By Aniruddh “Andrew” Bansal
March 30th 2012, Star Rock, Chennai, India: Mumbai-based horror-themed heavy metal band Albatross have just released their second EP “The Kissing Flies”, and last night in Chennai they kicked off their 5-gig EP launch tour across the country. They headlined “Score Night”, a weekly music event presented by The Score Magazine. It also happened to be their first ever gig in Chennai, and support came form locally based hard rock band 83 MPH. This was a special gig for me, in more ways than one. In addition to this being the first show in India I went to after a five-year gap, it was my first time seeing Albatross, and as a result, I had really high expectations from this gig. Based on what I saw, I would honestly say it fulfilled these expectations.
To start with, it wasn’t exactly the kind of setting I had imagined in my mind. Despite having been to all kinds of venues during my time in LA, ranging from absolute dumpsters to massive arenas, the Star Rock in Chennai turned out to be quite unlike any place I’d ever been to before. Located in the basement of the Spring Hotel, a three-star hotel no less, at first sight it looked a little too clean, a little too classy for a metal venue. Most of the people in the crowd were dressed in work clothes as opposed to metal band t-shirts. For a second, I actually thought I had ended up at the wrong venue. But it indeed was the correct venue, and it’s heartening to note that such places are willing to support the metal scene.
The show started at around 8.30 PM, as 83 MPH kicked off their 45-minute set. I must admit, judging purely from the genre they are labeled as, I was a little apprehensive about seeing them perform, expecting to dislike them. But they definitely proved me wrong. Even though their music was largely focussed on modern-sounding hard rock, some of the tunes had a blues element to them which I really enjoyed. The six-piece band was led excellently well by their singer, who not only showcased good vocal abilities, but also had an energetic stage presence. Their take on Queen’s “We Will Rock You” was very interesting, but I was taken aback by their choice of artist for the other cover tune, Rihanna. While that particular cover certainly wasn’t my cup of tea, they still kept it heavy, probably much heavier than the original.
The crowd seemed to be really into the music and gave the band loud cheers after every song. 83 MPH seems to be a very popular band in Chennai and a few other Southern cities of India, and based on this performance, I can see why. The only thing I’d like to see them change though, is the role of their keytar player. I’d very much like to see him do more leads and solos as opposed to the background role he’s currently performing. But all in all, I was impressed by 83 MPH, and the fact that their music couldn’t be more opposite to Albatross made this combination all the more entertaining.
The crowd waited as 83 MPH packed up their gear and Albatross set up theirs. After this short wait, all hell broke loose as Albatross opened up their set with the “Wither” intro from the Kissing Flies EP, followed by “Uncle Sunny At The Tavern”. The band was in its element, and pulled off the song really well. They were sounding extremely heavy right from the outset, and as I stood in the front row, the feeling of their music crushing my ears was absolutely amazing. Even though I was expecting a longer set from them as a headline act, I thought they mixed up the set list perfectly well, with songs from both EPs, as well as two cover tunes, Dio’s “Holy Diver” and Ozzy’s “Bark At The Moon”. Vocalist Biprorshee Das did a great job at both of these covers, and guitarists Nishith and Vignesh nailed all of their parts as well, specially on Holy Diver. In fact, bands like Killswitch Engage and Trivium should take lessons from Albatross on how to not butcher legendary songs. Those cover tunes were an opportunity for the crowd to sing along as well, and I made full use of it.
But most importantly, I came to this gig mainly to see Albatross performing their original material, and they met my expectations when it came to that. Since this was an EP launch gig, I thought may be they should have played the entire EP, but then I do understand why they didn’t, because the EP is barely even released, and it was clear from the crowd’s reaction that no one had heard it. So it was perhaps a wise decision to focus on the debut EP and covers for this particular gig. Still, I did get to hear the song I was most eagerly waiting for, the title track itself, “The Kissing Flies”. The band handled the dynamics of the 10-minute long tune brilliantly and presented it excellently on stage. Despite getting slightly out of breath towards the end of the tune, Biprorshee managed to pull through it. Not to forget the rhythm section, bassist Dr. Hex takes the accolade for being one of the most distinctly audible live bassists I’ve ever heard, and Jai’s drums were as loud as any other instrument, so much so that I can still hear the crash cymbals ringing in my ears.
In terms of the crowd reaction, it was a little mixed but I kind of expected that from this Chennai audience. They seemed more into the 83 MPH kind of music rather than Albatross. Most of them didn’t know what had hit them, but still, a few were glad to see Albatross for the first time in their town, and were cheering and shouting throughout the set.
All in all, a thoroughly entertaining evening, and a great start to Albatross’ tour. On to Bangalore tonight!
2. Uncle Sunny At The Tavern
3. Among The Cannibals
4. Holy Diver
6. Bark At The Moon
7. In The Court Of Kulu
8. The Kissing Flies