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Headbanger’s Ball

The second annual Rolling Stone Metal Awards was bigger, louder and more brutal than the first edition

Deepti Unni Jul 04, 2011
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Photos by Monisha Ajgoankar

If you don’t know what Sepulsandy Corpse Grinder, Noble Luke, bacon bombs, and bone-crushing music have in common, you clearly weren’t at the Blue Frog on the 19th of June. From host Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy’s non-stop ribaldry to Bhayanak Maut’s all-star stage invasion, there was no shortage of memorable moments on a you-had-to-be-there night. With more awards categories, some of the biggest names in metal as judges and performances that made it the loudest night of the year, it was all happening at the second annual Rolling Stone Metal Awards.

Slain’s Jonathan Wesley picked up the first award of the evening ”“ all trophies were inspired by the iconic Gibson Flying V ”“ in the Best Metal Keyboardist category for his exceptional work on the bands strings-and-synth-soaked debut full-length Here and Beyond. Slain is no stranger to the Metal Awards – last year the band picked up the Best Guitarist and the Best Bassist awards. Judge Marty Friedman was considerably impressed by Wesley’s talent. “I love the piano solo towards the end; it sounds like a mad scientist gone crazy! Would have liked it longer and sicker, though,” said Friedman of the track ”˜Soldier.’

Rohit Bhattacharya of Guillotine picked up the Best Bassist award for his inspired bass work on their debut The Cynic, while Undying drummer Yuvraj Sengupta landed the Best Drummer slot, beating Zygnema’s Mayank Sharma, all-star drummer Jai Row Kavi, Devoid’s Shubham Kumar and Artillerie’s Aadhar Malhotra.

The Best Guitarist award, to no one’s surprise, went to Exhumation’s Prashant Shah, long-touted as one of the best metal guitarists in the country. But the musician, who was also nominated last year for his work with Scribe, isn’t letting the win go to his head. “Obviously, this kind of stuff is good, but I don’t let myself get overwhelmed by it, because I need to be motivated and be challenged all the time so I can perform better and write better music.”

The Best Vocalist Award was a close contest between Artillerie’s Noble Luke, Bhayanak Maut’s guttaral twins Vinay Venkatesh and Sunneith Revankar, Exhumation’s Aditya Mehta, Undying Inc’s Shashank Bhatnagar and Zygnema rabble-rouser Jimmy Bhore. But Bhatnagar’s hellfire vocals earned him the top spot in the category, narrowly edging out the others. “Although his vocal style isn’t my cup of chai, I sense a feeling of realness and desperation in his voice. He’s got that little extra touch and originality that separates him from hundreds of vocalists in the same genre,” said Enslaved vocalist Grutle Kjellson, one of the judges for the category.

It was turning out to be a good day for Undying Inc band members; along with the awards for best drummer and vocalist, bass player Reuben Bhattacharya’s Visual Amnesia Design bagged the award for Best Artwork, curiously not for his band’s album but for his eye-popping work on Delhi-based IAFWAY’s Engravings.

The popular choice awards that were open to public voting on Facebook, were swept by Mumbai’s Zygnema who won in both the Best Song (”˜Theory of Lies and Negation’) and the Best Band category. But guitarist and founding member Sidharth Kadadi says that band had no real strategy pushing for votes. “All we did was promote our shows and we’ve always had great crowd support, even when we’re playing B69 gigs. So I’m sure that same dedication by our fans helped us win these awards.” But Zygnema lost out to Mumbai thrashers Devoid, whose long-in-the-works album A God’s Lie beat the rest of the nominees by a large margin.

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The most important awards of the night, the Critics’ Choice awards, threw up some surprising results. Pune up-and-comers Noiseware bagged Best Song for their melodic but brutal ”˜23.’ “This song really tells a story, which I think is the most important thing a song should do. It’s a heavy track, and the bridge takes you out of the heaviness, to end up in chaos again ”“ a great journey!” said Textures’s Hennephof, as he picked the song as his favourite in the category.

The Best Album award went almost unanimously to Undying Inc’s magnum opus Aggressive World Dynasty, bringing up the band’s totally tally of wins to three. “I’m extremely happy with the win,” said Undying bassist Bhattacharya. “These are the few things that make a metal band want to do something beyond the everyday. Last year we played at the Metal Awards. We were not nominated, we didn’t win anything, but we said maybe next year we’ll have something which is worthwhile, which will win an award, so we decided to strive for that. And we’re really happy that it happened for us, and we are thankful for that.”

So far, the one name that was conspicuous by its absence in the winners’ list was Mumbai metal titans Bhayanak Maut, which the band soon set right by winning the most important award of the night ”“ the Best Metal Band of the year. “We were all set to make a tradition of not winning anything for the second year in a row, but fuck this shit,” said vocalist Venkatesh as they came on stage to accept the award to deafening cheers from the crowd. “We were all super surprised actually, we were all set to not win anything. I mean, we came in with zero expectations but this was an awesome surprise,” said Venkatesh later. “And that fact that we won Best Band means that we probably work better as a unit than as individual musicians, which is great.”

But the award ceremony would not have been complete without the performances, which turned the evening from staid to explosive. Noiseware opened the awards with a blistering set that also doubled as the launch of their debut EP Wake Up and Soar, whipping the crowd into a frenzy with favourites ”˜Maut Ki Ungli,’ ’23,’ ”˜G-String’ and closing the set with a made-for-metal cover of Michael Jackson’s ”˜Smooth Criminal.’ Next up were Exhumation who played one of their best shows; tight, brutal and unrestrained with new drummer Virender Kaith behind the kit.

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The surprise package of the evening though were Delhi-based Artillerie, playing their first ever show in Mumbai, though you wouldn’t know it from the show. The band’s intense djent-meets-death metal music was lapped up by the crowd who couldn’t get enough of vocalist Noble Luke’s Jens Kidman-inspired stage act and were the only band of the night who got an encore, demanded vociferously by the audience. The band who’ve kept a relatively low profile seemed completely thrown by the crowd’s reaction. “It was completely overwhelming, in every way from the hospitality, the venue, and especially the people at the gig,” said Luke. “It didn’t matter that we didn’t win anything, the gig more than made up for that.”

Bhaynak Maut closed the second annual Rolling Stone Metal Awards with a set that was responsible for most of the groaning and post-gig injuries the next day. The band were missing guitarist Venkat Raman, who was in Cannes to receive another award in advertising, but made up for it by inviting Exhumation/Scribe’s Shah and Scribe guitarist Akshay Rajpurohit, Zygnema’s Kadadi and drummer Jai Row Kavi on stage for an all-star session that caused the moshpit to explode. “For the crowd it may have been Scribe and BM and Zygnema all together on the same stage, but for us it was just a lot of friends on stage getting together to have some fun,” said Venkatesh of the collaboration.

As the audience dragged their bruised and sore bodies home, closing another successful year for India’s only metal awards, host Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy summed up the evening in three profound words: “Sepulsandy Corpse Grinder.” You really just had to be there.

Winners

Best Band: Bhayanak Maut

Best Album: Aggressive World Dynasty (Undying Inc)

Best Song: ”˜23’ (Noiseware)

Best Band (Popular Choice): Zygnema

Best Album (Popular Choice): A God’s Lie (Devoid)

Best Song (Popular Choice): ”˜Theory Of Lies And Negation’ (Zygnema)

Best Vocalist: Shashank Bhatnagar (Undying Inc)

Best Guitarist: Prashant Shah (Exhumation)

Best Drummer: Yuvraj Sengupta (Undying Inc)

Best Bassist: Rohit Bhattacharya (Guillotine)

Best Keyboardist: Jonathan Wesley (Slain)

Best Album Artwork: Visual Amnesia Design (IAFWAY ”“ Engravings)

Judges

Arjun Sankalia (Sony Music)

Barney Ribeiro (Nervecell)

Bart Hennephof (Textures)

Benjamin Nominet (Sybreed)

Cato Bekkevold (Enslaved)

Graham “Pin” Pinney (Aliases, ex-Sikth)

Grutle Kjellson (Enslaved)

Herbrand Larsen (Enslaved)

Herman Li (DragonForce)

Ivar Bjornson (Enslaved)

Kevin Choiral (Sybreed)

KP Krishnamoorthy (Myndsnare, Fractalline)

Marty Friedman (ex-Megadeth)

Nitin Rajan (Morticide)

Roberto Narain (Millennium)

Sandesh Nagaraj (Myndsnare, Fractalline, Serotura)

Thomas “Drop” Betrisey (Sybreed)

Tomas Haake (Meshuggah)

Tony John (Avial)

Vehrnon Ibrahim (Millennium)

Yasmin Claire Kazi (Myndsnare, Serotura)

Zorran Mendonsa (New Way Home)

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