GUTSLIT: In For The Kill
How Mumbai brutal death metal band Gutslit turned into one of the most intense live acts in the countryAugust 01, 2015
Gutslit are competing at IIT Bombay’s cultural festival Mood Indigo’s live band event, Livewire. What sets them apart from any other band is the fact that they’re influenced by fast-paced, relentless American death metal/grind of bands such as Dying Fetus and Suffocation. And that their drummer was technically an iPod. The judge that day was guitarist Ravi Iyer from rock veterans Vayu, who actually gave them a thumbs up for playing with programmed drums and sent them through to the second round. Says bassist and founding member Gurdip Singh Narang, “That’s when we played at [Mumbai venue and restaurant] Not Jazz By the Way. It was nice. After that, the place just shut down.” Well, it was technically renovated and renamed, but what’s more important about that gig was the impact it had on their future vocalist Aditya Barve, who was 17 years old at the time and instantly became a Gutslit fanboy. Says Barve, who replaced founding member Nikhil Allug in 2011, “The first time, the whole intensity of the band was shocking. It was the first time I was hearing a guy do pig squeals. I had just started out doing vocals and used to cover stuff, but that was something really weird.”
Barve, now 23, stands out as one of the best death metal vocalists in the country, just as Gutslit have also made their name as one of the most intense live performers. The fast riffs from 20-year-old guitarist Prateek Rajagopal, the even faster blastbeats from 26-year-old Aaron Pinto, a locked-down groove from Narang and Barve’s harsh growls are all packed into a song so short that it’d be over before you can even decipher the song title growled out by the vocalist. Singh recalls their first few years where they played at college gigs, “When there are professors sitting in front of you and Aditya announces the name with a growl… or we just don’t announce the name, because if you’re going to be very patient and explain the title fluently, then we might not get to play the song itself.” When asked if any shell-shocked college professors have tried to shut them down, Narang, 27, shoots back, “No man, nobody has the balls to do that. We’re nice people, but we’re not going to stop just because professors tell us to.”
Formed in 2007 by Narang, Allug, guitarist Dynell Bangera and drummer Rajeev George, Gutslit underwent a few lineup changes at crucial moments that ordinarily would have handicapped any other band. But Gutslit managed to release their debut Contorted Mutilation, a split CD with French goregrind band Pulmonary Fibrosis, in 2009. While Bangera wrote most of the material, it was drummer Abhishek Nandi who drove the band to perform live regularly, up until 2011, when he had to leave the band due to personal commitments. Barve recalls it was by 2011 that they realized that their evolving sound – the slam breakdowns that got feet stomping and grind influences – had given them a new direction. While Contorted Mutilation’s favorites such as “Boiled in Bile” and “Eviscerating the Stillborn” had death grind leanings, their 2013 album Skewered In the Sewer had elements of slam – breakdown-style mid-tempo music with brutal death metal death grind. Says Barve, “The only thing was we never had enough company to play shows with. The kind of music we used to play was not very old school and not very new age as well. It’s not very underground but it’s not very commercial either. It’s somewhere in between.” Although Barve adds that they were sometimes shunned by the underground grind and death metal gig organizer for being “too commercial.” While their peers such as extreme metallers Demonic Resurrection and metal band Bhayanak Maut are well sought-after even by bigger festivals such as NH7 Weekender, Gutslit have only played at two metal festivals in India – BIG69 in Mumbai and Bangalore Open Air, where they played sets this year.
It was their long-awaited 2013 album, Skewered in the Sewer that really took Gutslit’s name farther. In addition to being signed on to Coyote Music in Russia and Ghastly Music in Japan, the band received an offer to play at Czech Republic grind and death metal festival Obscene Extreme in 2011, but visa problems prevented them from playing. However after the release of Skewered, the band got another offer, one they made the most of as part of their first four-date Europe tour. Back home, they were playing slamming sets at venues such as Blue Frog in Mumbai and a very memorable set at metal gig series, Domination:The Deathfest in 2013. Says Pinto, “That was one of my first few shows with them. Everything fell into place in that one show. People came up to us said they’d never seen Gutslit like this. I think that’s the gig that started it in the space. Since then, it’s just been going up.”
In July 2014, Gutslit landed in the small countryside town of Trutnov in north-eastern Czech Republic to witness five-day metal festival Obscene Extreme, whose USP includes hosting 69 extreme metal bands on one stage, a freak show and being a vegetarian and vegan-friendly festival.
Guitarist Prateek Rajagopal, who had joined the band in 2013 after Bangera’s departure due to personal reasons, says he’d never seen a bigger party in his life. Adds Rajagopal, “I think we all had the same reaction, even though they’ve been into the music for a long time and seen videos and stuff. It still came off just the same way it did for me – ‘What the fuck is happening here dude?’”
As much as the music was predominantly a mix of grind and death metal, the festival-goers looked like they could fit in at Woodstock – colorful, quirky masks and outifts, beach balls being thrown around and tons of stage invasions, naked performers and more that showed Gutslit how to party. Local grindcore band Gutalax, were Gutslit’s main influence on how to change up their live shows. Rajagopal adds, “It’s like a party, it’s fun. We don’t want to be some super serious death metal band. Grindcore is like that – you go there and see people playing naked on stage and here in India, people are so particular about wearing black T-shirts. Do what you want. You’re playing heavy music at the end of the day.”
That’s why whoever you ask from the band, they’ll tell you their 2014 Europe tour was nothing but a big headbanger’s ball. Says Pinto, “More than playing the festival, it was like a mini holiday, like a metal holiday, where you get to see your favorite bands and everything. Obscene Extreme is the best festival I’ve played in my life.” It was especially good for the rest of the band because after Gutslit played to around 700 people, they sold out all their merchandize – about a 100 CDs and 200 T-shirts – on their Europe tour. People identified them by Pinto’s T-shirt design called ‘Brutal Sardar’, something he and guitarist Dynell Bangera had originally come up with to make fun of Narang. Pinto adds, “That turned out to be our biggest USP in Europe. Because of Gurdip’s turban and everything, people actually knew we were from India and we were Gutslit.”
They’re rolling out more merchandize in this print for their upcoming Europe tour, which includes a return to Czech Republic, but this time for the large-scale Brutal Assault Festival in August, alongside the likes of death metal band Cannibal Corpse, mathcore band The Dillinger Escape Plan and even Indian extreme metal band Demonic Resurrection. Following the festival set, Gutslit head out on their biggest challenge yet, a nine-city Europe tour called Brutal Grooves, Grinding Moves. Narang says he didn’t come up with the name, but explains it, “See, everything is about partying when it comes to us.” All members are gearing up with regular rehearsals and daily individual practice sessions. Equally important, they’ve now taken a page from the book of Czech gore grind band Gutalax and started using fake snow spray and party-poppers at their shows.
But guitarist Rajagopal says the influence of Obscene Extreme festival extends beyond using silly string on stage. The latest entrant to the band and also only recently introduced to grind and brutal death metal, Rajagopal says watching other international bands changed the way he began writing new material for Gutslit. “I went to Obscene Extreme and saw what people are actually capable of. Now I write keeping that in mind. I have to push my band members. They’re like ‘It’s not possible!’ and I say, ‘Fuck off. We were at Obscene Extreme and you saw it’s possible.’”
Originally a member of metal band Chronic Phobia, Rajagopal came in to audition for Gutslit and nailed all his parts, quite to the surprise of other members. But he did need an introduction to a few of grind and death metal bands before he got into the right space for songwriting. Says Narang of the guitarist, “He has accepted it very well. It came to him very naturally. We introduced him to some stuff and he’s gone further ahead. There’s bands he really loves now.”
While Gutslit have been premiering new material such as “Maraschino Eyeballs” and “Necktie Party” at their recent festival set at Bangalore Open Air in July, they are about six songs into finishing their eight-track third album, which is yet to be titled. Narang says they have zeroed in on a theme, however, “The theme of the album will be torture-based devices. Torture was and is a part of human nature, through the ages. It’s also about psychotic torture instruments that have been invented by, I would say, a genius psychopath. It’s going to be about killing slowly than a one-shot thing.”
Barve adds that with the addition of Rajagopal, the sound takes another new turn. “The new album is more brutal death metal that’s straighter, probably something the country hasn’t seen yet. We’ve got really fast uptempo riffs, a bit technical parts and sudden grooves hitting in.” Rajagopal, who also formed prog metal band The Minerva Conduct, is also adding a few progressive elements in new material. Says Pinto, “I won’t call his [Rajagopal’s] playing straight-up prog vibes. His odd-count meter is inbuilt in him for some reason. Most of the riffs are fast and straight-forward and you can catch on to it, but in the middle of that, there’ll be two or three parts where you won’t know what’s happening.”
The album is slated to release later this year under Mumbai-based label Transcending Obscurity, but the band is still finding its way around securing studio time to record instruments, including live drums. Since drummer Hamza Kazi [from prog rock band Coshish] was helping Pinto in structuring and writing drum parts for Skewered in the Sewer, Gutslit plans to go back to Kazi for guidance. Rajagopal, the principal songwriter, is much more confident about putting out what will be his first material as a death metal guitarist. Says the guitarist, “I want really want people to listen to the death metal tracks I’ve written, which I can’t do just yet. I’m waiting. As soon as these guys are ready, we’ll go into the studio.”
Coming back from a tour and a big festival show, the band is certain more inspiration is just around the corner, whether it’s about the way they write music or about whether they should consider throwing toilet rolls into the crowd. Gutslit has become not just one brutal blur of a spectacle – step out for a bathroom break and you might just miss half their set – but also a fun band, who enjoy being musicians who can take a cheeky dig at horror stories about mutilation, murder and hanging people by their neckties. Says Narang, “It’s really what we’re inspired by – gore, chopping up people while they’re still alive.”