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The Rise and Rise of Metal In India

Exploring the burgeoning metal scene in the country

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Prestorika (Photo: Bobin James)

As our music scene grows in different directions, there’s one genre that towers above the others in popularity. Indian kids have embraced heavy metal, that most extreme form of Western music, in all its variety: black, gore, hardcore, Viking, thrash, grind, industrial, old school, Christian. There is a thriving live scene across cities big and small; local gurus of growl command hordes of loyal fans from makeshift stages. Metal culture is here to stay, and, as bloody moshpits, walls of death and diving fans show, Indian kids like it brutal. The world’s biggest metal acts like Iron Maiden, Megadeth and Sepultura have performed live in front of thousands of fans in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Shillong. Homegrown metal bands like Kryptos have been signed on by British record labels and are often featured on international compilations, and niche radio station playlists. And with the growing popularity of festivals like Rock Ethos in Bengaluru and Resurrection in Mumbai, there is a positive vibe that metal in India has momentum like never before.

Why do we love metal so much? Why has Western music’s most reviled genre, which has often had its roots in working class audiences, found so many takers among god-fearing, Mommy-fearing middle-class Indians? What attracts them to a metal concert which universally is a delicate mix of controlled aggression, technical brilliance and a theatrical letting loose of primal emotions?

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The amphitheatre of Bengaluru’s Chithrakala Parishath is swarming with black T-shirts, blue denims and local bands with names like Perforated Limb, Bad Taste, Anorectal Ulceration and Altered Scales. Gopal Navale, a local legend who exudes the air of a genial physical training instructor, has been organising the Levi’s Sunday Jam for the past few years. Anyone can sign up and play. Metal dominates (the youngest growler I see is fourteen years old), not surprising because I am in the heart of metal country. At the last count Bengaluru had more than three hundred bands playing metal. When Crucifix Guide comes on at 6 in the evening, the place explodes. Determined headbangers crowd around the band as they launch into their trademark hardcore sound. It’s an intimate gig, the flailing hair of the audience meshing with the vocalist’s. One fan with a bandaged neck is plucked out from the crowd and paraded on stage as the authentic article: “Look, this is what happens when you headbang to our music.” Later I walk up to Nishchith Moses, the band’s frontman. He tells me Crucifix Guide started as a Christian metal act. They don’t believe in Satan, or do drugs or drink blood. He tells me the band’s philosophy which is also mentioned in the Sunday Jam flyers, “Some people think in the box, some think out of it, and some destroy it.’

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