By Aniruddh “Andrew” Bansal
March 31st 2012, B52, Bangalore, India: It’s been a while since I last visited Bangalore, and it was exciting for me to return to the city in which I bore witness to what I still rate as the greatest show I’ve ever seen, the Iron Maiden gig at the Palace Grounds in March 2007. Since then until now, I’ve been away from India, but I kept hearing a lot of good things about the development of the metal scene in Bangalore. By that I’m not merely referring to the international gigs that come through town, but more importantly, the quality of the local bands.
Last night at B52, it was a chance for me to gauge what the city’s scene had to offer. Local promoters The Mighty Riff put together the line-up of Bangalore-based bands Bevar Sea, Dhwesha and Shepherd, along with Mumbai’s Albatross, and christened it “Riff52”. This was the first in a series of gigs that will lead up to the 2012 edition of The Mighty Riff’s main event, TMR. Judging from what I heard from these bands tonight, Riff52 turned out to be a very apt name, because the evening was filled to the brim with riffs galore.
I found myself in a comfort zone as soon as I stepped inside the venue. In contrast to the previous night in Chennai, this was a small, dingy bar packed with metalheads, definitely more like the setting I’m used to. At around 6 PM, things got going as opening band Shepherd took the stage. They had a sludgy, experimental doom vibe to their music, and I thought it was an appropriate beginning to the evening, because they fit into this line-up while still presenting elements that were not to be found in any of the bands that followed them. They threw in a couple of new tunes in the set as well. Even though they gave a good account of themselves and performed their material exactly the way it should be, the crowd seemed distracted. But that wasn’t a surprise to me, because their style of music can be really appreciated only by hardcore fans of the sludge/doom genre. Or in other words, it wasn’t the kind of music that would blow people away and win them over on the very first listen. Nonetheless, that doesn’t take anything away from Shepherd’s performance. A worthy opening act indeed.
Death metal band Dhwesha hit the stage next. Even though ‘death metal’ sounds like such a generic label these days, with hundreds of bands playing such style, nothing about Dhwesha fell into those generic descriptions. Their lyrics and song titles are in local language Kannada, and the music was far better than the cookie-cutter death metal I’ve grown tired of listening to. It had a very dark aura to it, with a great mixture of aggressive and melodic segments. They managed to hold the audience’s attention throughout, and seemed to enjoy a loyal fan-following that pulled a sizable crowd to the front few rows. Their set included a cover of Bolt Thrower’s “Powderburns” as well. It was great to see them paying tribute to one of their influences, and their admiration for the British death metal band genuinely came across in their rendition of the epic tune. I’ve never seen anyone do a Bolt Thrower live cover before, and this was pretty amazing. But Dhwesha’s original material was still the best part of their set, specially the self-titled “Dhwesha” which garnered the best response from the crowd. Among rapturous cheers, they ended their highly impressive set. I’d be inclined to go see Dhwesha perform whenever they play their next gig, no matter which part of the country it’s in. This band is a must-listen for fans of extreme metal. Strongly recommended.
Albatross were up next, and after seeing them as headliner the previous night, it was interesting to see how different they were as the main support act. Although I said that I really liked their set list for the Chennai gig, I thought the song selection for this gig was even better. It was more balanced, had a better flow to it, and most crucially, gave their vocalist Biprorshee the opportunity to give his best for the entire set. They started out with the two opening tunes from their new EP “The Kissing Flies”, and then went into an older tune, “Among The Cannibals”. The cover of Judas Priest’s “Night Crawler” got the crowd going, and this choice was very refreshing because it’s far from the most obvious choice when it comes to doing Priest covers. For Night Crawler, Albatross got the music dead-on right. Biprorshee didn’t exactly imitate Halford’s vocal style, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing in my opinion. In many ways, it sounded more like an Albatross because of the vocal style, and showcased the influence it has had on the band.
They slowed things down after this with “Chloroform”, a tune they wrote for a full-length album they had intended to release before the idea for the Kissing Flies EP took preference. They did a great version of “Holy Diver”, and ended the set with the amazing Kissing Flies title-song. Overall, I enjoyed this set more than the one in Chennai, and the only ‘shortcoming’ I would say was the on-stage positioning of Dr. Hex. As it turned out, he was standing behind one of the speakers on stage right, and was barely visible to most people in the crowd. Being that the central horror character he is, I feel he should take a more prominent stage position. May be it was just the tiny size of the stage that forced him out of focus. But other than, this was another good performance by Albatross.
2. Uncle Sunny At The Tavern
3. Among The Cannibals
4. Night Crawler
6. Holy Diver
7. The Kissing Flies
Heads started banging with full fervor as soon as the main act Bevar Sea started playing, and right till the moment they ended, the head-banging did not stop. Even though the band’s music alone was powerful enough to create the impact one would expect from a stoner-doom band, frontman Ganesh Krishnaswamy added further to it by giving it the visual aspect as well. No lights on stage, a bottle of beer in hand and a cigarette in mouth, you couldn’t get more ‘stoner’ than this. They did one original tune, the killer composition “Where There’s A Smoke, There’s A Pyre”, but this was largely a tribute gig, dedicated to Bevar Sea’s major influences.
I lost my mind as soon as I heard the opening riff of Black Sabbath’s “After Forever”, the first of many covers in this Bevar Sea set. I honestly felt like I had taken a trip back to an early 70’s Black Sabbath concert, such was the authenticity and perfection in Bevar Sea’s rendition. Their bassist switched with Ganesh to take up vocal duties for the ever-amazing “Snowblind”. Another guest vocalist was Biprorshee from Albatross joining in for “Hole In The Sky”. Besides Sabbath, the tribute portion of the set consisted of tunes by Saint Vitus, Sleep, Pentagram, Kyuss, Cathedral and Thin Lizzy, and I was loving every moment of it. Cathedral’s “Utopian Blaster” was perhaps the most memorable piece of the set, and Kyuss’ “Green Machine” was incredibly well-performed. Members of the crowd kept asking for some of the original Bevar Sea tunes, “Abhistu” more than anything else, but the band was very much fixated on what they had aimed to achieve with this gig, which was to give everyone a good indication of the inspiration behind Bevar Sea’s music. They ended the set with “Cornucopia”, another Sabbath cover I didn’t expect to hear. I was glad though that they didn’t go for the generic covers, and showed that the catalog of bands such as Sabbath has tunes that should be given equal, if not more appreciation than the ‘hits’.
As soon as the show was done, I rushed to the merchandise stand to pick up a Bevar Sea shirt. This band deserves all the support they can get, and I would encourage everyone to buy their killer t-shirts. Honestly, it was a little sad to see the merch stand being completely ignored by the crowd. Agreed, some people can’t afford to buy those shirts, but I feel most of them make give the “I have no money” reason just as an excuse, specially those who have the money for booze. Instead of spending on liquor, I would save it for merch, but may be that’s just me.
Overall, I had an absolute blast at the inaugural Riff52 gig, and so did the rest of the crowd that had turned up. We were presented with some amazing local talent in addition to the second Albatross EP launch performance. I’ll definitely be in attendance for the next Riff52 gig, as I’m already looking forward to it, and at that gig, I expect to see some more familiar and new faces in the crowd supporting the city’s rapidly rising metal scene.
Bevar Sea set list:
I Bleed Black – Saint Vitus
After Forever – Black Sabbath
Dragonaut – Sleep
Snowblind – Black Sabbath (Avinash on vocals)
Sign of the Wolf – Pentagram
Green Machine – Kyuss
Where There’s Smoke, There’s A Pyre
Hole in the Sky – Black Sabbath (Bipro from Albatross)
Utopian Blaster + Emerald – Cathedral/Lizzy
Cornucopia – Black Sabbath