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Nitin Rajan, Extreme Metal Vocalist, Passes Away at 42

The Mumbai frontman of metal act Primitiv and co-founder of gig series Domination – The Deathfest was also an early digital media innovator, part of Radio City

Anurag Tagat Nov 18, 2020

Mumbai metal vocalist Nitin Rajan on stage with Primitiv. Photo: Ron Bezbaruah/© Rolling Stone India

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One of Indian metal’s most imposing vocalists on stage, Mumbai-based Nitin Rajan passed away yesterday night after a year-long battle with cancer, his band Primitiv confirmed.

A statement on social media from Primitiv co-founder and bassist Riju Dasgupta added, “Last night, after battling cancer for a year, my close friend and bandmate Nitin Rajan passed into the realm beyond. All of us are still stunned and shaken to the core by the suddenness of his loss, and we request that you respect the privacy of his family and those close to him at this time. Celebrate his life and his music, because that’s the best way to remember him.”

Also the vice president and head of digital media at Radio City, Rajan was known for his unmistakably deep growl that came to the front when he, Dasgupta and guitarist Rajarshi Bhattacharyya formed Primitiv in 2013. They introduced concept-driven storylines that bridged science fiction, myth and more on their debut album Immortal & Vile in 2016. Dasgupta recounts meeting Rajan in 2012 at a gig by extreme metallers Demonic Resurrection. “None of us had anything in common, but we came to a musical bridge,” Dasgupta says. In 2016, Rajan took home the Best Vocalist trophy at the Rolling Stone Metal Awards.

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Inspired by heavy acts like Slayer and Metallica in high school, Rajan started out in 1998 with death metal band Morticide and had also briefly been a part of Mumbai act Reptilian Death in its early stages. Mumbai metal veteran Sahil Makhija aka Demonstealer says, “We go way back, 20 odd years at least. I’d first met him when Morticide was playing at I.I.T. Bombay. I was a kid who had come into the scene and he was one of the cooler, older people. He was an absolute monster on stage but he was the nicest guy off it. He treated everyone equal.”

The vocalist quickly went on to set up an underground metal festival called Domination – The Deathfest in 2000, which ran for three years. “We created a platform for people like us,” Rajan said in 2013, when Domination – The Deathfest returned after a 10-year hiatus. Although Morticide didn’t return, Rajan was going full speed ahead with Primitiv, with a few years in metal bands such as Sledge and Killibrium. Simultaneously, the vocalist was a staunch proponent of digital media and marketing, which took him from working at Radio City to becoming the vice president and head of digital media, part of projects like the Radio City Freedom Awards.

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With a second Primitiv album that was being completed despite the limitations of Rajan’s fluctuating health and a pandemic, most musicians were shocked by the news of the growler’s passing. Dasgupta says, “If you knew Nitin, his general attitude is always positive. He presented a brave front to all of us in the band. I still remember one of his last requests to me was if Primitiv could write a party song […] He had limited time but he never gave that impression to us.”

Makhija adds, “When he was on stage, that was his moment and you could see his genuine love for being on stage. He didn’t tell anyone [about his health]. I had no idea he was unwell or going through treatment. He’s always been the guy to put up a brave front.”

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