Gig Report: Bangalore Open Air 2016
The fifth edition of the metal festival was memorable, despite unsurprising jinxes around bands canceling and threatening weather
Every year has been a trial for Indian metal festival Bangalore Open Air [BOA]. In its five-year run so far, there have been several experiments undertaken – from the star-studded international lineup in 2013 and attempting to crowdfund the lineup that led to a heavily scaled down edition in 2014. What hasn’t changed, though, is the dread that no international band can probably ever be considered confirmed until you’ve seen them finally getting on stage.
The spate of ill luck with the visa offices meant that the first headliner confirmed for the 2016 edition, Swedish melo-death metallers Soilwork, were forced to bow out just a month ago. However, promoter and founder Salman Syed didn’t announce the next year’s headliners, so perhaps there’s finally some caution at play.
What BOA has going for it, however, is Syed and his team’s show-must-go-on persistence. After all, they’re now probably the longest-running Indian metal festival – unlike counterparts old and new that often vanish. There’s still a lot of jinxes to break, of course. The first being hosting a lineup that was originally promised. In addition to Soilwork, Dhaka metal band Severe Dementia were unable to perform, owing to security issues that prevented them from flying to India.
It fell on Mumbai metallers Providence to warm up the early crowd, and they stuck to their set favorites off their 2011 debut EP Vanguard, despite a few too regular sound issues that plague them every time they get on stage. Bassist Shrikanth Rao even broke a string midway, but laughed it off and began slapping and popping his way through the rest of the set.
The only local band on the billing, Bengaluru thrash/death metallers Inner Sanctum, raised the precision levels. Vocalist Gaurav Basu was equal parts funny and serious – he dedicated “Human Disregard” to victims of the recent Dhaka terrorist attacks, growled his way through “Wake of Destruction” [off their 2015 album Legions Awake] and then turned around and faked a fart, telling the audience to “feel the Wake of Destruction”.
It wasn’t even sundown by the time Canadian heavy metallers Skull Fist sprang their brand of hyperactive music on stage. Turns out, the band had a bit of a following, with people already waving Skull fist flags purchased from the merchandize counter. Being that fiery shred band reminiscent of Eighties traditional metallers, they upped the entertainment value at BOA. They ran through songs such as “Get Fisted,” “You Gonna Pay,” “Commit to Rock” and “Bad for Good” as part of an hour-long set that was every bit fast, loud and heavy. Giving an entire hour, however, felt like they were close to being overplayed with a sound that’s a tad generic, even if Bangalore metal diehards could be won over.
Compared to the fist-pumping heavy metal, Egyptian-American tech-death act Nader Sadek – led by the singer and founder of the same name, impeccable drummer Hannes Grossmann, bassist Dominic Lapointe and guitarist Thor Anders Myhren and a guest spot from Bengaluru heavy metal band Kryptos’ guitarist Rohit Chaturvedi – made the night murky in an instant. With dead trees scattered on stage for the masked frontman Nader Sadek to break, it was chilling death metal on show. Sadek joked about Grossmann, who nearly stole the show with his brutal accuracy, saying “He played a solo”. The band warmed up gradually, Sadek’s vocals reaching for better consistency with each song and closing with a new song called “Ghost Cries.”
If we thought Grossmann was a tough act to follow, James Stewart from headliners Vader was too perfect behind the kit. The Polish death metallers – pyrotechnics and all included – sounded equally perfect to match up with the drummer. From the 2014 album Tibi Et Igni, they included gutbusters such as “Go to Hell,” “Abandon All Hope” and “Triumph of Death”.
Frontman Piotr Wiwczarek even put his Hindi to the test, shouting out “Shukriya Bangalore!” and “Kaise ho?” as metalheads commented, “Full marks”. Let’s not forget the full marks for the best-sounding, incisive death metal you’d hear live this year. At least that’s one thing Bangalore Open Air 2016 will be remembered for.
Photos: Shashwath SP