In-depth Interview With Dying Embrace Vocalist Vikram Bhat

By Aniruddh ‘Andrew’ Bansal

Indian doom legends Dying Embrace have been around for more than 20 years, and after having disbanded mid-way, they reformed in 2011 with some new members and resumed their carnage on stage. They started playing a few shows in and around Bangalore, and that led to their participation in last year’s Bangalore Open Air festival where they opened for the mighty Kreator. Now, they are getting ready to devastate yet another audience, this time at Trendslaughter Fest III, set to take place at the No Limits Pub in Bangalore on February 10th. They will co-headline with Singapore’s Blood Division and will be supported by Indian bands Shepherd, Witchgoat, Necrodeity and Solar Deity. They will also be releasing the ‘Era Of Tribulation’ compilation album at the show. It encompasses four rare and coveted releases put out by the band in the past, ‘Misanthrope’, ‘Grotesque’, ‘Serenades Of Depravity’ and ‘Dying Embrace’. I had the good fortune of catching up with vocalist Vikram Bhat to talk about this gig, the album release, and lots more. Read the conversation below, and visit Dying Embrace on facebook. If you’re in India, visit Trendslaughter Fest’s facebook landing page to book your tickets and get all the information you need about the festival.

The last time I spoke to you was in the lead-up to Bangalore Open Air last year. A lot has happened since then and you’ve played a few more gigs in Bangalore as well. How has everything been going for you and are you satisfied with what Dying Embrace managed to achieve in the year 2012?

Greetings Aniruddh! The hands of time move faster than we think and another wretched year has gone by, things have been going well and we have been busy with our discography release “Era Of Tribulation” the past few months. As for gigs, we played Impending Doom III where Bangalore Heavy Metal veterans Millennium made their comeback along with Kryptos & Bhoomi. It was a fantastic evening and the atmosphere was totally electric! We always take things as they come, that’s why we have lasted 20 years! (laughs) So no appraisals or achievement charts which we have to scale.

Now you have another gig coming up, at Trendslaughter Fest alongside Blood Division from Singapore and some great Indian bands as well. Looks like a killer lineup, and you must be eagerly waiting to perform at this gig, I’m sure?

Yes, we are looking forward to this one! Trendslaugher Fest has been special to us as we have been part of the earlier 2 editions and every time the line-up gets better than ever! The first one had Orator from Bangladesh, Abigail from Japan & Cauchemar from Canada for the second one and now Blood Division from Singapore for the third installment along with killer bands from the local and national scene supporting them. Also being part of the TSF Crew, it’s an honour to be part of the Fest and play for one of the finest and most dedicated audiences in the country.

I love how diverse the lineup is. I sometimes do feel that doom metal can get a little tedious for the audience if every band on the lineup is playing that style. Would you agree with that, and do you also feel that Dying Embrace gets a better response when you’re the only doom band on the lineup?

Trendslaughter Fest has always had a mixed billing of different Extreme Metal genres and that seems to have worked very well as the Underground scene here is still not very large. The number of fans into different genres and sub genres is still small. India is not yet prepared to have a full on Doom Festival (or for the matter of fact any other category of Extreme Metal) with 6-7 bands playing a similar style on the bill (I would love if that happens one day in the future).The Extreme Metal scene is just about slowly opening up and a Fest with a mixed genre bill is much more ideal as there is something for everyone! Dying Embrace has surprisingly enjoyed tremendous support from fans of different genres of Extreme Metal, for the fact maybe because we are not a pure Doom or Death Metal band and for a matter of fact most of the riffs and structures are actually steeped in a lot of Classic Metal and have dark Bluesy overtones. We in fact played our reunion show at a purely Underground Grind gig and we felt, ”Damn, we’re gonna stick out like a sore thumb here”, but the support we got was fantastic! We love to play with bands from different genres than being stuck in a rut and having a one track mind to playing music!

Now, you’d probably have expected this question, but here it is anyway. You’re keeping your Bangalore fans perfectly satisfied with gigs at regular intervals, but what about us folks outside Bangalore? Is it just the lack of opportunity that prevents you from venturing out to other Indian cities?

Frankly speaking, we would love to play in other cities, but our work schedules are such that we don’t get much free time to take off to go on tours or play one off gigs in other cities. Also the Underground gig circuit in India is not very well networked or strong enough and the last thing I want is the band stranded in the middle of nowhere. At least in Bangalore we can go to the pub and down a dozen pints and crawl back to our lairs and pass out. Bangalore has an awesome audience and playing here has been great, we are enjoying playing here and I think for a while we won’t think of playing elsewhere other than the Metal capital of India!

Besides the gigs, is there any update on whether you got a chance to write new material?

We are writing new material for a split CD with Dusk from Pakistan. Bangalore based label, Cyclopean Eye Productions will be releasing this sometime mid 2013 and also we are confirmed to take part in the Motorhead India Tribute which will be out mid this year as well on Iron Fist Records. We usually write material slowly… quality always over quantity!

I read on your facebook page that there are labels in places like Germany and France carrying your older material? That’s awesome to hear, but are you taking any steps to get some distribution going for that material in India?

Our entire discography has been released on CD and 12” Gatefold Vinyl by French Label- Armee De La Mort Records. They have a fantastic Underground distribution network and our music is now available through several labels and distros around the world, as we speak our release is now available in Japan, South America, United States and other countries apart from Germany and France. In India, the release will be available directly through the band and will be sold and distributed through my small distro-Mahatobar. We launch the CD here at Trendslaughter Fest III on February 10th 2013!

With that said, the Dying Embrace t-shirts look absolutely killer, particularly this one (pictured below). I’d actually put this at par with any t-shirt designs I’ve seen from bands all over the world. Are you putting these for sale anywhere other than the merch stands at your gigs?

Thanks for the compliments, and that’s an honour for our shirt to be compared to international designs. We always have had tremendous support from our friends and fans who have endorsed all the designs we have made so far. This design is the artwork of the Era Of Tribulation compilation and was custom designed for us by Malaysian artist Zizi “Nexro Maniax” Amri. We sell our merch mainly at our stand at gigs but people can get in touch with me if they need them if they are unable to attend any of our shows.

Coming back to Trendslaughter, I don’t think you’ve played a show with anyone in that lineup except maybe for Shepherd. How familiar are you with the other bands?

Actually speaking, I don’t recollect playing a show with Shepherd. We are all great mates and I personally know the beer guzzlers from Witchgoat as well as the “smoke the toke” lads from Shepherd for a long time and its never a dull moment with them around, I have known Komrades Carnage & Valafar from Necrodeity for quite some time and their dedication and drive is killer.Both Yash & Aditya from Solar Deity are great guys too and we share plenty of laughs from time to time, so am actually looking forward to this gig as its going to be a great atmosphere of friendship and camaraderie both on and off stage.

You shared the stage with the mighty Kreator at Bangalore Open Air. For me, they have always been one of the fiercest live bands going around. What were your impressions of their performance and how did it feel to be part of their first ever India gig?

I have just one word for the experience at Bangalore Open Air- AWESOME! That concert will forever be remembered and those who were there will never forget it in a hurry! Kreator were mindblowing and meeting them back stage was a truly humbling moment for all of us.

Other than the gigs you played, being in Bangalore obviously you went to watch some bands purely as a fan too, including Slayer and Testament. When you see bands like those putting on incredible shows, how much does it inspire the musician in you?

We are fans first always and the music we love so much drove us to create music ourselves. We are not one of those kids who hear 20 mp3’s and not even a single full album and then say let’s form a band because it is cool! We will always support the bands we love and the ones we grew up listening to and those bands put up stellar performances… absolutely top notch! They will always be revered and respected and what we are today is because of them and their music.

What else can we expect from Dying Embrace in 2013?

Like I mentioned earlier, we have the Motorhead India Tribute coming up on Iron Fist Records as well as the “Through Corridors Of Dead Centuries” Split CD with Pakistan’s legendary Doom Lords, Dusk on Cyclopean Eye Productions, so our plate is full. We’ll do gigs as and when they come by and also spread the Era Of Tribulation discography to those who have wanted our early material for all these years. Otherwise we are a pretty laid back band and we love to just listen to more Metal by the days and drink more beer by the nights! \m/

Besides playing and listening to music, are there any other activities that you like to indulge in to channel your mind in a positive direction?

Between juggling my day job, family responsibilities and other assorted shit which piles up on me from time to time, I think Metal is the only thing which keeps me sane and I personally think Metal is probably one of the most positive things to have ever happened in my life! I like to take off on breaks from the maddening city life from time to time and enjoy a quiet time by the seaside. My friends and good booze go hand in hand so a binge filled with plenty of laughs also keeps me sane! Thanks for the interview Aniruddh and appreciate your support to Dying Embrace a lot! To all our friends and supporters, thanks and salutes! You guys are the fucking best! See you all at Trendslaughter Fest on February 10th! Metal & Fucking Hell \m/

Related: ‘Era Of Tribulation’ Album Review

Interviews with the rest of the Trendslaughter Fest lineup:
Blood Division | Necrodeity | Shepherd | Solar Deity | Witchgoat