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

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Albatross Interview

Albatross is a Traditional Heavy Metal band from Mumbai, India and they play perhaps the finest old school 80s metal you will ever hear from the region, married with a love for literature and concept theme based songs. A heavily active band on the live circuit, they are inspired by all the great 80s metal acts – strains of Mercyful Fate, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Queensryche are all heard in their sound. They showcased their sound on their debut EP in 2010 and then put out a split with Doom band Vestal Claret that honed their skills further.  To put it simply – Albatross comes and kicks you in the face with their brilliant song compositions led by a blistering array of riffs and enigmatic vocal attack supplemented by an engaging rhythm section. They come off as a well rounded, well honed machine – and the lyrics are something to read over and over again too. One of those bands that just excites your senses. However, if their leader Dr. Hex’s words are to be paid attention to, there’s a lot more coming from his “Horror Metal” outfit. Read on for more.

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– Cheers from Pakistan! How’s everything?
Everything’s great Hassan. Thanks for those encouraging words on Facebook the other day. We’re quite happy, at least for the moment. We headline a college fest in Navi Mumbai, or New Bombay tomorrow called Rock Riot. It’s been a while since we’ve been on stage, so we’re really looking forward to kicking some butt. And soon after, we head to Australia in under 2 weeks time. We’ve been writing new material, and look forward to unleashing it upon the world at large.

 

– Albatross has been going on for 5 years now. How’s the journey been so far? How much has changed since those early days (other than the obvious rotating lineupo)? Notable highs and lows?
The journey’s been better than I expected, really. I remember thinking back in 2008 or so, that this band needs to go live, at least once. From there, to sharing the stage with bands like Wolf, and Kreator has really been a dream come true. The band has obviously become much more competent since the early days. I remember opening for Nervecell (Dubai) in Bangalore, at the Dinner is You launch, and hiding my face in shame, aghast at how bad we sounded. The band was drunk and all over the place. We sound significantly better now, and have grown as a unit. We perform well together, and more importantly, write well together. There are very few ego issues, and everyone comes up with songwriting ideas. We’re at our zenith, creatively, and the only bad news is, it can only go downhill from here haha.

Notable highs personally were 1. Sharing the stage with Kreator 2. Being joined on stage by Niklas from Wolf 3. Playing Nasik (a city on the outskirts of Mumbai)’s first metal fest 4. Being appreciated by bands such as Wolf, Hell, Al Atkins (first Judas Priest vocalist), Mark Shelton from Manilla Road, Denner + Timi from Mercyful Fate, etc.  5. Having Matt Thompson from King Diamond, my favourite band wear a ‘Dinner is You’ tee. Lows include 1. Having Burning Sea, Croatia cancelled days before we were setting out 2. Having a show in Ladakh cancelled because of political turmoil 3. Having a show in Shillong cancelled, while we were in the region because of alas…political turmoil 4. Having former members leave (it was saddening at the time) 5. Looking at the band’s bank account on a daily basis haha.

 

– You’re signed onto Transcending Obscurity now and from what I know, a full length album is slated for 2014. What other labels have you been on before and how does TO differ from them in their approach?
Dinner is You was released via Demonstealer Records, a label owned by Sahil Makhija, one of India’s metal’s best known figures; and Kissing Flies was released by Roadcrew Records, run by Madhav Ravindranath, one of the band’s best friends. Both Sahil and Madhav are very good friends, and were really competent at pushing the Albatross name to the best of their abilities. Kunal’s also been a friend for a really long time, and it’s great to see Transcending Obscurity make a foray into releasing bands across various subgenres of metal. What I like best about KC is that he doesn’t compromise on quality, even if he makes a smaller margin in the process. He’s going to be releasing our tshirt shortly, and if the sample print is anything to go by…it’s going to blow minds. KC’s always willing to listen to suggestions, which is another very admirable quality in a label owner. We’re sure our upcoming release will be our finest one yet.

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– In terms of songwriting there’s been a considerable leap from the material on the first EP to the stuff on the split with Vestal Claret. The newer material comes off as being more daring and intricate while maintaining the zest and flair – in fact building upon it. With that in mind – how do you see the band’s sound evolving on the next release?
We were just finding our footing in Dinner is You. We went all out in Kissing Flies. ‘Fear From the Skies’ will be a marriage of both worlds, it’s daring but more restrained at the same time. It’s eccentric, and far more listenable at the same time. It’s probably the most heavy metal album we’ve done, but it is anything but a heavy metal album. Just when you think you have the sound figured out, there’s going to be a surprise, and voila…you were mistaken, and it’s anything but how you thought the song would sound. Hope this is useful info, Hassan haha…

 

– You were on the Motorhead India compilation with a cover of “God Was Never On That Side” which showed off the sublime vocal talents of Biporshee. Any chance of more covers in the future, at the live front at least?
Definitely. We have already performed Holy Diver (Dio, check youtube for link) and Nightcrawler (Judas Priest, on http://www.soundcloud.com/albatrosshorror), We had this intra band activity recently, where we each had to pick one cover to perform, and Nishith picked Tornado of Souls by Megadeth. We were recently thinking of putting our own spin on a Metallica song as well. But the priority as of now, is to write as much new music as we can.

 

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– The band appears to be well-read; and it shows in the lyrics and themes that accompany the haunting music. What are some of your favorite authors?
Haha, I think I’m the only regular reader in the band. My favourite writers are China Mieville, Jeff Vandermeer, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Peter Straub, Patrick Rothfuss, Peter V. Brett, M John Harrison, HP Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe. Ray Bradbury, Trudi Canavan, etc. Of course, I think King Diamond is the best writer alive, but obviously he doesn’t write books…

 

– Traditional Heavy Metal is well-loved by almost every metalhead. How come there aren’t many bands of that style present in India right now?
I think clean vocals have gone out of vogue. When we started out, we were often asked why we don’t have growling in our music. I mean, no offense to growlers (I love growls/distorted vocals), but from the invention of music to around 1980 there was no growling in music. Bhoomi is a great band with clean style vocals, and you must also check out Hellwind and Blood and Iron. But to answer your question, I think musicians/music lovers overthinking about (the bogus concept of) evolution in music; somehow consider this style being synonymous with ‘being stuck in the 80s’. But fuck that, everything was better in the old school.

 

– Albatross has done 2 nation-wide tours. Which begs this important question: which city has the best food?? And of course, the best metal fans in India?
Bangalore for food. No questions asked. We look forward to breakfast as much as we look forward to playing Bangalore shows, whenever we are booked there. I guess in terms of responsiveness, nothing beats the show we played at Nasik. This was a crowd which had been dying for a metal gig, and hence they showed up in droves to support us. But all the festivals we’ve played have been in Bangalore, and hence, I’m quite partial to the city haha.

 

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– You’re touring Australia starting from the 16th of this month. How’d that come about, and what are you expecting from the land down under? Who are the bands you’re playing with?
My friend Andy, bassist of Lord and head of Dominus Entertainment, booked us for 3 shows down under earlier this year.We’re very excited to be taking Albatross to another country. The lineups are as follows:

Friday, 25th October, Melbourne: https://www.facebook.com/events/527260727346243/?fref=ts
Saturday, 26th October, Sydney: https://www.facebook.com/events/187787378044205/?fref=ts
Sunday, 27th October, Wollongong: https://www.facebook.com/events/626711910684222/?fref=ts

 

– You’ve been around for 5 years and the Indian scene has grown a lot in that time. What are 5 Indian Metal bands that you would recommend to the reader?
These are my 5 favourite Indian bands

1. Bevar Sea (Bangalore)
2. Kryptos (Bangalore)
3. Djinn and Miskatonic (Bangalore)
4. Dying Embrace (Bangalore)
5. Gaia’s Throne (Pune)

But readers should totally check out all the band’s on Kunal’s label. Each of them kicks butt.

 

– Thank you for answering these questions. I hope one day when the security situation in Pakistan is resolved and our two countries’ ties improved, we can have Albatross play here.
That’s a no brainer. It’s practically the same country, divided by two silly concepts called politics and religion. I really hope Albatross can tour Pakistan, at least one during my lifetime; as I don’t think metalheads care too much for either concept. I’ve attended metal gigs outside India, and metal lovers are the same everywhere in the world. Let’s hope we share the stage someday.

 

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Albatross

Transcending Obscurity

– Hassan Dozakhi