Bangalore Open Air Treats Audience To Metal Marathon

By Aniruddh “Andrew” Bansal

June 16th 2012, Acharya College, Bangalore, India: The much eagerly awaited inaugural Bangalore Open Air festival was finally upon us, and for me, walking through the entrance of Acharya Institute was indeed an awesome feeling. I reached the venue at around 10.30 AM, about half an hour before the first band went on, which gave me ample time to absorb the surroundings. The concert arena looked absolutely epic, and very soon, fans started lining up to enter. It promised to be just the perfect setting for a show of this kind, and I was extremely excited and curious to find out whether the actual show would live up to this promise.

The finalists for the Wacken Metal Battle India got the show started, and West Zone winners Zygnema were the first to take the stage. I had only heard of them, and not their music, but their groove-oriented musical style wasn’t too hard to relate to at first listen. They got the crowd involved right from the outset, and everyone present at this time of the day seemed to enjoy Zygnema’s set. The stage was huge, and these guys made perfect use of it by playing a monstrous set. Frontman Jimmy’s crowd interaction also contributed a lot to the band’s performance. I was impressed by their live show, and if you’re into the Pantera kind of metal, I think you’ll dig these guys.

South Zone winners Crypted were up next. There was an unnecessarily long gap before they began playing, and I feel that this gap hampered their set a little bit. Because of the 30-minute long wait, the crowd lost some of its enthusiasm that was nicely built up during Zygnema’s set, and Crypted didn’t get the kind of response they deserved. To make things worse, they kept having sound problems throughout their set. But I was still glad to see them perform, and musically I’d definitely pick them over the other Wacken Battle finalists as the best of the lot. They have the potential to go on and do great things, and I look forward to seeing their next show, hopefully soon.

After another long delay, East Zone winners Damage Era from Gangtok, Sikkim were up next, and they also had sound problems. They came across as a groove metal band with thrash and hardcore elements, and weren’t bad at all, but I don’t think this gig was a true reflection on their musicianship and live performance, due to the technical problems. The lead guitarist was barely audible at any point during their set. Anyway, props to them for making the trip to Bangalore and for trying their best to entertain us. I’d dearly love to see the kind of response they get in their hometown. As for today’s battle, Zygnema were declared as the winners.

After the conclusion of the Wacken Battle, Bangalore-based thrash band Theorized took the stage as the first band on the main lineup. The band features Escher’s Knot bassist Madhav Ayachit on vocals. It was interesting for me to see them for the first time, and Madhav put his 100 per cent effort into the vocals, but his mic kept cutting out through the set, which was a real pity. In terms of the music, they showcased some solid tunes, even though they were more progressive than I had expected. but the highlight of their short set was the song they did with Escher’s Knot vocalist Abhijeet joining them on stage. It got the best out of this crowd, and the band sounded the heaviest on this tune. It even induced the first mosh pit of the day. So overall, Theorized proved themselves to be worthy of the big stage, and did a good job as a last-minute addition to this lineup.

Albatross were up next, and having seen the band thrice on their ‘Kissing Flies’ EP launch tour earlier this year, which also included a Bangalore gig, I expected to see them do something different and special for this set, and they didn’t disappoint. They performed “From Ashes Comes Life” from the new EP for the first time ever, and ended the set with “Dining Table”, a song I’d never seen them play before. Other than that, they did “Uncle Sunny At The Tavern”, “In The Court Of Kuru”, and as a tribute to the man after whom this stage was named, they did a cover of “Holy Diver”. As expected, it was the best song of the set in terms of crowd response. Performance-wise, the band did a great job at every single tune, and showed that they are capable of handling the big stages. But the fact that they were playing so early in the day took away slightly from the horror-filled atmosphere they usually create otherwise, which I feel is an important aspect of their live show. It was a solid performance nonetheless.

“We are Bevar Sea, and so are you!” shouted vocalist Ganesh, as Bangalore’s very own stoner doom masters Bevar Sea took the stage next. As always, they sounded amazing, and Ganesh did his best to get the crowd involved. He even stepped down from the stage and stayed near the crowd during “Abhishtu”, trying to get them to sing along. A few of them in the front row did respond, and in general, everyone was impressed with what this hometown band of theirs had to offer on stage today. Besides laying down some sweet riffs, guitarist Srikanth Panaman made excellent use of the extra space on stage and interacted well with his band mates. And aside from the music, Bevar Sea’s killer artwork made for an awesome backdrop, so in addition to sounding great, they looked great on that stage. They looked legit. Bangalore should be proud to call them a local band.

Delhi-based black metal outfit 1833 AD followed, and their set was marred by two major stoppages, one because of guitarist Rahul’s bleeding arm, and the other due to technical problems. I was really looking forward to their set because I was impressed by their music when I heard it at home, so it was disappointed to see that they had to cut down their set. Because of these stoppages, I don’t think they could put their mind totally towards their performance, as their rhythm kept getting disrupted. I feel they are very much a band that depends on the vibe they create, and there can’t be a vibe if they keep stopping for a few minutes after every song. They did their best to entertain everyone even during the delays though, as drummer Raghav busted out a drum solo, and frontman Nishant interacted with the crowd. But still, 1833 AD is certainly capable of a better show, and I hope the next time they find the right kind of setting that’d allow them to do just that.

Next up was a band I was very eagerly anticipating, Bangalore-based death/doom metal veterans Dying Embrace. It was really interesting for me to get to see an Indian band that has been around for so long, because till now I’ve only seen the newer Indian bands that are two years old at the most. Dying Embrace played their classic material extremely well, and it was equally well received by the crowd. It was heartening to see that a lot of people were wearing Dying Embrace shirts, and here was a band that was clearly treated with respect and admiration by the fans. Vocalist Vikram Bhat was in his elements, delivering some crushing vocals, playing air-guitar while not singing, and talking to the crowd after every song. But I must also mention drummer Deepak Raghu, the unsung hero, pulling off double duty with Bevar Sea and Dying Embrace, with effortless ease. Because of the underground nature of Dying Embrace’ music, it’s quite hard to find all of their releases on CD, and that’s why there’s all the more reason for them to play shows on a regular basis. I hope that happens, because I have a feeling that doing so will get them back into their groove, and will inspire them to write new material. It was great to see them be part of this show, and I’m already looking forward to their next gig.

Progressive metal band Eccentric Pendulum followed, and served as a complete contrast to Dying Embrace, which was a good thing. Compared to all the bands that played before them, they were really different, and brought about a much needed change. Don’t get me wrong, I loved all the old-school bands on this bill, as you can tell from the paragraphs above, but a 12-band bill really should have a mix of the old and the new, and it shouldn’t be just one-dimensional all the way through. There couldn’t have been a better band than Eccentric Pendulum to add to this mix. I thoroughly enjoyed their set, and they showcased some incredible musicianship. Bands playing this type of modern, complex music often get too nerdy and don’t put on an actual ‘show’ when they’re on stage. I’m glad to say Eccentric Pendulum defied this norm, and were as good with their stage presence as they were with their performance.

There were a few tiny bouts of light drizzle up till now, but we got the first heavy rain shower during EP’s set, and the crowd absolutely loved it. I thought it livened up the atmosphere quite a bit, and watching those heads banging in the rain as I stood in the photo pit was a sight to behold. But just as their set hit its peak, it was cut short, as they apparently ‘ran out of time’. It was slightly disappointing, because these guys deserved an hour-long set. I have no doubt in my mind that Eccentric Pendulum will go on to accomplish a lot in the near future, and now it’s up to the so-called ‘old-school’ contingent to open up to this band and accept them as part of the Indian scene. The closed-mindedness needs to end.

Whenever I talked to the local people in the days leading up to this gig and mentioned that I hadn’t seen Kryptos yet, pretty much everyone told me that they’d be the band to watch out for at Bangalore Open Air. The wait was over, as the longstanding thrash quartet hit the stage all guns blazing, getting an instant roar of approval from their hometown faithful. It was easily the loudest the crowd had sounded up till this point. The sound problems faced by the first few bands were now long gone, and the sound during Kryptos’ set was pretty awesome, doing complete justice to their performance. To go with the excellent music, they donned denim vests and leather jackets, and the old-fashioned Dave Mustaine-style headbanging really made Kryptos come across as probably the most legit old-school heavy metal Indian band I’ve ever seen. I mean, if this is not old-school, nothing is. At the risk of repeating what I’ve said about some of the other bands, I’ll just say I wish they did more shows, specially outside Bangalore. There has been literally no activity from them since the release of their latest album, which kind of surprised me. Kryptos is undoubtedly a great live band, but after all, they need to play gigs to show that to people. Nonetheless, my first ever Kryptos experience lived up to its hype.

Just as I was getting ready to go into the photo pit for the main support act Suidakra, I was told to wait in the media tent for my Kreator interview. As a result, I didn’t get any pictures of them, and ended up missing most of their set when I was taken backstage for the interview. Honestly, it was the most poorly organized interview I’ve ever had the misfortune of being a part of, and it was a gigantic clusterfuck, to say the least. I walked up to Mille Petrozza and started my interview, but the girl from the PR company kept interrupting me, and forced me to do a joint interview with five other journalists, and even then, she wasn’t letting us do a proper interview, citing ‘lack of time’ as the reason, even though there was plenty of time. Having interviewed Mille two years back, I know how cool of a person he is, and I’m sure he would have been absolutely fine with doing one-on-one interviews with each of us. But the PR people wouldn’t let us have it. This is what happens with the organizers hire PR people who don’t have any fucking clue about how this is done. The day before the gig, I spent a considerable amount of time preparing my questions, and I didn’t even get a chance to ask any of those. This interview wasn’t worth the effort, and It would have actually better if I hadn’t done it at all. OK, rant over.

But whatever little I saw of Suidakra, they did put on a solid show. Their style of music, celtic metal as they call it, might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but you can’t fault the band’s live performance, and their overall sound was rich and strong. The crowd seemed to enjoy every moment of it. The heavy rain during this set also added to the celtic vibe, and for me it was actually as entertaining to see the crowd as it was to see the band itself. Hats off to them for being such a hard-working band and accepting this gig as a last-minute replacement for Iced Earth.

And after all of the eleven support acts were done with, it was time for the mighty Kreator to grace the Bangalore Open Air audience. The first sight of Mille Petrozza on stage was greeted with a unanimous roar by this crowd that had waited patiently to see their heroes perform. The short intro led straight into “Violent Revolution”, and heads started banging furiously. But all hell broke loose as soon as the next song started, none other than “Hordes Of Chaos”. From then on, the crowd was at Mille Petrozza’s mercy, and his orders were their commands. Throughout its duration, the set had an excellent flow to it. The band moved on from Hordes Of Chaos to “Phobia”, and then to “Phantom Antichrist”, the title track from the new album. I was very much waiting to see how the new material goes with the older stuff. I predicted it’d make Kreator’s live set more dynamic, and that was exactly the case. Songs like Phantom Antichrist and “From Flood Into Fire” presented some different elements of Kreator’s music, and was a good change-up from the out-and-out thrash tunes in the set. I was hoping for more than two new songs, but I understand why did they just two, as the album has only recently released.

Having said that, classics like “Enemy Of God”, “Endless Pain”, “Pleasure To Kill” and “Flag Of Hate” were really the highlights of the set in terms of the crowd response, and multiple circle pits broke out during these songs. Overall, I’d say the difference from the last time I saw them was that with the new material, they’re more of a complete heavy metal band now, rather than just a thrash act. Kreator proved that they are the kind of band that blows away not just the fans, but also those who have no idea who they are. I spoke to a few of my friends after the show who weren’t Kreator fans up till the day of this gig, but admitted that they were taken aback by how crushing Kreator sounded as a live band. So, if you’re not a Kreator fan but have a show of theirs coming up in your town, I strongly suggest you to go. By the time you come out of the show, you WILL be a fan.

As you can tell from the reviews above, the music was great throughout the day, but it was very depressing me to see the pathetically low turnout. I’d say it was something between 1000 and 2000, at the most. The arena wasn’t even one-fifth filled to its capacity. The distance from the city could have been a major reason for this, as people in Bangalore find it hard to travel distances of 40 kilometers even for work, leave alone for a concert. But aside from that, I still think the venue was too big for this lineup, and perhaps the promoters should have made a better assessment of the expected turnout, and rather than playing in a largely empty arena, I’m sure all bands would have preferred playing in a small, packed venue.

All in all, Bangalore Open Air was quite the experience. Open-air festivals really are the most enjoyable metal gigs you can ever go to, and I hope India gets treated to many, many more of these.

Overall gig rating: 8/10

Related: Picture Gallery

Kreator Set List:

1. The Patriarch
2. Violent Revolution
3. Hordes of Chaos (A Necrologue for the Elite)
4. Phobia
5. Phantom Antichrist
6. Extreme Aggression
7. People of the Lie
8. From Flood Into Fire
9. Terrible Certainty
10.Enemy of God
11.Voices of the Dead
12.Endless Pain
13.Pleasure to Kill
14.Terror Zone
15.Flag of Hate / Tormentor