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Mumbai Metal Riffsmith Rajarshi Bhattacharyya Passes Away at 35

With stints in bands like Albatross and part of “stone-age” metallers Primitiv, the guitarist suffered a stroke

Anurag Tagat Dec 07, 2021

Primitiv guitarist Rajarshi Bhattacharyya (center) live with Primitiv in 2019. Photo: Tushar T Dhanawade

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Mumbai-based guitarist, producer and composer Rajarshi Bhattacharyya, best known for his work with rock and metal bands such as Albatross, Primitiv, Workshop and others, has died. The 35-year-old suffered a stroke and passed away in Mumbai late on December 6th, leaving the metal community in shock.

Among the earliest projects that Bhattacharyya became part of was progressive metal band Apollonian Quest, formed in 2006 and comprising drummer Hamza Kazi (from prog band Coshish) and fellow guitarist Arjun Dhanraj. By 2008, he was tapped by bassist and lyricist Riju Dasgupta to be a part of heavy metal band Albatross’ debut offering, the horror-inducing EP Dinner Is You. Bhattacharyya took on guitar duties and produced the album as well.

Bhattacharyya’s piercing and gritty approach to riffs and wrecking-ball solos were a formative part of Albatross. He went on to shine with a commanding sonic presence with heavy metallers Hellwind (whose vocalist Akshay Deodhar passed away earlier this year), comedy rock act Workshop and doom/death metal act Primitiv. The guitarist was part of Workshop’s debut album Khooni Murga in 2009 (with Dasgupta, metal artist Demonstealer aka Sahil Makhija and Aditya Kadam) and a couple of singles with Hellwind, who formed in 2012 and included Kadam, Makhija and his soon-to-be Primitiv bandmate, guitarist Kiron Kumar.

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In 2013, another project branched out between Bhattacharyya’s circle of longtime friends and musicians – Primitiv. Comprising vocalist Nitin Rajan (who passed away in November last year), bassist Dasgupta, Kumar sharing guitar duties with Bhattacharyya and drummer Pushkar Joshi, they released pulverizing singles such as “Taurus” in 2013 and followed it up with “Lords of Primitiv” in 2014. They went on to release their debut record Immortal & Vile in 2016 and recent singles such as “The Skull and the Stick” in 2017 and “Squishy and Spongy” in 2019.

Dasgupta said on Facebook about the guitarist, “Raj was the guy I turned to when I had the germ of an idea. ‘Hey, let’s write an album about cannibals’ – Done. ‘Hey, let’s write a song about a minotaur-like figure based on this bass riff’ – Done. We went from being kids in the audience singing along to Guns n’ Roses to opening for some of our favorite international acts. We never grew up.”

Makhija also added to the tributes from the Indian metal community online. “We’ve toured, written music, jammed, hung out and it’s just so hard to believe you’re gone. He was such an incredible guitar player and his music will forever remain immortal with all his bands. He was a total bad-ass and an absolute legend. On stage he was always in his element and really exuded rock star energy. And he was like that off stage as well. And for all his bravado with the boys, we all knew he was a big ol softie inside. We’re going to miss you man. And I’m pretty sure you’d want us to celebrate your life and have a drink in your memory because that’s just how you rolled. Rest easy my friend.”

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Bhattacharyya is survived by his wife Gayatri and their son Riaan.

Watch the live version of “Squishy and Spongy” below.

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