Very rarely does one ever associate the slow-moving ageing city of Kolkata with the fast-paced modern music style known as Death Metal, but that connection was finally made last night at the Kolkata Deathfest, a testament to the DIY style of gig-making that has thrived all over the world in today’s era of profit-oriented synthetic music.
Heavy Metal and Death Metal – A Short Intro
For many people, the words “death metal” would seem very confusing at first! What can music have to do with death and metal? To make a long story short, death metal is a sub-genre of the heavy metal music movement that has been around since the early 70’s. Heavy metal originated in rock music and quickly spread all across the world. The USP of this music style is its appeal among society’s youth who feel alienated by commerce-oriented mainstream pop-culture. Also, what attracts people to this genre is the artist/audience driven approach to music and the technical mastery and passion for the art. The music is made from the heart, the artists perform with every ounce of energy they can muster and the audience is brimming with unending energy and passion.
Death Metal is one of the extreme metal genres alongside thrash metal and black metal. It is characterized by heavily distorted guitars, heavy use of double-bass drums and blast-drumming, complex and dynamic rhythms and tempos and growled vocal attack. The lyrical contents and themes are diverse, ranging from philosophical discussions on life and death to outright horror stories inspired from classic horror genres in literature and film.
Kolkata Deathfest – What it’s about
Kolkata Deathfest brought some of the best of the genre to their dedicated followers on Tuesday. The “fest” featured back-to-back performances of some of the city’s top death metal bands (Evil Conscience and Necrodeity) as well as international bands hailing all the way from Malaysia (Malapetaka) and Japan (Defiled) – a feat unheard of in this city. Alongside, the show featured a newcomer Kolkata band (Divide Torture) and two outstation bands from Darjeeling (Imperial Cult and Obliterating Vortex). What made this show unique is that it was DIY – managed and organized completely by the fans of such bands and this music in general – everything from monetary contribution, inviting the bands, booking the venue (Sujata Sadan, Hazra), making posters and flyers to setting up the stage for the show and dismantling it afterwards.
The venue was packed even before the show started with metalheads in their trademark black tees, denim and boots. Divide Torture, a newcomer in the scene opened the show. Following them, Malapetaka took the stage. Back home, they are a relatively new band, but their performance was tight and power-packed. Noticeable was the drummer’s skill and the vocalist’s vocal prowess. They delivered raw death metal sounds. Obliterating Vortex took the stage next, featuring dual-lead guitars and complex melodic patterns, a first in this scene – mesmerizing the crowd! Imperial Cult performed next. Having performed in Kolkata before, they had come a long way and played with ease. They featured black metal-inspired ambient riffs and powerful drumming – the drummer was a treat for the ears! Next up was the city’s own Necrodeity. They took quite some time to get the stage ready and once the audience was allowed into the venue, we could see why! Burning candles, war-painted faces, pentagrams and the vocalist’s classic bone-necklace – Necrodeity knows how to decorate the stage with occult paraphernalia, readying the crowd for receiving their pagan ritual-inspired music! There were even rumours of the use of blood on stage – a well-known part of pagan rituals. They delivered a monstrous performance – with non-stop drum attack. Their drummer Arijit deserves a special mention for his energised and perfect playing. Evil Conscience, the most well-known city band took the stage next. No surprises here, EC already have a reputation of delivering technical death metal coupled with squealed vocals and intense double-bass grooves and complex breakdowns. They easily drove the crowd into a frenzy of moshing.
Defiled, hailing all the way from Tokyo, were the last band of the day and the headlining act. They were touring the Indian subcontinent for the first time. They are a true international act, having shared stage with bands like Cannibal Corpse. By the time, they took stage, the crowd was already tired after six hours of metal music. However, after the very first few songs, the sleeping crowd was headbanging again! The live performance of this band was otherworldly – they played with such ease and perfection! The drummer was particularly unrelenting in his attack and the vocalist was charismatic, interacting with the crowd in between songs and even during songs while handling complex guitar sections. The band as a whole had the best stage presence and zeal for crowd interaction while delivering brutal death metal music to an energized audience blown away by them.
Heavy Metal music has grown and evolved over the last forty odd years of its existence and spread to all parts of the world. It has taken the youth by storm and given rise to multiple subcultures collectively known as the metal scene. Here people of different walks of life who feel alienated by the mainstream gather once in a while to experience the solitude of loud and powerful music that unites them. I had the privilege of conversing with Malapetaka after the show and got to know that even though they were hailing from a country with a much larger scene, the challenges faced by the youth to organize and host such shows is the same as is the passion towards the music. The desire to break out from the clutches of our orthodox societies is something shared across the spectrum by all metalheads. Regarding the show, audiences and artists alike agreed that it was an experience worth remembering; one that had to be seen to be believed. For veterans like Defiled it was a new experience playing in a new city to a new audience but the surprise on their faces was clearly noticable as the audience screamed their names and requested songs live! Finally I had a chat with one of the organizers, known as Carnage, who’s also the vocalist of Necrodeity. In his own words, he was “totally overwhelmed by such chaotic overflow of enthusiasm and passion” for this style of music. “Kolkata Deathfest might open up a portal to a new era for extreme metal revolutionizing the scene which has been stagnant and dull”. That is perhaps the best thought to take away from Kolkata Deathfest, 2015!