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Elemental Recall Bhopal Gas Tragedy on Debut Album

The Bhopal death metal band’s first release ‘Creation of the Damned’ details the 1984 gas tragedy

Anurag Tagat Feb 25, 2016
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Raising Voice. Elemental frontman Anchal Bhargava performing at BIG69 Festival in Mumbai last year. Photo: Prashin Jagger.

Most Indian parents would have at least once tried to tell their metalhead kids to ditch the black T-shirts and stop singing about death metal. But Elemental vocalist Anchal Bhargava’s parents told him to sing about the brutal reality the death metal band lives in, such as the 1984 gas leak in their hometown of Bhopal that killed several thousands and continues to cause deformed births in the central Indian city. Says Bhargava about the concept behind their debut full-length album Creation of the Damned, due out later this year, “My parents helped with the concept. They said, ”˜There’s a massacre that happened in our own city. Don’t write about your ”˜soul leaving your body’ and shit like that.”

The nine-track album details the chronology of events that took place in December 1984 set to Elemental’s brand of unsparing, brutal death metal that steadily builds tempo. The opening track “Smell of Fear,” for example, talks about the poisonous fog that began permeating after the gas leak. “Rampant Felony” talks about the Madhya Pradesh government’s attempt to cover up the incident. Bhargava says. “The one thing we’re missing [in Indian metal] is not putting so much emphasis on social concepts. We’re still following that American style. Apart from [Mumbai thrash/groove metal band] Zygnema, not very many bands sing about Indian issues. That’s when you’ll get a wider audience as well.”

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The band, who came together in 2012 and currently comprises Bhargava, guitarist Aman Sharma and drummer Divyaraj Bhatnagar, are re-recording portions of the album with Zygnema guitarist Sidharth Kadadi. Their first single, “Inhumane Purge,” was recorded by Pune producer Adhiraj Singh. Says Bhargava, “We weren’t happy with some of the parts and our mastering engineer Kristian Kohle [who has previously worked with death metal bands such as Aborted and Benighted] asked us to rework bass, guitars and vocals.” Bhargava is also rerecording his vocals at Mumbai’s Demonic Studios. He adds, “We started recording this as an EP, but since we jam every day, we got more and more tracks added.”

“My parents said ‘There’s a massacre that happened in your city.'”

The resultant sound is what Bhargava calls “Bhopali death metal,” not necessarily for any regional influences apart from the geography. Says the vocalist, “We’re trying to give it a name in central India.” In the last two years, Elemental has taken the have-music-will-travel way to playing across the country, usually settling for just travel, accommodation and food to perform. And they’ve never missed a gig. Bhargava recalls when they missed a train to compete at a band competition in Mysore in 2013. He says, “We went in the general unreserved compartment of a train and for two fucking days, we sat next to the toilet.” Elemental went on to win that band competition.

Says Bhargava, “We’re all really fulltime musicians but we take up other jobs just to save money.” The vocalist works with his father in construction as a contractor, while guitarist Aman Sharma runs a tattoo studio and drummer Divyaraj Bhatnagar teaches music. What are they saving up for? A full-scale Europe tour early next year, if all goes according to plan. In the meantime, the band is already working on an EP due out this year. Turns out the parents are part of the brainstorming process for the next release as well. Bhargava says, “My mom told me, ”˜Why don’t you sing in Sanskrit?’ This one will be different. I’m taking classes in Sanskrit.”

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