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Gig Review: Deccan Rock’s Explosive Energy in Hyderabad

With a next-level headline set by Behemoth, the metal festival delivered exactly what it promised, despite having to move to an indoor venue at short notice


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Behemoth frontman Nergal during their headline set at Deccan Rock IV in Hyderabad. Photo: Praveen Kumar/Courtesy of Deccan Rock

Behemoth frontman Nergal during their headline set at Deccan Rock IV in Hyderabad. Photo: Praveen Kumar/Courtesy of Deccan Rock

In a move to prevent rains from playing spoilsport, the fourth edition of metal festival Deccan Rock was moved indoors, with just two days’ notice. And that’s how Deccan Rock became an indoor metal festival, featuring one of the most captivating live metal performers in the world, Polish death metal band Behemoth, on September 24th in Hyderabad.

Although the city was rain-battered and had severe waterlogging issues, the venue Leonia Resort was far outside Hyderabad, in its own little world that may as well be one of the swankiest venues to welcome metalheads. It’s a different matter that these metalheads had to pay through their nose for the expensive food and cigarettes on offer (security confiscated the latter on re-entry, which was puzzling).

But inside the 1,000-capacity Moon Valley hall, Deccan Rock curated one of the best lineups of Indian bands from across the country comprising old and new artists. This was the biggest step-up for some of these Indian bands–in terms of the gear they played on and how huge they sounded. Plus, there was one of the most dependable metal acts in India – Bengaluru thrash/death metallers Inner Sanctum (who rose above technical issues to deliver a wrecking-ball set, minus guitarist Chintan Chinnappa), UK electro/tech-death metallers Meta-stasis – who could have had a better mix but made some new fans anyway) – and the mighty Behemoth.

The afternoon atmosphere inside Moon Valley was like a tinderbox. No surprises then that local metal act Primal Abuse, first on the billing, got moshpits going even among a few hundred who had gathered, with songs like “Punishment” and “Voice of Venom,” which they made out to notorious preacher Zakir Naik.

Bhopal death metallers Elemental had a new drummer–Oshan Saxena–on board. Frontman Anchal Bhargava’s windmill headbanging on stage added to the havoc of their brutal, slam-influenced metal.

Pune’s Dark Helm were on stage after a gap and lineup change of sorts, but they relied on backing tracks more than they ought to have, even if they did present the most variety-filled half hour of metal–from Eastern music samples and clean vocals to growls and breakdowns.

Diversity is good, but the festival delivered a barb-wired one-two punch like no other with Hyderabad/Bengaluru death metallers Godless and Mumbai’s doom/death metallers Primitiv (who now have a new catchphrase: “We’re not primitive, we’re fucking Primitiv!”) The two bands delivered heavy-as-hell sets, with Godless taking up a blistering new song (“Zombie Transmutation”) while Primitiv took the classic metal route with “The Skull and The Stick,” eking out the riffs on a song about Stone-Age sports.

Inner Sanctum, on the other hand, didn’t have any new material and were playing without one guitarist. Bassist Narayan Shrouthy even had to handle his guitar going off, causing a 10-minute lull in the proceedings. But the fury of Sanctum’s material such as “March of the Wounded,” “Guardian” and “Agent of Chaos” brought the energy levels to an all-time high. Following up from them, UK’s Meta-stasis were also relying on backing tracks instead of a live keyboardist like Dark Helm from before, but traversed through a few live mix issues. Although vocalist Solomon J Lucifer Christ had most of the crowd going, the idea of seeing a tech-death band open for Behemoth didn’t seem to interest many fans, who had come in from Bengaluru, New Delhi, Mumbai, Kerala and of course, Hyderabad.

The crowd, now at about 600 in attendance, included way too many people wearing corpse paint for what was a death metal gig and not a black metal ritual. The moment Behemoth frontman Nergal stepped on stage holding up two torches as the opening riff to “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” rang on, everyone (now armed with their phones) knew the big players had arrived. For a man who was calm and calculated with his words during an interview with ROLLING STONE India a few hours earlier, Nergal came unhinged on stage, staring intensely with eyes wide open, performing ‘rituals’ as though he was in communion with Satan. And when you see a man like that – flanked by the hulk of a bassist Orion, madman drummer Inferno and shredder extraordinaire Seth – you watch every move of his. The crowd at Deccan Rock was ready to shout and move at Nergal’s command, through scorchers such as “Messe Noire,” “In the Absence ov Light” and more songs off their bone-chilling 2014 album The Satanist. By the time Nergal got to the evergreen staples such as “Conquer All,” “Slaves Shall Serve” and “Chant for Eschaton 2000,” he was in a different mood – thankful.

He said before they launched into their last three songs, “We should have played here a long time ago. Please accept our apologies, we promise we will keep on coming back to your beautiful country and share your energy. Until then, you stay strong!” Signing off with an emphatic, “Hail Satan!” Behemoth proved why they were a must-see live act, not just for their literally scary and slice-and-dice approach to extreme metal, but also for their theatrics and the intensity that they exude on stage.

And although any hopes fans had to catch up with the band during the afterparty were dashed due to the venue’s sudden change of heart–metal gigs generally have that effect on venues– they’ll probably retain a photographic memory (apart from the thousand-odd captured on their phone cameras) of when Behemoth wreaked mayhem at an indoor venue in Hyderabad.

Photos: Into the Lens, Praveen Kumar

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