Against Evil Interview

The Indian metal scene has been growing at a steady pace over the last few years, reaching a point where bands outside of the so-called main urban centers have started to form. While India as a metal-producing country is well past the initial primordial stages of development, it’s still interesting to see 80s influenced bands such as Against Evil form from the unassuming backdrop of Visakhapatnam.
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– Hey Shasank, how are you doing?

 

I’m doing great man! Thanks for asking! Hope you are doing well too!

 

 

– Can you tell us about the formation of Against Evil?

 

We actually started in 2009 playing hard rock/heavy metal covers in a band called ECHO. We became quite popular in the local music scene and also did a fair number of gigs across India. In late 2014, we decided to make and play our own music and since ECHO has already made a name as a cover band, we wanted to get a fresh start and decided to form a new band focused on playing our own music. That’s how Against Evil happened!

 

 

– Most Metal bands in India play pretty extreme stuff. What motivated you to play traditional Heavy Metal?

 

To be honest, we didn’t pre-decide what kind of music we were going to make. We just wanted to play METAL with clean/semi clean vocals but we didn’t care about any sub-genres. We picked up our guitars, started jamming and this turned out to be the final product. Our love for classic metal bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Megadeth, Accept etc also helped influence and shape our sound.

 

 

– Not much is known about the music of Visakhapatnam. What’s the status of the metal/rock scene?

 

Well, there is no metal/rock scene here in Visakhapatnam! There are a couple of good bands that play covers/originals but absolutely no audience to encourage any of them. Hopefully, we are trying to change that and get more people to listen to and encourage rock/metal music with our upcoming release.

 

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– Your first release is out soon on Transcending Obscurity, how did the release come around?

 

We released our debut single – War Hero back in February, 2015 and got an overwhelming response for the song worldwide. This motivated us to make more music and release an EP. Since we had already written a few songs by then, we thought that it would be best for an unknown band like us to release our music first to get better recognition. In that way, we got in touch with Kunal Choksi from Transcending Obscurity Distribution who was interested to release our debut EP.

 

 

– What was the recording experience like?

 

It was one hell of a ride man! We had a great time in the studio even though it was the first time for us! It was also a great experience for us to get associated with veteran guitar player Simone Mularoni from Domination Studio, Italy who mixed/mastered the entire album. A special mention to All Things Rotten from Croatia who did the album artwork for us. Working with such great international artists on our first release itself is a proud feeling for us!

 

 

– What’s next for Against Evil?

 

We have put in a lot of hard work and effort into making this album and we hope the music reaches out to rock/metal lovers all over the world and they enjoy it. The fact that people are buying our music and listening/enjoying it means a lot to us. Right now, we are gearing up to play a few shows that we have lined up.

 

 

– Thanks for your time, good luck for the release!

 

Thanks for taking the time to do this interview man! Hope you enjoy the album 🙂

 

AE 7

Gypsy Interview

Gypsy are a breath of fresh air in the South Asian underground music scene right now. While most bands concern themselves with the extreme end, exploring the harsher climates of the metal terrains, Gypsy take us back to the era of catchy hooks, party-singalong choruses, wild solos and general extravagance of the “glam” scene. There’s more though, Gypsy incorporate a traditional South Asian instrument – the sitar – into their sleazy sex-themed music, giving it a local touch. Listening to Gypsy is like going to a party where everyone’s wearing “foreign” clothes but drinking local booze. They’re loads of fun to listen to, and their sitar player Swarnabha Gupta is definitely a fun lad to talk to. Check out my interview with him.

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– Hey Swarnabha. How goes it?

 

Hey Hassan! Everything’s fine..but….Such heat, much pain, need child bear to survive!

 

 

 

– Introduce Gypsy and the lineup.

 

Currently, we’re five. Shanky, the vocal powerhouse..loud as fuck! Budgie, probably one of the most hard-hitting and energetic drummers in the city. Soumya, who has a pretty subdued presence, but you can always hear his low octaves pounding you right there on your heart! Soumalya, the crazy little monster who shreds till he drops. If you dun see his amp volume cranked up to the max., understand that he ain’t in the right mood! And then, there’s me, who adds the oriental flavour and reminds people that there’s still an ounce of India left in our veins. Gypsy is the highest level of escapism ever seen by the people of India. Larger-than-life stage setups, tons of hairspray and makeup, weirdly painted instruments, flashing lights, graphic lyrics about sex and drugs, loud riffs, blazing solos, and of course, the traditional Indian touch which reflects our rich heritage…we’re everything that reality’s not. Actually, most of the people living here have a boring life. They’re always looking for security and missing out on the fun part of life. 10-5 jobs, regular haircuts, fitted formals…BLEHHHHH!! If you’re gonna live life, live it king size. Be flamboyant, be loud, don’t be afraid to be brace. We help them run away from this harsh and oppresive world, even if it is just for an evening..but trust me, they have the time of their lives at our gigs! We remind them that there’s something called having fun. That’s why we’re here!

 

 

 

– You guys are a rare breed – a band dedicated to playing 80’s hard rock/heavy metal.. with the inclusion of a sitar. What exactly drove you guys to the creative pursuit of such music?

 

All of us are big fans of acts like Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, Iron Maiden, Van Halen, The Scorpions, Motley Crue, WASP, Poison, Warrant..we’ve always had a thing for the ’80s. They are not just about making kickass music, they are about putting up a HUGE show, ensuring that every single person out there in the crowd, who’ve paid for the tickets, have a fuckin’ great time! Thus, Glam Metal. The perfect amount of hard rock, the right grams of Heavy Metal blended with a cup of theatrics and an ounce of badassery! Nowadays, most of us have given into Western culture so much that we don’t remember our own traditions. Well, the sitar’s here to remind them how rich we are culturally. And I had always wanted to play heavy music with my instrument, and change the wrong notion people hold about it. It’s a VERY flexible instrument. I’ve heard people telling me “You can never play Heavy Metal on a sitar. Try playing some commercial fusion..or just stick to classical itself.” But that’s not what I wanted. I wanted to be someone like Slash, someone like Jimmy Page. Someone who’ll not just be a great musician, but someone who’ll inspire millions to take a sitar up and play it! People are afraid of classical instruments. That fear needs to be done away with. That’s what I’m trying to do. I want kids to say “You can do THAT with a sitar? COOOOOL! I wanna play one too!” rather than “A sitar’s too boring and difficult. I’d rather play a guitar” too boring and difficult. I’d rather play a guitar”

 

 

 

– You put out an EP which was pretty well recieved. Are you doing anything new anytime soon?

 

Of course. We’re writing new songs. One’s already done. It’s called Rock Your Heart. It’s in our usual setlist too nowadays. It’s one of those ’80s’ish Rock n Roll anthems! Here’s the song- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQrxpzATpI0&feature=youtu.be

 

 

 

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– How does it affect the dynamics of the live sound, when having an electric sitar in the sound set-up?

 

Haha, the sitar makes our music louder, contrary to popular belief. We’re one of the loudest rock and roll bands in the city, and we ain’t compromising with our loudness for anything! So, way out? If you can’t tone the volume down, make the sitar louder! So, we got dual EMGs for my sitar! Loud enough yet? Judge it yourself folks! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIds9euMim4&feature=youtu.be Balancing is a tad bit tough though. One tiny error with the sliders and the sitar starts screamin’ like a baaaaaad bitch! So, we balance the sound really carefully, so that it minimises unwanted feedback from the sitar, at the same time preserving the dynamics.

 

 

 

– How is the metal/rock scene in Kolkata nowadays? Any local favorites?

 

It’s developing well. Much of the old-school-new-school hostility is gone, people are working together to organise gigs, the turnout’s good these days, people are ready to pay 200 bucks for a gig, they’re buying local band merch! We witnessed it with our own eyes at the Wacken Metal Battle, where we opened for German Folk Metal band Suidakra along with Djent band Noyze Akademi and Alt. Metallers Ashencore. Guys from KOSMA and Brutal Bengal headbanging together to our songs. It was a treat for us! Almost all the upcoming gigs are featuring bands from both the circuits too! That’s great in my opinion. eg: Slam-Death Metallers Evil Conscience are launching their debut EP, and guess who’re playing alongside ’em on the same bill? Noyze Akademi as well as our Brutal Death and Blackened Death brothers Purgation and Imperial Cult! Hell even we’re playing on the same lineup with veteran Metalcore band Chronic Xorn, Groove metallers Damagera and some other modern metal bands at an upcoming gig called Headbangers! So currently, we’re pretty content with the scene..but it would be great if there were more venues in Kolkata who’d allow Metal gigs. Local favourites: Rock- The High Crook (Blues Rock and Hard Rock), Das Hubris (Blues Rock and Hard Rock) Metal- Steelbird (Classic Heavy Metal), Deadbolt (Thrash Metal), Mortar (Thrash Metal), Armament (Thrash Metal), Imperial Cult (Blackened Death Metal)

 

 

 

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– What are your expectations for the upcoming Devil’s Coven gig?

 

They’re bringin’ down some sweeeeeeeet bands! If it’s done properly, it’ll be a benchmark gig for Kolkata. Ugrakarma and Plague Throat on the same bill? Dayeeeeeem that’s one gig no one would wanna miss! (Alas, I will be missing it. I’m leaving the city on the 28th for 3 long years)

 

 

 

– Since you play Sitar and are well acquainted with classical South Asian music, who are your favorite musicians in that area of music?

 

I’ll give you my top three inspirations. 1) Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan, 2)Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan, 3) Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan. Not just because he’s my Ustaad, but also because there never was, is, or will be someone as badass as him!!! If I’m givin’ you my top 5 inspirations, I’d say 4) Ustad Vilayat Khan and 5) Pt. Ravi Shankar. Damn, I wish I could even place Ustad Rais Khansahib here. I absolutely worship him.

 

 

 

– Plan on doing a solo sitar album some day?

 

Pretty soon bro, pretty pretty soon. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

– Thanks for the time, any advice for the people reading this?

 

Listen to good music, play good music, attend all the local gigs, support the local bands (only the ones you love, of course). Dun lose yourself to the cold world out there. Remember, Rock n Roll’s gonna keep you warm forever!

 

 

 

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Gypsy on Facebook

Blackhour Interview

 Blackhour are one of the few Pakistani metal bands to have broken out of the local scene’s limitations and instead promoted their music to metalheads worldwide. Their debut album “Age of War” was recieved to a host of great reviews and they’ve continued to hone their craft since then, playing gigs and accumulating a rabid loyal fanbase in their hometown of Islamabad/Rawalpindi. This is the first time I’m interviewing them, as a part of a short series on Paki Metal. Check out my conversation with band founder Hashim below.

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– Hey there lads. How’s everything going?
As our manager would say, “not as much and much as all”.

 

 

 

– Can you tell us a bit about the history of the band – its formation, any lineup changes, key moments?
The band was started in 2007 by me (Hashim Mehmood). Started of like any other college band, loads of line-up changes. We literally had 4 to 5 different vocalist before TayyabRehman joined in. A few more members left and a few joined and in the end only the serious people remained in the band and the current line-up has stayed this way since the debut album in 2011. Although we now have a Co-manager, Chaudhry Ali Hassan alongside our main manager, Hassaan Ahmed.

 

 

 

– You put out “Age of War” on a now-defunct label a few years ago. From what I understand, the distribution was not good and the CD’s themselves were mostly defected – despite that, the album got a great following through your own promotional efforts and live shows. How do you feel about the whole thing now that some time has passed since?
Well, “Age of War” album really went out viral despite all the label and CD drama. The album put up a great name for Blackhour not just in the local markets but since it was released internationally also, it gave us a big boost and surely made a name out there. One thing good about our previous label was that it gave us the push we needed to get things rolling, we completed the album very quickly and we got out in the market. We experimented a lot with our sound and to a point that now we know what the BLACKHOUR sound is.
The road since then till now has been amazing and things are moving in the right direction for Blackhour. In a way it was not too bad working with a label/distributor, after all we were one of the  few heavy metal bands to come out with an album, which is pretty amazing.

 

 

 

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– A key thing about Black Hour is the power of the vocals and how they compliment the music without taking over the reins completely. Clean vocals as well isn’t something you see often in local Pakistani Metal bands. What motivated you guys to give more emphasis to more traditional metal/rock elements rather than the extreme edge of things?
I personally am a song person, so I kinda listen a lot to what the singer has to say and I find it easier to understand when he isn’t screaming all the time. Hahaha
If you think about it in a way, clean vocals mixed with those metal/rock elements is the Blackhour sound.

 

 

 

– You guys tread a fine line between hard rock and heavy metal, is the future stuff gonna be more rock-ish or more metal?
The future sound will definitely by more heavy metal but we still want to experiment with some rock side of music also. What may be heavy for someone else might be soft rock for the other. Even if our songs do get translated into other genre’s, they will still remain true to the Blackhour sound.
 
– Black Hour is playing at Hellfest. What do you feel about the festival and its organizers, considering you’ve played at it before too? Are you playing any new tracks this time around?
The organizers are awesome people and mostly they are all very good friends. They know how to pull off a great show, they have been doing an amazing job since the last two festivals and the third one is going to be kickass!
Blackhour will definitely be playing new tracks again and I think we always end up playing a few new tracks with some old classics because I believe it keeps things fresh, see you don’t want to be a cabaret band or a circus band playing the same old tracks again and again. But yeah do not mistake the band for an MP3 player, there’s only so little we can memorize at one time. Hahaha

 

 

 

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– How does Hellfest help the local Pakistani scene?
It’s the biggest metal festival of Pakistan. My message to all the young upcoming metal bands, If you’re a metal act then come down to Hellfest and be a part of the biggest metal concert of Pakistan. Because Hellfest gives u the opportunity and the stage you deserve \m/

 

 
– What Pakistani bands would you recommend to a foreign reader?
All good metal bands that are active in making new music, playing live and whatnot.
Well, to sound selfish I’d say people should check out Blackhour, just kidding … but really if people are to explore Pakistani metal bands, I can’t start naming all the bands because the list would go on and on. But still to any foreign reader they should check out the data base at Iron Markhor because every metal band has their unique taste to offer and they all are the reason why Pakistan’s metal scene is what it is today!

 

 

 

– 3 albums that changed your approach to music?
For me it’s, “Dance of Death” by Iron Maiden. For Tayyab its, “The sound of perserverance” by Death, for Salman its “Volume 3” by Slipknot and for Mashoo it is “Reload” and “Black” by Metallica.

 

 

 

– Thanks so much for your time. Hope to see you at Hellfest!
Thank you so much for interviewing Blackhour and see you at Hellfest 2014!

 

 

 

 

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Blackhour Facebook

Blackhour Soundcloud

Albatross – The Kissing Flies (2012)

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Let me get one thing straight. I’m one of those people who “grew out” (for lack of a better word) out of Traditional Heavy Metal years ago. My teenage years began with an explosion of Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Saxon and Judas Priest – but as time dragged its heavy boots over my sun-scorched back, I found myself reveling in the dark atmospheres and chaotic music of death metal, sludge/doom, grindcore, powerviolence and hardcore/crust punk. It you asked me what I’d rather listen to – Scorpions ‘ In Trance, or a new tape demo from an obscure blackened crust band – I’d take the latter within a fraction of a heartbeat. However, once in a blue moon a band playing pure unadulterated heavy metal comes up and smacks me in the face out of nowhere. That band renders me incapable of thought. I find my hands forming the horns and my mind dizzily goes back into the days of my youth, when singing along to Queensryche was the order of the day. I can proudly say that I’ve had that done to me recently by a band from – out of all possible locations – Mumbai, India. Ladies and gentlemen, that band is Albatross.

The release I’m reviewing from this band is their split with U.S. Heavy/Doom Metal band Vestal Claret. However I’ll solely be focusing on Albatross’s side of the split, which is entitled “The Kissing Flies” and comprises of 3 tracks including an intro entitled “Wither.” Straight from the get-go, Albatross get down to business with a dizzying array of riffs, ranging from the thrashy to the melodic, doomy to the rock-ish. Guitar leads pop out of nowhere to keep the song-structure intricate and interesting, bringing to mind the early work of US Heavy/Power Metal masters Jag Panzer as well as Danish legends Mercyful Fate. Speaking of which, vocalist Biprorshee is a surprise package on his own – I have honestly never heard any South Asian vocalist with the kind of style and charisma that he brings to the table. He wails, he croons, he sings, shrieks, all of that in a manner in which will make the make the biggest King Diamond fan curl his face up into a smug, satisfied smile. Indeed, with the lively – if a tad bit underplayed on the production end – drum performance keeping the percussive force of the music pounding and grooving, it seems throughout the course of the material that it would take an avalanche of drastic proportions to stop what Albatross has set out to do.

 

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With just three minutes into the first proper song “Uncle Sunny at the Tavern” it becomes apparent that chief songwriter Riju and the crew have spent hours in the dungeons of true metal, honing their craft and sharpening their blades. By the time you get to the end of the title track, you realize that Albatross have not just conjured up their metal icons, but rather aimed to ascend even them. The daring, adventurous songwriting, supplemented by the genuinely poetic lyrics and enigmatic vocal style, takes you through more twists and turns than a roller-coaster ride through Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. I chuckled a bit at the “Horror Metal” tag when I first came across this band, but they truly do deliver in the story-telling. The title track is a masterpiece of composition in itself but you’d be a fool to take the CD out before the final track “From Ashes to Life” which truly has the most infectious and memorable riffs in this collection of songs – and that’s saying something, considering the preceding material. Massive, gigantic riffs thrusting themselves upon you like a tidal wave, leaving you drenched in the power of the music.

Albatross are a well-rounded, well-honed machine and armed with a slightly better production job they could easily become one of the better Heavy Metal bands out there today. Not that there’s anything immediately wrong with the production here – the guitars have a nice tasty crunch to them, and the clean vocals are mixed nicely into the heavy pounding of the music – but as a wary listener-turned-rabid fan, I just feel that the possibilities for them are endless. There is a lurking feeling in my ears, that despite this 25 minute offering of pure unadulterated, testosterone fueled metal, there is much more to come from Riju’s crew. Don’t believe the hype of them being a flat King Diamond worshiping band. There is much more to them than what you could possibly expect.

 

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Read my interview with Albatross.

Albatross on Facebook.

Listen to The Kissing Flies.

Transcending Obscurity

– Hassan Dozakhi