only palyed 2 gigs till now, Black Metal Krieg will be our third gig. We are learning with every gig and we are excited to be playing our originals in front of a live audience. Not many gigs are happening here, venues are scarce, funds and even turnouts are a concern. In such a situation Stark Denial and Transcending Obscuirty are pulling out a gig, its remarkable. Once BMK is done, we will be heading out Bagalore to play at Human Garbage, along side our brother Djinn and Miskatonic. Also on that roster are Shepherd which im keen on seeing live. So we’re packed for now.
– Any chances of either band crossing the border to play a show, in the future?
Sheraz: Kunal has tossed the idea of getting Dionysus to play in Transcending Obscurity’s shows in India, we’re looking into that matter.
Sunny: We could just play at the Wagah Border hahahaha.
– Since a lot of non-Indian/Pakistanis will be reading this hopefully: Which metal bands from your respective countries would you recommend the “firangis” to check out?
Sheraz: Lohikarma, Irritum, Dusk, Foreskin, Marwolaeth, Multinational Corporations, Ilhaam.
Sunny: Infernal Wrath, Exhumation , Djinn and Miskatonic, III Sovereign, Kryptos, Bevar Sea to name a few.
– A lot has been said about how “digital” albums are the new thing and physical copies are dead. Most of this has been said by metal artists from North America, Europe, etc. As people from this part of the world who’ve released EP’s, what’s your take on the future of physical albums (CD’s, Tapes, Vinyls) as far as metal music is concerned?
Sheraz: Physical format is the only thing that matters for me. If its not out on physical, it kinda doesn’t exist for me. And I love collecting CDs of underground bands from different parts of the world, I’ve a couple of Cds of bands from India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Finland, Thailand etc. Though its hard to get CDs over here in Pakistan, but I buy physical releases whenever I get a chance.
Sunny: For me personally I’d go for digital albums. Physical albums are a costly affair to print and distribute, but if people are looking out for a total package of artwork and all then I guess physical CD’s are required.
– We’ve talked an awful lot about metal so far. What about the non-metal music that you like? How far do non-metal influences seep into your music?
Sheraz: I listen to almost every type of music. I am a big Camel fan. Its my favorite band over all. You can listen a lot of Andrew Latimer’s influence in my lead playing and chord structures. Besides that I listen to a lot of classical stuff as well. Dire Straits, Corpus, King Crimson, Wishbone ash. Other than that I am also a big fan of neo/dark folk, early 90s rap, darkwave etc.
Sunny: We are open to all kinds of music. I personally listen to alot of ambient and melody oriented music. Bands like Irfan, Enigma, Karl Sanders solo albums etc. Gautam and I share liking for underground rap! Aurko is a calssical singer, so you know we are into all types of stuff.
– Favorite albums released this year?
Sheraz: Haven’t heard anything that interesting this year. Kataonia’s Dethroned and Uncrowned is the only I remember liking.
Sunny: Haven’t heard anything new this year.
– Thank you so much for the interview. Any parting words?
Sheraz: Thanks for everything man. Keep it up! Eternal abbhorrence is doing a good job and its one of the few blogs that I follow regularly.
Sunny: Thanks for the interview man, thanks to all the listeners for their support, new music coming very soon!
– Hassan Dozakhi