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Festival Report: Bangalore Open Air 2017

Despite the usual jinx on the lineup, the sixth edition of the annual metal festival has developed its own following

Anurag Tagat Jul 11, 2017
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Nile's Karl Sanders, George Kollias and Brad Parris (from left) at Bangalore Open Air 2017.

Nile’s Karl Sanders, George Kollias and Brad Parris (from left) at Bangalore Open Air 2017.

If you made a list of all the bands that have dropped off Bangalore Open Air’s lineup billings over the years – for whatever reason – it’d look like a pretty awesome gig in itself. After all, ever since its inception in 2012, there’s been one or another artist dropping off, for whatever reason.

So maybe you’d want to see Soilwork, Plague Throat, Sodom, Severe Dementia and (now) Marduk for the next Bangalore Open Air? The fans may have stormed Facebook posts from Bangalore Open Air and Marduk (whom the festival says have been unprofessional in the run-up to confirm their India debut) as well, but with plenty of reluctance, people return to the festival, acknowledging founder Salman U. Syed’s show-must-go-on stance.

In the somewhat comfortable green patch at the Royal Orchid Resort and Convention Centre, there were plenty of stalls that covered the experience part of a music festival – from face-painting (people got corpsepaint on despite the black metallers’ absence) to winning merch and meet and greet sessions. And of course, the usual grumbles of waiting in line to get coupons to buy food and beverage.

What seemed like a fairly small ground was filling up just when city heavy metallers Speedtrip were belting out solid, snarling material from their just-released album Trapped in a Maze. Up next was a total change of pace, though, with Californian death metallers Galaxy Crusher jumping into a sort of strange mash of tech-death, brutal death and groove metal that was far from catatonic, but still a little too brutal for 5 in the evening.

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Bengaluru’s old school metallers Kryptos took the stage gloriously, though, without a hitch, sounding their massive best, probably an indicator of just how they’re planning to go about their Europe tour this month. They didn’t exactly halve the BPM levels from Galaxy Crusher, but it was a change of pace thanks to tracks like “Blackstar Horizon,” “Nexus Legion” and “One Shot to Kill.”

As the sun set, Swiss thrash metallers Coroner – now a co-headliner thanks to one less band on the lineup – wasted no time in giving fans what they wanted – the hits that made them one of thrash’s most unique pain-bringers. Twisted riffs, chilling voice samples and synth parts, and boulder-heavy drumming, Coroner’s set included everything from “Serpent Moves” to “Semtex Revolution” to “Masked Jackal” and their signature songs “Reborn Through Hate” and “Die By My Hand.” Bassist-vocalist Ron Broder told the crowd early enough into their set, “Up until yesterday I didn’t know about an Indian heavy metal scene – now there’s evidence.”

Following Coroner’s firecracker intensity were American death metal band Nile, who came on to the sounds of “Ushabti Reanimator,” which was just a bit after 9 PM. If people were expecting a longer set, they were probably disappointed, but Nile made the most of their time, running through “Sacrifice Unto Sebek,” “Kafir!” “Call to Destruction” (which bassist-vocalist Brad Parris jokingly introduced as “Ravioli Ravioli Destructioli”) and a rare inclusion of “Unas Slayer of the Gods,” which vocalist-guitarist and founder Karl Sanders hyped.

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It was a bit odd seeing Sanders, a veteran of the death metal scene, at it for about 25 years, plug sponsors like Zippo and Casio, but he kept it real. “What you have is More precious than any watch. You can tell your kids and grandkids just how metal you were because you saw Nile play ‘Unas Slayer of the Gods.” Their whole set was just amplified by the fact that at least a quarter of the crowd had their eyes glued to drummer George Kollias, one of the fastest drummers in the world just having a usual day at the office.

Of course, the first thing people heard as soon as Nile’s outro track faded out was the whistle of a police constable. Even then, at Bangalore Open Air, metalheads raised their glasses, cajoled bartenders for one last round of beer. Picked up passed out friends (or complete strangers) off the ground and carried them to the entrance, to concerned looks and childish guffaws alike.

This is what metal needs and loves – a space where we can laugh at and with each other. This sort of gathering only comes once a year, so that’s one thing Bangalore Open Air has going for it regardless of any other shortcomings.

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