By Aniruddh “Andrew” Bansal
June 3rd 2012, Star Rock, Chennai, India: After an enjoyable outing at the Star Rock for Albatross’ EP launch gig a little over two months ago, I was back here to attend the Bangalore Open Air Pre-Party gig featuring Bevar Sea as the headline act, along with Witchgoat and Chennai-based death metal bands Crypted and Vidyut. This gig served as a buildup to Bangalore Open Air, set to take place on June 16th, and just like the Albatross gig, this one was also a “Score Night”, presented by The Score Magazine. Having seen Bevar Sea’s killer performance at the Riff52 show earlier this year, I knew what to expect from them, but I was getting to see the other bands for the first time, and was very much curious and looking forward to finding out what they were capable of. The show turned out to be an interesting experience in the end, albeit not an entirely positive one.
The show started at around 7.30 PM, with opening band Vidyut hitting the stage. They took a while to set up before they finally started their set, but they continued having sound problems throughout the first song. The level of vocals and bass was too low, but they fixed that after the song was done, and sounded better from then on. The crowd was quite dead and unenthusiastic at this point, and I commend the band’s vocalist for trying his best to get them going. He even dived into the crowd and tried to get a moshpit going, but sadly to no avail. But that didn’t deter him from giving his 100 per cent towards his performance. Their drummer also did a solid job behind the kit, and gave the music a lot of impetus. In terms of material, these guys have some good tunes, no doubt. There’s a prominent old school death metal vibe about them. But I think they can get much tighter as a group when it comes to live performance. They’re still very new, so I’m sure these things will improve on their own during the course of future gigs. Besides, the vocalist should work on the part where he talks to the crowd in between songs. It’s just a matter of building confidence I think, and it will come with experience. So all in all, Vidyut have good material, and my only suggestion to them would be to keep playing as many gigs as possible.
There was another long delay as Crypted began setting up their equipment, and close to 9 o’ clock, they began their set. I was impressed by what these guys had to offer. They displayed a great variety of musical styles throughout their set, moving between modern, technical and progressive elements to straight-up old school death metal riffs and thrash-like segments, and even throwing in a bit of jazz-oriened mellow arrangements amidst all of it. They got a good response from this crowd too, and succeeded in inducing a moshpit, which I never thought would happen at a Chennai gig. But just like Vidyut, Crypted also suffered from sound problems. Other than that, it was an excellent performance, and I feel this band has the potential to go on and do great things. In India, there is a lot of talk about old-school and new-school metal, and there seems to be this great wall dividing fans of the two styles. But Crypted’s set last night vindicated my appreciation of the newer school, because of the freshness in their approach towards writing and performing heavy music. I’d urge people out there to forget about this dividing wall and give bands like Crypted a chance.
Witchgoat, the band I was most eagerly waiting for, hit the stage next, and did so with all guns blazing. The brand new blackened thrash outfit from Bangalore were dressed for the part too, with denim vests, leather jackets, bullet belts, and the drummer wearing a hilarious-looking mask. I would love to describe the mask in further detail, but I think it’s perhaps best to leave it as a surprise for those who get to see the band for the first time in future shows. They played five covers and two original tracks , starting off with Motorhead’s “Iron Fist” and then going on to Judas Priest’s “Rapid Fire”. The atmosphere at the venue had transformed pretty rapidly, with a lot more people now getting involved in the show, banging heads, raising fists and singing the words. Warhammer’s “Curse Of The Sabbath” was the band’s choice for the ‘cult’ cover of the set, but the last two covers, Kreator’s “Tormentor” and Slayer’s “Black Magic” got the best reaction from the crowd. The two original tracks sounded pretty good as well, and clearly showed that the band is strongly influenced by Motorhead, and indeed by teutonic thrash.
In terms of performance, yes there were a few mistakes in the cover tunes, but I’m sure the band members already know amongst themselves by now as to where they made those mistakes, and it shouldn’t be hard for them to iron out those things over the course of time. Besides, when such covers are being played, I tend to not over-analyze them, and I’m more interested in the original songs anyway. Well, unless the songs are completely butchered, as is the case with Dio and Iron Maiden covers put out by bands like Killswitch Engage and Trivium respectively, I don’t get terribly upset over imperfect cover renditions. Overall, I think Witchgoat is an exciting prospect, and I’d be very much interested in seeing more of their original material in gigs to come.
Our headline act took the stage soon after Witchgoat was done, and I noticed that the crowd started clearing out. It was sad to see that the best band of the night played to the least number of people, but I guess stoner doom isn’t really Chennai’s thing, and that’s understandable. It’s neither fast nor catchy, and is certainly not for everybody. The lack of crowd didn’t seem to bother the band though, and they went on with their set in the same manner that they would in a packed venue. One good thing about this show was, the venue wasn’t nearly as dark as Bangalore’s B52, so I got a chance to actually see what the Bevar Sea guitarists were doing on their instruments. But other than that, this type of setting wasn’t ideal for a Bevar Sea show, and I hope to be able to enjoy their set a lot more in future gigs, not least of all at Bangalore Open Air itself.
The show as a whole could have been a lot better than what it turned out to be, and the venue’s sound has to take a major part of the blame. It was a lot worse than the Albatross show I attended here, that’s for sure. None of the bands at this gig seemed happy with the sound while they were up on stage, and from the crowd’s point of view too, the music didn’t sound great unless you were in the front row and facing the center of the stage. It wasn’t balanced at all, and sounded different if you changed your position. They really need to get the right people working on the sound, and a vast improvement is needed. It’s all well and good supporting the metal scene and hosting events such as these, but they have to be done right. This type of sound system might be good enough for your weekend blues band, but doesn’t cut it for heavier forms of music.
Also, I must point out that despite this being the “Score Night”, the turnout was pretty poor. I’m not sure who exactly was responsible for promoting this gig, but whoever it was didn’t do his or her job, at all. I was keeping track of all things posted online about this gig on various social networks, and I somehow failed to come across any kind of promotion for the gig. Again, it’s great that the Score Night is giving metal bands a chance to perform, but there is a clear lack of effort when it comes to making the show a success. It seems to me like they’re supporting the scene just for the sake of doing so, and aren’t seriously concerned about whether it will benefit bands like Bevar Sea and Witchgoat. These four bands deserve crowds of at least 200-300, and it’s up to these organizers to make it happen. It hurts me deeply to see such poor turnouts. If people aren’t willing to pay the entry fee to attend the show, give away free tickets. For fuck’s sakes, the organizers need to do something.
Overall, the gig was a mixed bag, but worth the trip from Bangalore nonetheless.