Sunday, February 19, 2012
The Devil's Orchard (HERITAGE)
I Feel the Dark (HERITAGE)
Face of Melinda (STILL LIFE)
Credence (MY ARMS, YOUR HEARSE)
To Rid the Disease (DAMNATION)
Heir Apparent (WATERSHED)
The Baying Of The Hounds (GHOST REVERIES)
The Drapery Falls (BLACKWATER PARK)
METALLICA’s tour of India last year was supposed to be the high-point of heavy metal in India. And looking back at the event, well it probably was – 3 days of drama and emotional atyachar… cancellation of the 1st leg @ Delhi… cancellation rumors spreading like wild-fire about the Bangalore gig… Rock In India, Bangalore finally getting the green signal… the biggest turnout ever for any metal event organized in this country with people pouring in from all over the country (and even abroad) into Bangalore… a massive ocean of black-tee shirts enveloping the Palace Grounds… the non-stop rain... The Gods of Metal finally playing their 1st ever gig on Indian soil… a kick-ass and unforgettable performance… after-show head-aches with people losing their bags and getting electrocuted by live wires while leaving the event premises… the non-stop traffic snarls and confusion all round.
In one word Metallica was total CHAOS. The gig was fun but everything else associated with it was NOT. ROCK IN INDIA 2011 was easily the worst organized rock festival in Indian history.
3 months gone, and I find myself back in Bangalore, with my bag of mixed memories, to attend SUMMER STORM II – which, funnily enough, is being held during the fag end of the winter months! But then again, February in Bangalore isn’t particularly winterish, and the day-time temperatures certainly do feel like summer!
The weather isn’t the only difference I notice this time in Bangalore. Back in October, every 3rd person on the street was sporting a METALLICA tee. Yes obviously SUMMER STORM II headliners OPETH aren’t as popular or as mainstream as METALLICA, but they are definitely one of the best metal bands around, and certainly one of the top-draws from Scandinavia. The usual haunts @ MG Road, Brigade Road and Korumangala seemed practically deserted in comparison to that October week-end – Bangalore was the picture of a peaceful week-end with a typical week-end crowd hustling and bustling along, and not a single sign could I see that gave me even a hint that Bangalore was about to play host to yet another top-notch metal event. It was quite an unnerving feeling, and I had to pinch myself a couple of times to remind that I wasn’t locked up in a Phantom Zone… OPETH would indeed be up on the SUMMER STORM II stage in a couple of hours.
And so on to the venue. And again I delve into another round of comparisons, since I was constantly reminded of my experiences back in October… and unlike in October our band of merry men from Kolkata had no problem finding a parking space for our hired cab. No mad rush of people @ Palace Grounds… no ocean of black tees, just a sea – and a calm tranquil sea at that. No pushing-and-shoving at the ticket counter while collecting my pre-paid passes (the guy at the counter was quite polite actually!). And finally, no gigantic snake of a queue at the entry gates.
Yes yes, SUMMER STORM II is NOT an event on the scale of ROCK IN INDIA 2011, I know that. But my point is that the non-chaos and non-confusion at the venue was such a welcome change, it almost felt like I was attending a picnic! It took me totally by surprise. OVERTURE INDIA, the organizers of SUMMER STORM, you guys deserve a prize – attending metal gigs this well organized makes it worth spending all that dough flying down from Kolkata and parking myself in Bangalore on such regular basis!
In keeping with the smoothness of things @ SUMMER STORM II actually started ON TIME at approximately 4 PM – another huge welcome change. The 1st band up on stage was local thrash metal outfit THEORIZED. This was my 1st time seeing them live, and they did not disappoint. The band played a couple of songs from their debut EP “FALSE HOPE OF TYRANNY” – “DARK INCARNATION” and “RAISE THE DEAD”, as well as a bunch of new originals. THEORIZED was impressive indeed, a good selection for an opening act.
Another Bangalore band, progressive metal act ECCENTRIC PENDULUM was up next. One of my favorite Indian metal bands in the current national circuit, ECCENTRIC PENDULUM lost no time in chugging out numbers from their critically acclaimed debut album “WINDING THE OPTICS”. Although they seemed to be playing sans a guitarist, the band was in full form and wowed the crowd with their thrashy riffs accentuated by catchy progressions and melodies. The crowd loved them, and it was good fun seeing them live again after more than a year.
So with the Indian band slots done and dusted, SUMMER STORM II (unlike in the previous LAMB OF GOD version) had something new for the crowd – 2 international acts on their “opening band” roster, the 1st one being NOTHNEGAL from the sunny island nation of Maldives.
WHAT??? Maldives??? A metal band from the Maldives???
Yes I kid you not. And that too, a band with a very impressive line-up that included keyboardist MARKO SNECK (current member of KALMAH) and drummer KEVIN TALLEY (ex-DYING FETUS, ex-CHIMAIRA and current drummer for SIX FEET UNDER and DAATH).
Yes I kid you not. And that too, a band with a very impressive line-up that included keyboardist MARKO SNECK (current member of KALMAH) and drummer KEVIN TALLEY (ex-DYING FETUS, ex-CHIMAIRA and current drummer for SIX FEET UNDER and DAATH).
NOTHNEGAL’s performance was interesting. Not ever having heard of the band before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. They played a decent set-list of originals which I am assuming were from their album “DECADENCE”. Their melodic death sound did have quite a few admirers in the crowd, but for the most part this was when we could see people checking out merchandise at the stalls and filling their tummies with refreshments.
To be fair, NOTHNEGAL weren’t bad at all. And I particularly enjoyed the synth sections in their originals. And definitely if I had to choose between a BIFFY CLYRO and a NOTHNEGAL, I would choose the latter any day!
The 2nd international “opening” act was Germany’s celtic metal band SUIDAKRA. And they had the Bangalore crowd’s full attention the very minute they opened proceedings with a bagpipe solo. SUIDAKRA gave a gem of a performance and captivated the audience with their highly infectious, energetic and upbeat folk and celtic metal originals covering most of their albums, including “WARTUNES”, “DOWTH2059” and “The IXTH LEGION”.
And so to main attraction for the evening.
Slightly past 8 PM, MIKAEL ÅKERFELDT and co. stormed the stages of SUMMER STORM II and started proceedings with 2 tracks back-to-back from their latest album ”HERITAGE” – “THE DEVIL'S ORCHARD” and “I FEEL THE DARK”. And so began another metal journey at the Palace Grounds.
The biggest fear of the crowd was that OPETH would play a set-list comprising totally of songs from “HERITAGE”. But to the delight of everyone present, MIKAEL promised that they would be covering songs from their previous offerings as well – and with this promise they jumped into the mesmerizing intro of “FACE OF MELINDA” from the album “STILL LIFE”. This was followed by the brilliant “CREDENCE” from the “MY ARMS, YOUR HEARSE” album. “TO RID THE DISEASE” from the album “DAMNATION” was the next song on offer, and the haunting melodic mood created by their newest member, keyboardist JOAKIM SVALBERG totally bowled over the crowd.
We were having the time of their life for sure, and so too was OPETH. And if the music was not enough, MIKAEL had the crowd in splits with his stand-up comedian avatar – constantly rollicking bassist MARTIN MENDEZ about one thing or the other. And in-between songs whenever he noticed a lack of energy amongst the crowd, he would encourage them to shout “F**k You, Mikael!” back at him. Entertainment to the core!
The songs were coming in thick and fast now – another 2 songs from “HERITAGE” – “SLITHER” and “FOLKLORE” were dished out to the crowd. But once done, MIKAEL promptly announced that the 2nd half of their set-list would consist of their heavier tunes from their death metal days. The crowd’s huge roar of approval was enough for them to launch into “HEIR APPARENT” from “WATERSHED”. For those restless kids up front, their prayers were finally answered and it was time for them to go into a moshing frenzy.
The next song played was “THE BAYING OF THE HOUNDS” from their ever-popular album “GHOST REVERIES”, and the head-banging was well and truly on!
The one OPETH album that gets me going the most is “BLACKWATER PARK” – and I was well and truly in 7th heaven when the next song performed by the band was from this very album – “THE DRAPERY FALLS”. And it looked like my feelings were shared by most of the crowd, seeing as The Palace Grounds erupted into a huge sing-along during the performance of this song – this was definitely one of the high-point of the entire concert.
All good things must come to an end – and so with the encore “DELIVERANCE” (from the album of the same name) OPETH brought the curtains down on a most wonderful performance. The song was indeed a fitting finale to a set-list that did not disappoint the OPETH faithful who were extremely delighted that the band covered songs from almost all their albums. And so with the outro of “DELIVERANCE” fading in the background, SUMMER STORM II came to an end. It was an event that lived up to most everyone’s expectations – and there were very few grousers who left the venue that evening.
On a personal note, seeing OPETH live allowed me to tick another item from my bucket-list. If international bands of such caliber continue to keep on visiting our country with such frequency, then I should be done with my bucket-list pretty soon me thinks!
From an event management point of view the organizers were spot-on, and apart from a few sound glitches, SUMMER STORM II, for me, was easily one of the most enjoyable concert-going experiences I have had these past few years. Which leaves me to end this review in a most clichéd manner: “Here’s looking forward to SUMMER STORM III!” – clichéd or not, if OVERTURE INDIA continues to organize similar such metal events then DNA and ROCK IN INDIA would be a thing of the past. Something I wouldn’t mind at all.
Idols and Anchors
Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em
Dead Man’s Chest
Gimme A D
The Sirens’ Song
Home Is For The Heartless
Romance Is Dead
The D.I.Y. event is king in the current rock/metal music circuit in Kolkata.
In a city where most live-music venues scream “Wolf” at the mere sight of an enthusiastic crowd of head-bangers – and where event management groups and big name sponsors will have NOTHING to do with the local metal scene, most young musicians and music lovers in Kolkata have been forced to take things into their own hands.
The recent success of THE PIT (a “DO IT YOURSELF” group of local metal musicians/aficionados who have successfully managed to provide a platform for Kolkata metal in these past few years), has inspired many of the younger breed to stand up and to do their own thing. And so Kolkata in 2011 has seen a huge wave of similar such D.I.Y. groups cropping up in and around the city trying to emulate the success of THE PIT. On a positive note, 2011 has probably been the busiest year ever for the young-upcoming/underground band, who in the past would have seldom had the opportunity to perform in front of an appreciative/musically like-minded crowd.
And there is of course the negative side to all this – where a sense of over-kill has slowly started to set in. And with the action coming in fast and furious, these D.I.Y. groups are trying to pull off every trick in the book to pip each other's event. The average D.I.Y. event in the city is becoming more mega and more ambitious, but the lack of event management know-how and experience is leading to most of them turning into a damp squib. And of course, without the required financial backing which all these groups lack quite a few of their dream events have remained just that – DREAMS
Amongst all this hotch-potch however the efforts of DOWN HAUS are extremely note-worthy. After successfully organizing DOWN HAUS I, a small-scale metal event in the suburbs of north Kolkata, team DOWN HAUS decided to take the next version of this event NOT just to the next level – but 5 levels ABOVE the next level. And so was planted the seeds for “DOWN HAUS II - HAUS VON EXTREMISTEN” – an event which would be headlined by none other than PARKWAY DRIVE – yes those metal-core giants from Down Under. The declared supporting acts were just as impressive, enough to blow the brains out of any metal-head in the country: BHAYANAK MAUT, SCRIBE, ZYGNEMA and Kolkata’s very own CHRONIC XORN.
And this is where I take a philosophical look at how things started to unfold in the City Of Joy after this “little” announcement…
I have never been much of a believer in Karma and in the “Supreme Being” concept, where someone is remote-controlling your life, trying to make you go left when your intention is to turn right – or forcing you to eat a bowl of salad when a bucket of KFC is lying on the dining table before your very eyes. And yet a string of events that transpired during the 3 weeks of DOWN HAUS chaos have shaken my beliefs to the very core.
“DOWN HAUS II - HAUS VON EXTREMISTEN” was an event that NEVER EVER should have happened. Any sane logical person familiar with the current metal scene in Kolkata would have told you so. (Note my emphasis on sane and logical). And yet, somehow, shit happened. Somewhere something clicked, and things fell into unison. And we NON-Karma believers were forced to eat humble-pie that fateful day.
DOWN HAUS’s declaration completely knocked the wind out of everyone across the nation. A huge wave of disbelief swept across the metal-community of the country. The skeptics and non-believers were in a majority even within the City Of Joy. And who could blame them? An announcement of this degree being made just 3 weeks before the actual event… who wouldn’t think it was a hoax?
And as expected, despite all the hype and hoo-ha that went on for an entire week, Kolkata’s most ambitious metal event over-night turned into just that – a big-metal hoax. With just 2 weeks to go all the so-called sponsors for this macho mega event seemingly backed out – something that is a common occurrence in this city. The State Government may have changed hands after so many dog years, but the mind of the money-man has not. And no supreme being could make him do otherwise.
So with no “PLAN B” in place, DOWN HAUS II could go in only one direction – DOWN.
Or so it seemed.
And so Kolkata’s most ambitious metal event over-night turned into a big-metal hoax. All of us “sane” and “logical” people went back to our “sane” and “logical” lives with that “all-knowing” gleam in our eyes. “We Told You So” was our staple comment for the next 5 days. And we all lived happily ever after.
Or so you’d think.
It is said that an animal is most dangerous when it is injured and cornered. And this was the case with DOWN HAUS.
A dejected, frustrated DOWN HAUS had no intention of being the laughing stock of the Kolkata metal circuit. With no sponsors in tow – and I mean NO sponsors – the core committee of DOWN HAUS took, what in my opinion was, the most stupid and easily the gutsiest decision ever taken in the Kolkata music community.
And this was: to go ahead with DOWN HAUS II (to hell with those lousy sponsors) and still bring PARKWAY DRIVE to our shores!
PARKWAY DRIVE had already confirmed their flight tickets and had completed all their VISA formalities, so DOWN HAUS was well and truly on the point of no return and they could not back down!
Now let’s sit back and contemplate for a minute – anyone who has organized even a small-scale event knows the hassles one encounters to get things done right. Venue, sound, lights, printing banners/flyers/tickets, event promotion, guest band transportation/hospitality, etc. etc. etc. In fact all of this can be summed up in 1 word. Money. You need money, whatever the scale of the event might be, to ensure that your event is arranged perfectly. Without money your event is a dud.
Money was something that DOWN HAUS had none of. But with just 2 weeks away before the biggest metal event this side of the Bay Of Bengal, DOWN HAUS could not turn back.
In a nutshell (and to make things a lot less tedious for the reader) DOWN HAUS somehow did manage to get the money required (or at least the bulk of it) to arrange the event in question. And it was a miracle that they managed to do so.
DOWN HAUS II being totally self-sponsored, a huge proportion of the funds had to be borrowed from family members, friends, girl-friends and well-wishers – also, dough collected for years and carefully stashed away for the purpose of purchasing expensive cameras, musical equipments and various other items had to be dug out and put into the event fund. Dreams nourished for months, nay years, went up in smoke all for the purpose of organizing an event which was now just a week away. The many obstacles that needed to be overcome were somehow tackled at every step of the way. And that included the famous West Bengal bureaucratic red-tape, normally the proverbial spanner-in-the-works when things are needed to be done efficiently and quickly. But anyway, miracles do seem to happen – and with the organizers successfully overcoming a last minute heart-attack when the event very nearly got canned @ the 11th, DOWN HAUS II was ready to go DOWN UNDER.
The supporting band roster for the new DOWN HAUS II had been toned down considerably to give it a more local flavor – WHAT ESCAPES ME, CHRONIC XORN and YONSAMPLE were brought in as opening acts. A very wise decision, not only in terms of cost – but also because the metal bands of the city rarely get the opportunity to share the stage with renowned bands (international OR national). So it would have been a crime to deprive them of this chance. All opening acts had been requested before-hand to play short set-lists – and needless to say, they all were co-operative.
There was an estimated 500+ turn-out for Kolkata’s biggest D.I.Y. international metal fest – an extremely poor response from the Kolkata metal circuit. A huge surprise too, considering that the exam season had just concluded and that the winter holidays had already commenced. It was however interesting to see that a small percentage of the crowd were actually non-Kolkatans… there was a splattering of metal-heads from Bhubaneshwar, Darjeeling, Pune, Delhi and even Bangalore! A pleasant surprise indeed.
Due to the long duration taken for the sound-setup, the event started an hour late @ 6 PM. The crowd had started swelling up in front of the venue, Nazrul Manch, since 12 noon. And this delay had made them all the more restless. So when the gates finally opened @ 5:00 PM, a huge swarm of black tees poured into the venue.
The opening act was WHAT ESCAPES ME and as the venue started to reverberate with the intro of their 1st song (a cover, the popular Killswitch Engage number “End Of Heartache”), the Kolkata crowd burst into a huge roar! DOWN HAUS II had begun – and the city metal-heads went into a head-banging frenzy during the entire WHAT ESCAPES ME set-list which also included originals like “Pseudo Showcase” and the ever popular “Section 66 Part 5”.
The next band up on stage was CHRONIC XORN and with a short bone-crunching set-list that included songs like “Bleeding”, “Necropolis” and the anthemic “Death.Destruction.Sermon” the audience lost no time in getting into the pit – the music was intense and so was the action during the moshing, with bodies flying around all over. The security had a tough time keeping everyone under control.
The final opening act was Kolkata giants YONSAMPLE – the band had made a conscious decision of remaining under-ground for the better part of 2011, so their rare forays in the live concert arena nowadays bring about a huge level expectation from the Kolkata crowd. And needless to say the band lived up to this expectation – the performance of songs like “Passage” and “Reincarnation” from their critically acclaimed EP “Paraphernalia” had the crowd eating out of their hands, quite literally. And the highlight of their set was when the entire arena lent their voice to their ever-popular original “Breaking Through”.
But where was PARKWAY DRIVE all this while?
Well the band had arrived in Kolkata at approximately around noon time, and their excitement at being in the city was totally evident from the expression on their faces. They lost no time in mingling with the few of us who were at the venue, once they had reached – and the number of photos and videos they snapped gave people the impression that they were more the excited tourist than metal band out here to play the final leg of their very successful SOUTH-EAST ASIAN tour. Some of the members even ran off to the play-ground nearby to involve themselves in an impromptu cricket match with a few very bemused locals! And during their sound-check (handled by the PARKWAY DRIVE’s road-crew), the band-members took off to Central Kolkata to get a 1st-hand experience of Kolkata’s traffic and crazy “market places”. The members were extremely friendly and down-to-earth, and this was evident from their total willingness to interact with hordes of crazy fans eager for photos, autographs and signed band tee-shirts. In fact the Kolkata response, meager though it was (compared to previous international events held across the nation), was something that blew them away… “We were expecting a crowd of 50, but this is just huge!” was what the band members kept on repeating to the organizers, already grinning like hyenas.
And so, with the lights dimmed all across and as the gentle strains of “SAMSARA” echoed across the venue, PARKWAY DRIVE stormed on stage – and delivered a performance of such high jaw-breaking intensity that Kolkata could only sit and stare back in a mouth-gaping stupor. Their set-list clocked slightly over an hour, and pre-dominantly featured songs from their latest album “DEEP BLUE” – “UNREST”, “SLEEPWALKER”, “HOME IS FOR THE HEARTLESS”, “KARMA” and my personal favorite “DELIVER ME”. Other numbers played were “THE SIRENS’ SONG”, ”IDOLS AND ANCHORS”, “BONEYARDS” and “DEAD MAN’s CHEST“ (from the album “HORIZONS”) and “SMOKE ‘EM IF YOU GOT ‘EM”, “GIMME A D” and “ROMANCE IS DEAD" (from their album “KILLING WITH A SMILE”).
The stage presence of the band was monster, and their energy levels were unbelievable. They were a joy to watch on stage.
The Kinetic Theory describes a large number of small particles all of which are in constant, random motion, constantly colliding with each other and with the walls of their container – and the principals of this theory totally reflected the band’s performance on stage. There was not a single minute where the band stood still, constantly running and jumping around the stage, both during and in-between songs. The head-banging across the venue was relentless and PARKWAY DRIVE even encouraged the crowd to come up on stage and join them in head-banging to their songs, causing much anxiety to the organizers and the designated security crew. But after a point it sort of became pointless. No amount of warnings or threats could deter the crowd from going bonkers. And PARKWAY DRIVE would have it no other way. From start ‘till finish the band kept the tempo of the entire gig constant and calls for slower songs like “CARRION” were brushed aside by the vocalist Winston McCall… “Oh no that’s a slow song, we don’t wanna slow the tempo, let’s play something faster!”
And so they did. And with each song PWD’s energy levels seemed to soar even higher. The band members did this curious mix of head-banging and dancing on stage, which was a delight to watch (if you weren’t too busy head-banging away to kingdom come or diving head-first into the PIT, that is). It was neither brutal or “metchul” – but just a beautiful expression of how much the band loved their music and how much it meant to them to be performing on Indian shores. They loved it when the crowd sang back the chorus bits for “KARMA”, “SLEEPWALKER” and “HOME IS FOR THE HEARTLESS” and so finally when it came for encore time, the band did the unthinkable – and something which I have never-ever witnessed in all my years of international gig attending… just before the encore “CARRION” was performed, PARKWAY DRIVE called upon the entire Kolkata crowd to come up on stage and sing the song along with them! And without a moment’s hesitation, approximately 200 odd people crammed up on stage with the band – leaving the remaining couple of 100s on the periphery of the stage, staring in utter bemusement at this crazy turn of events! The next 3-1/2 minutes were like a dream, leaving me completely dumb-struck as to how the band managed to perform amidst the constant pushing, shoving and head-banging going on stage. Not an inch of space available to move, but the musicians performed with aplomb – and the crowning glory of this encore performance was when the crowd picked up guitarist Luke Kilpatrick and made him crowd-surf the entire breadth of the stage, with him picking his guitar all the while.
And so ended PARKWAY DRIVE’s last gig on their SOUTH-EAST ASIA tour 2011 – bringing down the curtains, as well, for DOWN HAUS II. An event which should never have taken place and certainly an event model which no organizer should try to duplicate in the future.
Whether DOWN HAUS II has managed to create a niche for itself in the national circuit and whether DOWN HAUS, as a whole, has managed to bring to focus the Kolkata metal circuit to the rest of the nation is highly debatable. It also brings into question the misguided directionless enthusiasm of the average Kolkata D.I.Y. group, where organizing music events seem to be LESS about promoting the local music scene and MORE about trying to win brownie points on the “visions of grandeur” department. Definitely this event has left far more questions unanswered than answered – but this is a topic best left for another time.
Whatever be the case, there is no denying the fact that for the average Kolkata metal-head in attendance that fateful evening, watching PARKWAY DRIVE perform in their city was akin to being a part of the metal festivities @ say, a Palace Grounds. For that one evening, this was their Summer Storm, their Deccan Rock. And for that one evening, Kolkata had attained metal Nirvana.