There was a time when local bands played only songs made by great international bands, and that was around a decade ago. Most Indian metal bands had no songs of their own and were happy playing cover versions because that’s what the crowd wanted. A pathetic excuse of song the band had made – ‘original compositions’ they were called – was apologetically offered to the audience, who put up with the few minutes of the incompetent noise because the sorry band had appeased them with a few classics from each of the metal masters.
The old withered away, and the sellouts were stuck in a rut, and the newer bands that emerged had already understood that the way forward was to emulate the metal gods by creating music of great power and that that was the only way.
The number of cover versions were gradually decreased and then completely done away with, and the bands went from being Metallica/Megadeth/Slayer wannabes who spluttered tripe like “This is our own original composition!”, to confident bands who proudly played only their own songs and told kids in the audience who screamed and shouted out demands for Sepultura and Pantera where exactly they could go.
And now, at last, cover versions have been placed where they belong: bands no longer use them to fill their sets, and they are deservedly performed as tributes to their creators.
Orion opened another tribute night last Saturday, and as if on cue, began with their music. A heady dose of technical progressive death metal was delivered, less familiar than the band’s version of System Of A Down’s Sugar, but far more impressive. As Orion played Opeth’s The Drapery Falls – and they pulled through despite the sound problems – it became clear that they are no fast-food band; Orion is the band you want to see play long sets.
Pradeep Pande looked relieved being out of the world of extreme metal; his band Arquebus was a misfit but the crowd didn’t mind it – everybody listens to everything anyway. Arquebus played quite a few songs, and their vocalist dresses likes a glam-rock dude, has an emo haircut and sings pretty well.
Therefore Play – aha! Who would’ve thought a metalcore band could be so entertaining onstage! Theirs was no premeditated act; Abhishek Dhamankar & Party were in the mood to cuss and swear and did the charm flow or what! You can tell when people are naturally crazy, and you can tell when people are being ‘fun’ and ‘cool’ because it’s their stage act, and Therefore Play are naturally crazy. They got the crowd making weird frantic movements with their versions of songs by Mudwayne, Korn and Slipknot, but their own songs were more fun to listen to. They sound like (what I think is) mathcore, because they play strangely-timed beats and three members were headbanging out of synch in the freakiest manner, and an old-school guy like me is likely to think that it’s probably mathcore. Abhishek Dhamankar also has the distinction of being the only vocalist too bored to tell the audience their internet address. Before leaving the stage, he said something like, “Myspace blah-blah.”
Albatross has been taking big steps right from its inception and another good thing is they don’t play too often, which compels you to go see them whenever they do and as a result check out other bands as well. With The Kissing Flies due for release in a couple of months, the traditional heavy metal band will tell tales of horror on a few occasions this year, but on Saturday it was strictly Black Sabbath worship and Ozzy Osbourne madness and just a teaser. The hits came flying: Gets Me Through, Bark At The Moon, Crazy Train, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath… this would be the right time to tell you that Albatross is at its strongest with the current (and hopefully permanent) lineup: with Nishith Hegde and Vigneshkumar Venkatraman (also in Orion) throwing solos left, right and centre; Biprorshee Das screaming his head off; Jay Thacker banging the drums without saying anything; Riju ‘Dr Hex’ Dasgupta observing the mayhem with his fretless bass from behind the mask – we could go into all that but let’s talk about this guy who wanted to listen to Biprorshee sing Paranoid. A sincere request, you might say, but it turned into an unreasonable demand. The middle-aged man was too drunk to reason with and insisted that Biprorshee sing Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, and was taken away by the organizers, only to return during Mr Crowley. When Albatross was halfway through Mr Crowley, the dude began bugging Bipro for his song, and when Bipro smiled politely at the bugging, the guy began tugging at the microphone cord. Anyway, that wasn’t the highlight of Albatross’ set; the highlight was Albatross playing their fresh-off-the-tava song Uncle Sunny At The Tavern – a headbanger to whet the appetite for The Kissing Flies.
The final set of the night was by Providence, and they were pumping, to say the least. An attitude-packed performance that started with Watch Them Fall and included a rousing rendition of Sepultura’s Spit and was rounded off with more tracks from their 2011 EP Vanguard ended the Special Edition of Metal Bajaao at B69. The show was really good because all the bands were fun to watch, especially the guest appearances: Sunneith Revankar singing with Therefore Play, and Bipro screaming out Iron Maiden classics with Providence – no matter what I say about Iron Maiden getting older and boring, Fear Of the Dark still sends shivers up and down my spine. What I really want to say is that it was incredibly pussy-like of the people who ran away when the cops showed up. It was B69’s last show and the last band was yet to start and it was Saturday night; people should have stuck around. Whoa, I’ve typed out a fucking essay when all I wanted was to say thanks to the guys who made B69 happen. We had Rang Bhavan taken away from us, and we lost Razzberry Rhinoceros, and now B69’s closing. There must be something about the music because nothing has been able to stop it.