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Um, Om? WHAT Hindu Heavy Metal Music Scene?

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Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor

India isn’t exactly a hotbed of heavy metal.  The airwaves over there are packed with film-style dance numbers derived from Bollywood, bhangra, and various poppy Western influences.  There’s a millennia-long tradition of music in India, but it’s usually been slim pickings for those of us lifelong heavy metal fans.  On the occasions where rock music is even to be found anywhere in India, it’s almost always soft in nature.  To be fair, most Indians have never properly heard heavy metal.  However, I’ve thought for some years now that this could all change- that India is even becoming ripe for a heavy metal revolution!

It’s only appropriate.  India is hardcore, man.  India is a sensation seeker’s dream, with a vibrant and colorful spiritual culture, an exceedingly wide range of flavor profiles and smells, rollicking cities overflowing into breathtaking landscapes, ancient and modern architecture on top of each other, oppressive political ferment, and the crush of people and traffic in every direction.  It’s hotter than hell in most of India most of the time.  India is an assault on your senses.  What can possibly be more METAL than that?

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Meanwhile, Hinduism probably lends itself better to the all-out thrash power of metal than it’s generally credited for.  The sitar, tablas, bhajans, mantras, and shlokas of Hinduism can entrance, hypnotize, and more at their best.  The mythology is filled with colorful characters, moral conundrums, epic battle scenes, powerful weapons, gruesome demons, sexual symbolism, and savage animalistic imagery such as many-armed Goddesses carrying the bleeding heads of vanquished foes as souvenirs, or the lion-headed avatar Narasimha ripping an enemy in half with his bare hands.  Imagine imagining this bloody milieu with raw metal guitar, bass, and drum power behind it.  Again I ask you, what could possibly be more METAL than that?

TDT 16-02-13 © ANOOP B VYAS PHOTOGRAPHY  (3).jpgFinally, we have the demographic bulge.  It’s no secret that metal is a young person’s game. India is a young country, with 845 million people under the age of 35, many of them jumping on the Internet or television for the first time to partake in Western influenced culture, including music.  The best American import is arriving in force.

And thus, an earnest, nascent Hindu/Vedic heavy metal scene has formed in India and abroad.  It took your correspondent a few forays down the Internet rabbit hole to discover it, but it’s definitely there.  There’s a long way to go for Hindu metal to fill more than a nook in the niche cranny.  Particularly missing in my view is enough melodic singing to match the guitar riffs.  The scene is far from mature but more than anything, I see potential and opportunity.  Below are some of the bands you can find along with example tracks for a pretty elaborate curated survey.  No matter what you think of the music, these bands are truly pioneers, merging the great traditions of Hinduism and hard rock.  If there are others I missed, please mention them in the comments below!

The Down Troddence.  These guys flat-out rock.  After I came across this song today, I couldn’t get enough of their music.  Not surprisingly, there’s many a Shiva themed song on our list, with this one simply titled, Shiva.  The Down Troddence is a six-piece that hails from Kerala.  I haven’t heard all of the songs by all of these bands yet but as of now I consider this the most technically competent band among the lot.

 

Motherjane.  A bit less heavy, and a bit more classical influence than the others on this list, Motherjane is an eminently listenable band with a melodic and well-orchestrated sound.  Chasing the Sun as a bonus also features an excellent video which could only be made in India.  They remind me a bit of the excellent Pakistani band Junoon.  I wish I had heard of Motherjane sooner.

 

Moksh the Band Fronted by a woman named Ishrat Rajan on vocals, and managed by lead guitarist/singer Ashish Wilson, this Shimla four-piece has been kicking around its incarnations since 2003.  In recent years the band decided to take on a ditty about Shiva the Destroyer himself with Shiv Tandav Stotram.  In keeping with the spirit of Hinduism, the video is meant to provoke awareness of those who lost their lives in natural disasters.

 

Rudra.  This foursome of bad boy Hindus hails from Singapore, and has been jamming out since 1992.  They are quite likely the first band to have earned the so-called Hindu metal mantle.  There are unmistakable hints of ancient India in the song Now Therefore including a conch call to start the proceedings.  I like more melody in my metal vocals, but this style should appeal to many of you metal heads out there and the instrumentals are solid.         

 

Millennium.  To be honest, Millennium was formed as an 80’s hair metal band with Christian members and no Hindu influence.  The song Only be One in fact uses overt Christian imagery such as crosses and coffins.  That being said, this band formed in Bangalore in 1986.  They are considered to be one of the first, if not the first, successful metal band from India.  Props!  Rock out!

 

Indus Creed.  While Indus Creed straddles the line between pop rock (not exactly my jam) and hard rock, they deserve mention as one of the indisputable giants in India’s rock music history.  Rock ‘N Roll Renegade was one of their early hits from their debut album of the same name in the 80’s, and helped launch them into the pantheon of India’s rock stratosphere.  In fact, Indus Creed helped pave the way for all of the other bands in this list.  Respect.

 

Cult of Fire.  Hinduism is for all, and this Czech Republic band proves that Hindu metal is a globalized phenomenon.  The song Kali Ma is mostly instrumental, but it shows the range of talent possessed by Cult of Fire.  The below video splices a bunch of Hindi Hindu film footage into the song.  Judge for yourself whether Kajol and Sridevi dressed like Goddesses with heavy metal in the background actually works…


Dying Out Flame.
  OK, first of all, this band looks absolutely hardcore.  Right?  They also rock righteously, they’re co-ed, plus they have cool album art (see top).  Formed in 2011, this band hails from the Hindu majority nation of Nepal, adding more to the international flavor of Hindu metal.  Shiva Rudrastakam pays tribute to Lord Shiva- in case you aren’t noticing a trend here?

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Demonic Resurrection.    This particular band was formed by four teenagers at the start of the new millennium.  The Mumbai band has kept on, and helped bring other metal bands into the fold through singer Sahil Makhija’s Deamonstealer Records.  Of particular interest in the song Matsya- The Fish and others is a seamless and welcome integration of sitar into the metal.

 

Dhwesha.  This band’s punishing style puts the death into death metal.  Another Bangalore band, Dhwesha actually sings in Kannada- though it’s nearly impossible to tell.  In their self-titled song from 2014, you can choose to witness the see-saw between uplift and despair.  It’s worth it.

 

This list of course cannot do justice to the entire music library each of these bands has, nor is it meant to be a complete listing of Hindu or Vedic heavy metal.  Hopefully you have been exposed to a world you didn’t know about, and enjoyed it as much as I have.

There’s a musical revolution under way, and you have gotten in on the ground floor.

 

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Picture credits:

  1. Dying Out Flame album art
  2. Demonic Resurrection album art
  3. Down Troddence concert by Anup B Vyas
  4. Dying Out Flame album art
  5. Om guitar pick, Zazzle.com
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