Metal Special: Albatross
Mumbai melodic death metal band Albatross aim to bridge the gap between horror and metalFeatures July 10, 2012
Give bassist Riju Dasgupta tales that involve morbidity, plague, cannibalistic dismemberment and impaling, and he’s a happy man. These days, the bassist and songwriter of Albatross has his teeth firmly sunk into fantasy author China Mieville’s Rail Sea. Set in the fictional parallel universe, the novel includes drama, double crossing, tragedy and war. Is he channeling Mieville’s work for a new track? “Good idea, but maybe, maybe not. Maybe I need to find a rhythmic pattern,” says Dasgupta.
This wouldn’t be the first time that Dasgupta looked to fiction for inspiration. He previously borrowed from Michael Slade’s science fiction novel on cannibalism, Cut Throat for an EP called Dinner is You in 2010. The album narrates the tale of a guest who dines with a bunch of cannibals and ends up, predictably, on the dinner table. While high on concept, the album’s sound was unable to take it far. Dasgupta defends that EP gave the band its own stage character – Dr Hex – a wacko muzzle-sporting doc in a labcoat, who is also the band’s storyteller.
Although Dasgupta doesn’t fancy himself as a novelist yet, his band remains his medium for “melodic storytelling,” as he calls it. “The story is very important. You need to have a coherent script or a plot in mind and then build around it. A rhythmic lyrical pattern holds the story together and you need the right melodic passages to go with the story. Fantasy, sci-fi or horror and metal is a match made in this cranium,” Dasgupta says, pointing to his wavy-mopped head.
Fantasy and sci-fi have been Dasgupta’s favorite fiction genres since school. Hooked onto Stephen King and Jeff VanderMeer, Dasgupta even wrote short stories as an experiment in creative writing a few years ago. But it’s only when he heard songs by Danish prog metal musician King Diamond that he felt the need to extend horror to metal. “I actually started the band to pay homage to King Diamond. Listening to his stuff inspired me to write verses. So I went around looking for accomplices,” says Dasgupta, who quit comedy metal band Workshop in 2009 to start Albatross. With vocalist Biproshee Das, drummer Jay Thacker, guitarists Jimmy Alexander and Rajarshi Bhattacharyya, Albatross was fleshed out into a horror metal band.
Dasgupta’s love for King Diamond got Dasgupta to call on the prog metal musician’s guitarist and Grammy-nominated producer Andy LaRocque to master their EP Dinner is You. “We were pumped up to cut a whole album but at that time, most of us were studying. We couldn’t manage the costs to put out a full length record, considering all our songs were at least five minutes long. So on a night of extreme self-deprecation, I wrote to Andy and he agreed to come on board. We just negotiated on the costing after I appropriately justified how poor we were,” Dasgupta smirks. This collaboration also motivated Albatross to approach Swedish heavy metal act The Wolf’s vocalist Niklas Stalvind to lend his voice to their debut album Vestal Claret – Kissing Flies, which released in April 2012.
Earlier this year, Albatross went through a lineup change. The band now has Vignesh and Nishith on guitars to replace Bhattacharyya and Alexanader. The young guitarists have injected a restless pace into the band making them sound more energetic. As a result, Vestal Claret – Kissing Flies was lauded for its fresh and powerful sound. The album was based on the story of fatalistic, blood-drinking flies that could be stopped by contact lenses.
The band recently went on a multi-city nationwide tour including cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Chennai, Bengaluru and Thane instead of Mumbai. “This was my way of taking revenge on all those Mumbai metalheads who made me travel from Thane to Mumbai to catch a gig,” gloats Dasgupta. Post the tour, Albatross recently opened the Indian leg of the Wacken Metal Battle – Bangalore Open Air in June, 2012.