By Aniruddh “Andrew” Bansal
April 15th 2012, United 21, Thane, India: After two interesting outings in Chennai and Bangalore, horror-themed traditional heavy metal band Albatross brought “The Kissing Flies” EP launch tour to their hometown of Thane. This gig, christened Wither 2012, also featured Workshop, Cosmic Infusion and Varcas, along with Providence, a last-minute fill-in for Pillbox 666 who had to withdraw from the gig due to unfortunate circumstances. Because of Pillbox 666’s withdrawal, this became an all-Mumbai lineup, and gave me a chance to get my first proper taste of the city’s metal scene.
Just like the venue of the Chennai gig, the setting for the show here tonight was extremely weird, to say the least. United 21 is a four-star hotel, and has a discotheque called Orbits. The gig took place inside this discotheque. There were circular disco lights everywhere, on the walls and on the floor. The actual stage had a background full of these lights, but funnily enough, the stage wasn’t lit from its front. It also didn’t have any elevation from the dance floor. So, you could get a clear view of the musicians on stage only from the first couple of rows. All this led to an intriguing atmosphere and raised my curiosity even further.
The show started at 6 PM, with symphonic metal band Varcas taking the stage. They weren’t bad at all, but I feel they can definitely improve. I thought the keyboard was too dominant, and the guitars were barely audible. If the guitars are given a more prominent role, this band will sound far better. I liked the vocalist’s performance, and he seemed to be putting a 100 per cent into it. His voice, on-stage energy and crowd interactions were excellent, and he tried his best to get the crowd involved. To a large extent, he succeeded. The band garnered a decent applause from the crowd when they ended their short 25-minute set.
Up next was black metal band Cosmic Infusion. They seem to be one of the very few Indian bands that employ the use of corpse paint while performing, but as it turned out, this was far from being a mere gimmick, because their dark, epic and powerful music fully lived up to the appearance of the band members on stage. They created a lasting impression on everyone in the audience, and induced the first mosh-pit of the evening. Frontman Sushan Shetty delivered his vocals with great intensity, and on a couple of occasions he switched to clean vocals with effortless ease. His keyboard parts added a lot of depth to the overall sound, without overpowering the guitars. For me, the most striking aspect of Cosmic Infusion’s performance tonight was the fact that musically they didn’t seem to be copying anyone and had an element of uniqueness. Even though the black metal genre is saturated with generic bands, Cosmic Infusion stands out among them as a must-watch.
As soon as the next band Providence hit their stride and started playing their first song, it quickly became clear to me that their music wasn’t my cup of tea, not by a long shot. But sadly, their brand of generic metalcore attracted the biggest crowd of the night. I definitely do not hate the metalcore genre as such, but this band wasn’t doing anything that I hadn’t seen or heard before, and I didn’t get any kind of enjoyment out of their music. It was rather amusing to watch the bro-core style mosh-pits though, and if not for those, I have no idea how I would have spent those excruciating 30 minutes. I repeat, I do not mean to hate on the band, but I’m just being honest. They were nowhere near worthy enough to replace a band like Pillbox 666 on this bill, and their performance made me miss Pillbox even more.
Next up was a band I was dreading, not because I hated their music or anything, but just because of the things I’d heard about them. In fact, I didn’t even get a chance to listen to their music before this gig. The band I’m talking about is humor metal quartet Workshop, led by the man himself, the one and only Demonstealer. Some people told me that Workshop is the worst thing they’ve ever seen, but judging from tonight’s performance, I have to disagree with that. They were far from the worst thing I’ve ever seen. On the contrary, I found their set to be quite entertaining.
Demonstealer handled his stand-up comedy routines really well and engaged the crowd successfully. I treated their whole set as entertainment rather than music, and when you look at it that way, I think you’ll get what Demonstealer is aiming to do through this band. As a tribute to Albatross on the occasion of their EP launch, all four members of Workshop were dressed as Dr. Hex, wearing white lab coats and gas masks. They played a sizable 45-minute set, which allowed for music as well as comedy in plenty. I usually hate frontmen who make attempts at stand-up comedy in between songs, but this is an exception because in this case it’s very much part of the music. “I Came”, the last song of their set, was my favorite, and seemed to be a crowd favorite as well. All in all, I have no regrets in saying that I enjoyed Workshop’s performance tonight.
Shortly after Workshop finished their set, the headline act Albatross began theirs in customary style, starting with the “Wither” intro and then going into “Uncle Sunny At The Tavern”. They invited their former guitarist Rajarshi Bhattacharyya up on stage, as he took over from Nishith and performed “Among The Cannibals” with the band. It was great to see them include their former member in this EP launch show, giving him recognition for his past efforts as part of the band. Next up was a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”, for which they brought on Nitin Rajan to take over vocal duties from Biprorshee Das. I have to say, even though Nitin’s growls were solid and powerful, that style of vocals didn’t suit the song at all. After that came another cover, thankfully with Biprorshee back on vocals. “Holy Diver” is a staple in the Albatross set these days, and rightly so, because they certainly do a great job playing it.
But then came a surprise, and they played a cover of Wolf’s “Voodoo”, as a token of respect to Wolf frontman Niklas Stålvind, who contributed as guest vocalist in Albatross’ new EP. For this they invited Srikanth Srinivasan to play guitar, and once again Nishith stepped aside. It was rather ironic that even though Biprorshee announced Wolf as “Swedish legends”, hardly anyone in the crowd seemed to know the band, leave along knowing the song. This killer rendition led to the last two songs of the set, “In The Court Of Kuru” and “Kissing Flies”, the latter also featuring the Demonstealer on vocals.
Based on the three times I’ve now seen them, I can say with certainty that Albatross get better as a live band every time. Performance-wise, they keep getting louder and tighter, and their set list is also slightly different each time. They definitely took things up several notches as compared to the Chennai and Bangalore gigs, and made their hometown gig a truly special one. In terms of the crowd response, it was really sad to see that Providence drew the largest crowd while the gathering for Albatross remained small. But with the kind of music they play, Albatross will always have a cult following at best, and I’m sure the band already knows that. It’s quite admirable that they’re still playing metal the traditional way, specially in a country wherein it’s too easy for a band to follow trends, sell out and take the Providence route. A few technical problems and the Sabbath cover aside, this was a fantastic performance by Albatross, and if they continue their pattern of getting better with every gig, I might have no choice but to travel to the North-East of India for the remainder of the Albatross EP launch tour.
2. Uncle Sunny At The Tavern
3. Among The Cannibals
4. Paranoid [Black Sabbath cover]
5. Holy Diver [Dio cover]
6. Voodoo [Wolf cover]
7. In The Court Of Kuru
8. Kissing Flies
Overall Gig Rating: 9/10