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Festival Review: Bangalore Open Air 2019 Steadies Itself with Early Edition

The eighth outing of the metal festival featured unparalleled performances by black metal veteran Abbath and death metallers Suffocation

Anurag Tagat Feb 15, 2019

The crowd at Bangalore Open Air 2019. Photo: Mohit Sharma

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It got a bit damp in the downpour that affected a late winter day in Bengaluru, but you can’t say the same thing about the spirit of metal at G-Shock Bangalore Open Air. Last week, the eighth edition of the metal festival was held earlier than its usual date in July, but nonetheless delivered what it promised ”“ some of the best artists in the world of heavy music.

Bangladesh metallers Trainwreck’s guitarist A.K. Rahul live at G-Shock Bangalore Open Air 2019. Photo: Mohit Sharma

With rain striking twice during the day-long metal melee, attendees were divided between retreating to the nearby tented areas and staying to witness an all-out aural assault courtesy of four bands competing to win Wacken Metal Battle ”“ India Subcontinent and three international-standard heavy-hitters.

One way to look at Wacken Metal Battle playing out at BOA was the chance to see emerging talent from the subcontinent ”“ from the technical prowess of Guwahati’s Nephele to pummeling energy from Colombo’s Mass Damnation and blazing Pantera-worship from Dhaka’s Trainwreck, followed by devouring death metal from Kathmandu band Krur. The other way, of course, was to see it as an easy way to resolve any programming quandaries by having new talent compete.

While Bangladesh metallers Trainwreck clinched the coveted trip to compete at the global Wacken Metal Battle at Wacken Open Air in Germany later this year, it was time for BOA to get a taste of what previous year’s winners ”“ Hyderabad death metal band Godless ”“ had in their armory.

A wheelchair-bound fan gets in on the action at G-Shock Bangalore Open Air 2019. Photo: Mohit Sharma

On the back of releasing their brutal second EP Swarm, Godless put on a no-bullshit, straight to the action show. It was the first time in a while that they returned to a five-member lineup, featuring Moiz Mustafa on guitars, bringing out seismic brutality with songs like “From Beyond,” “Oneiros” and “Infected By the Black,” among others. It was perhaps one of their lengthier sets, but they showed no signs of relenting, setting the energy levels for the night ahead, as well as proving why they’re one of the country’s most uncompromising metallers at the moment.

Hyderabad death metallers Godless at G-Shock Bangalore Open Air 2019. Photo: Mohit Sharma

With a few threatening clouds and thunder, it was an apt setting for Norwegian black metal veteran Abbath to take to the stage. Running through songs from his former band Immortal (“All Shall Fall,” “Nebular Ravens Winter,” “In My Kingdom Cold”), the erstwhile supergroup I (“Warriors”) and his own material (“To War!”), Abbath was one of those charismatic showmen who could have a crowd laugh at his quick-witted humor (he pointed at a drone camera buzzing overhead and quipped, “Shoot that motherfucker!”) as well as his blistering performance. His rock ”˜n roll posturing and commanding position ”“ playing a note and putting a hand to his ear to hear the response, prancing around on stage ”“ provides much needed un-grimness to black metal.

Norwegian black metal act Abbath’s eponymous frontman in action at G-Shock Bangalore Open Air 2019. Photo: Mohit Sharma

As for the ultimate set of BOA, American death metallers Suffocation were all about transitioning into a brave new phase ”“ one without founder and longtime frontman Frank Mullen. Ricky Myers, who had previously filled in for Mullen, remains a favorite. The band had their feet in the past as much as the present, with Myers emulating Mullen’s famous “death chop” hand motion for all their slam and brutal death metal sections and then throwing in typical metal banter like, “India, I want to see you guys kill each other!”

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Suffocation tore through songs like “Effigy of the Forgotten,” “Return to the Abyss” (off their 2017 album ”¦Of the Dark Light), early material such as 1993’s “Breeding the Spawn” and of course, 1991’s “Catatonia” and “Infecting the Crypts.” Their cut-throat guitar work and scurrying basslines were built up and demolished with slam beatdowns that sounded monstrous, making every metalhead’s night memorable.

American death metallers Suffocation’s frontman Ricky Myers at G-Shock Bangalore Open Air 2019. Photo: Mohit Sharma

If Bangalore Open Air’s steady run is anything to go by, it goes to show that no matter how much you can dress up a festival experience with artist signings, wristwatch giveaways and brand activations, the regular metalhead’s needs are not too complicated. A good supply of reasonably-priced beer, enough room to mosh but also stand by (with arms folded in stoic approval) and global stalwart headliners will get a whole lot of devil horns raised to the sky in approval.

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