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ARJUN S. RAVI
OUT OF TUNE

Arjun S Ravi is the editor of Indiecision (http://nh7.in/indiecision). He believes in brutal honesty, and thinks your band sucks.

The year of Death Metal — or do we call this Nerd Rock?

Megadeth

ngineering college computer servers have been crucial to the propagation of heavy metal in India. These servers, often packed with a host of the latest BR rips (DVD is so 2009) of popular films, TV shows, and assorted other "content", also store gigabytes and gigabytes of music. Everything from Pink Floyd to Opeth (Swedish death metallers, once described by Village Voice as the "Sigur Ros of Scandinavian death metal") is at the disposal of impressionable five point someones (though I doubt Chetan Bhagat is into metal) looking to discover music beyond Bollywood, courtesy wireless LAN. And here is where the love affair with metal begins. Perhaps it's that the aggression and energy of the genre resonates with bored collegians particularly well. Whatever the cause, it's now giving legs to a definite musical movement.

Take IIT Bombay for example. The college started inviting international artists to headline Livewire, its battle-of-the-bands competition, in 2008. Livewire has been alternating obscure metal and prog rock acts in the last four years – Finnish "viking metal" act Ensiferum headlined the festival in 2008, followed British prog rockers Porcupine Tree in 2009, Swedish metallers Katatonia in 2010 and Aussie quintet Karnivool (shameless plug: they will also headline the Pune edition of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender this November) in 2011. IIT Madras' taste in heavy metal is even more obscure, with a particular affection for Swedish acts. In 2009, Opeth headlined the rock performance night at Saarang, the college's annual cultural festival. In 2010, power metal act Hammerfall closed the show, prog metallers Pain Of Salvation topped the bill in 2011, and extreme metal act Vildhjarta wrapped up proceedings at the 2012 edition of the festival in January this year. While metal sees nowhere near the amount of commercial and media interest as, say electronica or folk fusion, it does command the most loyal fanbase. It is perhaps for this reason that India has, over the last few years, become an increasingly frequent stop for some huge international metal acts, and will, in this upcoming gig season, see some phenomenal metal talent hit Indian shores.

t was Iron Maiden who really opened doors with their gig at Palace Grounds, Bangalore in March 2007 (#youremember Steve Harris' daughter Lauren Harris' facepalm-y opening set?). After that, the country has seen performances from big-ticket artists like Metallica, Lamb Of God, Machine Head, and recently, Korn, to little-known acts like German Celtic folk metal band Suidakra and Israeli doom metallers Orphaned Land. This season two other Big Four acts will hit Indian shores. Megadeth return to headline the Delhi edition of the NH7 Weekender in October, and just a weekend later, Slayer will play their (long overdue) first ever show in the country, headlining the Rock 'N India festival on October 20 in Bangalore. Critically acclaimed French quartet Gojira are also slated to hit Indian shores this December. This is pretty much the best time to be a metal fan in India.

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Metal is well ahead of several alternative genres in the country when it comes to not only the influx of international artists, but also the connections Indian promoters and fans are making with artists abroad

Metal is well ahead of several alternative genres in the country when it comes to not only the influx of international artists, but also the connections Indian promoters and fans are making with artists abroad. New Delhi's Skyharbor is case in point. The project of Keshav Dhar (incidentally an engineering graduate himself), Skyharbor started as a bedroom studio project. Dhar would upload his demos to sites like Soundcloud and some careful seeding in the right communities led to praise from the likes of ex-Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman. The attention resulted in a record deal with UK metal label Basick Records. Ex-Tesseract vocalist Daniel Tompkins contributed vocals to Skyharbor's debut album, and even joined the band for a recent performance opening for Lamb of God.

While metal remains a blind spot for corporate sponsors and mainstream media, it continues to compel thousands of black t-shirt wearing kids across the country to up the irons for their metal heroes from home and abroad. And this could just be its biggest season yet.

 

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