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An In-Depth Look Into the Indian Metal Scene Featuring Quotes From 15 Bands

Find out who you're missing out on featuring Demonic Resurrection, Skyharbor, Undying Inc, Zygnema, Systemhouse33, Inner Sanctum, Albatross, Kryptos, Goddess Gagged, Noiseware, Eccentric Pendulum, What Escapes Me, Dymbur, Mute the Saint, and The Cosmic Truth…

Find out who you're missing out on featuring Demonic Resurrection, Skyharbor, Undying Inc, Zygnema, Systemhouse33, Inner Sanctum, Albatross, Kryptos, Goddess Gagged, Noiseware, Eccentric Pendulum, What Escapes Me, Dymbur, Mute the Saint, and The Cosmic Truth...

ECCENTRIC PENDULUM

eccentric pendulum indian metal

Eccentric Pendulum is a progressive metal act with elements of thrash and death infused. The band formed in the year 2008 and have since released The Sculptor of Negative Emotions EP and Winding the Optics in 2009 and 2011 respectively. They had their first breakthrough playing alongside Textures and Amon Amarth in Bangalore followed by a performance at Wacken Open Air 2011 in Germany and touring Spain and Portugal with Immortal, Gorod, and Candlemass. The group has supported Kreator, Meshuggah, Opeth, Orphaned Land, and Ne Obliviscaris during their Indian tours.

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How would you describe the current Indian metal scene?

The current Indian metal scene is striving hard. It's quite promising, but it may be a battle fought for a lost cause in the land of mundane entertainment, or in other words, Bollywood and other regional entertainment realms (where money and fame is). Though money and fame are not the parameters metalheads strive towards, venues are harder to find, permissions are harder to get, and the scene is like a huge cluster of DIY workers. Of course, we do have some big major festivals, but they hardly cater to the higher standards of exploitative music. As many would agree there was a certain paradigm shift in the year 2007 when Iron Maiden played in India for the first time. Three out of four of 'The Big Four' have been to India (everyone but Anthrax). Few of the big educational institutions of India, such as IIT, IIMB, etc. have opened their doors since the last five years to get some top quality bands from around the world. We are glad to be associated with such events.

What are the pros and cons of being a metal band in India?

The Indian music scene and its general affinity towards the mundane commercial activities is the biggest problem for independent metal bands. Indians love radio friendly music and are never in a state to explore anything offbeat or sudden. It's just not culturally accepted yet. However, there are pros of being a metal band in India. I think it is slightly simpler than how things happen in Europe like how a band has to be ready with their complete backline if they are doing a pub show. Whereas in India, everything is served on a platter. When you arrive at a venue everything is setup by the organizers. Everything from the drum kit to lights to the backline to the smoke machines. Most shows have a lump-sum amount as remunerations towards the band while some split the gate entry fee. The exposure is limited to 100 – 200 people in a pub gig and say probably 1,000 – 2,000 people in a full fledged metal festival. So, now you can imagine the 'expenditure vs. return ratio.' 1,000 people cannot even cover one well reputed international band's expenditure. While most metal festivals in India happen at a loss or a mere break even, profits are rare but sometimes existent. Mostly gigs happen in major cities like Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune, or Delhi. There is also a unique fan following for rock and metal in the Northeastern part of India, which cover places like Shillong, Guwahati, etc. Most bands hit either Bangalore or Mumbai when it comes to touring. We are far, far away from having anything like SPV or Nuclear Blast or Century Media, though there are a bunch of people in Bombay and Delhi pursuing this dream quite steadily. This provides opportunity to push the scene forward to an extent if not in terms of gigs at least in terms of getting an independent project out on to the market. Earlier there was not a single site where you could find Indian music CDs or digital releases available. Now, we have labels and websites pushing out many Indian underground bands releases throughout India and worldwide. It is slow, but it has evolved, especially in an era where CDs have no value. It's a slow start but a start nonetheless. More bands have been able to put out their material in recent days because of the prominent label, Transcending Obscurity.

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Has the Western metal scene (US/Europe) affected or influenced your band?

It definitely has! Everything from songwriting to the immaculate production has played an important role in shaping this band's sound. Our major influences are Martyr, Tool, Nevermore, Cynic, Slayer, and Meshuggah to name a few. The studio equipment in India is not to the standards of the Western world, but we are still trying to make the best of all the material that we get in the Indian retail markets. It is impossible for high end amps to be sold at ₹3,00,000 ($4000 – $5000) in India. People just cannot afford to buy enough. Hence you don't see big companies having their outlet in India. You can however get them imported if you're willing to spend a huge sum on it. People here are good at what their roots are, playing traditional classical instruments and music. Heavy metal appraisal has been happening, but it's a recent phenomena starting from the 2000's in this country, even though there were a handful of metal bands around before that. So, we are always looking up to our metal gods from the Western world.

Listen to the hate-fueled proggy goodness on "Resisting Another Equation" below:

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WHAT ESCAPES ME

what escapes me indian metal

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What Escapes Me is an experimental/progressive metal band that formed in 2009 by playing battle of the bands type events around the country and slowly building a fanbase. From there until now, they have shared the stage with Parkway Drive, supported Andy James on his India tour, and now recently released their debut album Egress Point, which is being received so warmly by fans and critics alike.

How would you describe the current Indian metal scene?

The current Indian metal scene is ever growing with new bands coming up almost every day. However, a lot of them don't stand the test of time. There are bands who are extremely hard-working and musically amazing and there are the big heavyweights of the Indian scene who have achieved tremendous success as well, but as an overall scene it is at a fragile moment, a little scattered and unsure. Bands need to realize that no one owes them anything. It's not like you create your music and then automatically things will start happening for you and you will start selling out full house shows. So there needs to be a huge amount of effort from the bands themselves to make it work. DIY is definitely the order of the day. From an audience perspective, there are dedicated people who'll always go and fill up gigs and buy albums to support the bands that they like, but the bands keep doing it purely for the love of it and we really don't expect to make a living out of this.

What are the pros and cons of being a metal band in India?

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Well, being a metal band in India has probably more cons than pros. The economic structure of the country is such that sometimes to invest in quality gear is a problem for musicians here. The average income of the average Indian and the funds needed to invest in high end gear are hugely disproportionate. So, it takes a lot of time and dedicated savings for us to get some of the equipment that we all want to have. The same thing for a musician living in the US or EU is probably a bit easier because their economy is such that the average income and the price of stuff has some parity and since the Indian currency is everyday going down compared to the US dollars, it is becoming even more difficult for us. Record labels in the country for metal music again are few. The only name coming to mind right now is Transcending Obscurity run by Kunal Choksi, who is dedicated and works very hard. There have been labels over the years who have become defunct because they couldn't continue it any more. For example Demonstealer Records, which has opened by Sahil Makhija of Demonic Resurrection, did a wonderful job for the amount of time it was active but at the end of the day you need return on investment and sadly it could not continue any more. Right now, most bands are looking to do things independently and in a DIY fashion, which we also did with our album Egress Point. When it comes to touring within the country, most shows here happen independently and at obscure and random venues. There is no real seamless structure yet where you can get in touch with a promoter and book shows because venues don't really want metal. It is by and large treated as a sound that people won't appreciate even though metal as a genre is pretty big in India. The venues also don't want to experiment much even though that's slowly changing now. For example, in support of our debut album, Egress Point, we put together a short tour where we had to go through a lot to make the shows happen. It was only possible because we were able to generate a healthy amount of money from our album and merch sales. There are festivals like the NH7 Weekenders, Bangalore Open Air, Deccan Rock, and BIG69 which are becoming larger than ever and showcasing Indian metal alongside international heavyweights. The only thing in which Indian metal bands are at a slight advantage is the presence of college shows which bands in the US/EU don't have. There are innumerable colleges in India that have cultural festivals once a year and there are times when metal bands are invited to play and that's a place where a band earns decently. So, that's what bands look to to build their funding for an album or music video and things like that. For a long time, India was not really looked at as a place where there is a market for metal. For an outsider, Indian music has always been the massively mainstream Bollywood or Indian classical music. That perspective is now crumbling and people are waking up to the fact that this form of music has a place and a market in India. The big change came when Iron Maiden played its first Indian show in 2007 to a 30,000 size crowd. It may not sound as big of a deal, but trust me it was a huge deal in India in 2007. More bands started to come in after that and in the last 6 – 7 years there have been a ton of international bands who have come and played in India and have woken up to the Indian metal scene. The credit goes to a lot of hardworking Indian bands who have been completely at it from day one. Bands like Demonic Resurrection and Kryptos playing European festivals is only a sign that Indian metal is growing bigger day by day. The fact that Metal Injection is doing this article is also a hugely positive endorsement for the Indian metal scene and I hope this is only a sign for bigger and better things to come.

Has the Western metal scene (US/Europe) affected or influenced your band?

Oh, for sure. I can safely speak for all five of us in the band when I say that if we had not been exposed to the Western metal scene, we would not have been doing this. From discovering Iron Maiden and Metallica in our early ages to now being moved by the music of bands like Textures, Killswitch Engage, Haken, and much more, has shaped our musical knowledge and tastes. So the US/EU metal scene has influenced us a lot in terms of the structure of songwriting and all that. Having said that we have been equally influenced by the music here in India, be it classical or metal and that conglomeration of different worlds is evident in our songs.

Listen to the finely produced progressive piece "The Truth of a Lie" off their debut LP, Egress Point below:

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DYMBUR

dymbur indian metal

Dymbur, a native word of Khasi origin referring to a fig tree and symbolizes the strength, unity, rebirth, progression, and evolution within the band and music. The Shillong-based experimental metal band emerged in 2012 and have successfully competed in many battle of the bands competitions within Northeast India. Since formation, Dymbur has released two singles and an official music video. They are currently working on their debut full-length album.

How would you describe the current Indian metal scene?

The metal scene has been growing over the past 10 years in different parts of India and the smaller cities as well. There are many new bands coming up and more shows are happening in different places, be it a music festival or a college festival. There are battle of the bands competitions that take place in many cities around India. There are DIY gigs too, which means no sponsors though. We have had concerts by Iron Maiden twice, Metallica, Slayer, Children of Bodom, Lamb of God, Meshuggah, Dying Fetus, Cannibal Corpse, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Suicide Silence, etc. The metal scene is growing rapidly in Bangalore, followed by Mumbai, Guwahati, Shillong, and other cities in the Northeastern parts of India as well. We have Bangalore Open Air, an annual metal fest that takes place in Bangalore. Local and global bands fly down to perform there once a year. And we also have the Wacken Metal Battle auditions in different cities in India where selected bands perform in the finals at Bangalore and the winner gets to represent India at the Wacken Metal Finals held at Wacken Open Air in Germany. India also has very talented metal bands like Skyharbor, Kryptos, Demonic Resurrection, Plague Throat, Gutslit, Inner Sanctum, Devoid, Zygnema, Undying Inc, and several more. So, the metal scene in India is growing and it does have many Indian fans and listeners.

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What are the pros and cons of being a metal band in India?

It’s a very good time to be in a metal band right now because the Indian metal scene is growing and people are recognizing metal in India. That being said, it’s hard to sustain as a metal band and it’s only if you are the Megadeths and Iron Maidens of the world that you can have a full-time career in metal. Though the metal scene in India is growing, unfortunately, no metal band in India is making their living out of it, except one or two bands. They’re all doing it for the passion and dedication towards it. We also feel that we need to have the old metal festivals back. There are many new bands who are creating good music and also building a good fan base. We just need more gigs and more venues to do metal based events. As a band, if you happen to get noticed and are lucky enough to get support you will be backed by a record label and you will get shows in festivals like Bangalore Open Air, NH7 Weekender, and others. You need to be sorted by a good artist management agency and should be able to sustain yourselves for a good amount of time and play many gigs as you can, which is still a problem in many cities in India due to lack of venues. There aren’t many such opportunities in India as far as metal is concerned. At the end of the day you need a day job and you can carry out playing metal music for the love of it.

Has the Western metal scene (US/Europe) affected or influenced your band?

The Western metal scene has really influenced us in so many ways, be it in the music or the culture. We mostly grew up listening to Western bands of any form or genre. But when it comes to our band, we were influenced by bands like Meshuggah, Veil of Maya, Vildhjarta, After the Burial, and Monuments to name a few. And also, we were very much influenced by the djent guitar tone, down tunings, and the playing style of these bands. The inspiration from these bands led us to become the first band from our city, Shillong, to use the djent tone and to play the eight string guitar. So yes, the Western metal scene has really made a huge impact on us.

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Listen to the deep-throaty vocals and djenty grooves on "Anecdote" below:

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Mute the Saint

mute the saint indian metalMute the Saint has labeled themselves as the world's first Indian classical-progressive metal band due to their prominent use of the sitar. The band was originally formed as a solo project by Rishabh Seen, but eventually became a full band with the intent to bridge the gap between two of the most extreme musical forms. The group released their self-titled debut EP last year. Metal Injection previously posted a playthrough for the single "The Fall Of Sirius." Mute the Saint also plans to tour from 2017 onwards in support of the new release..

How would you describe the current Indian metal scene?

The two aspects of strength that determines the status of a scene in a nation are the bands and the audience. Being both an Indian musician and familiar with the current status of international independent music, I think that India actually has an abundance of bands that are world-class and can be game changers when it comes to their art. But, India does lack an audience and a strong touring infrastructure to support bands. There are bands who, if had proper promotion and touring opportunities, could easily generate a global fan following and a dedicated amount of listeners. Indian musicians are great music-wise, but many fail to understand that music is a business just like every other business or job where you have to put in everything you have just to get a promotion or jump a little higher in your pay. I am probably the only one who will say this from our scene, but Indian metal is on the rise and shall enter the global picture more and more in time. I really think that there is something special cooking up in India and the world will soon recognize and realize it. Undying Inc, Bhayanak Maut, Demonic Resurrection, The Down Troddence, Zygnema, Kryptos, Skyharbor, What Escapes Me, and Final Surrender are a few bands that every metal listener in any part of the world should never miss.

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What are the pros and cons of being a metal band in India?

I am from a traditional family of Indian classical musicians. The culture, vibe, traditions, and overall aura in India is totally opposite to metal music and makes it even more difficult for this music to exist, but again to a great extent people are very open in India. They do check out everything they can and so I would say the main positive aspect of being an Indian metal musician is just simply getting recognized and being able to perform as much as you can. Since there are no big awards or ceremonies, the reward is living this lifestyle. As for cons though, we have a movie industry that heavily survives on film music, since Indian movies have three to four songs each and we release more than six hundred movies in a year. So, the film music dominates the radio, TV, and every possible source of promotion. You can imagine what share independent music gets when it comes to mass promotion. And even in that share, metal receives the least. However, in the past 6 to 7 years, companies like OML (Only Much Louder), Mixtape, Hard Rock, BlueTree, and many more have started to manage metal bands and organize festivals like Deccan Rock, NH7, and Bangalore Open Air. This has drastically brought the scene back on track commercially and the bands finally have something to look up to and work hard for.

Has the Western metal scene (US/Europe) affected or influenced your band?

I was introduced to metal when I was about 12 years old by accident. I was listening to some of my all time favorite bands like Nirvana and Foo Fighters and then I landed on Slipknot and Gojira. Within the next couple days I remember feeling something I had never felt. Being used to practicing such spiritual and meditative music like Indian classical, metal uplifted me and gave me a voice to stand up for myself. I love Amon Amarth, Exodus, Gojira, Iron Maiden, Slayer, and Behemoth, but currently progressive metal is where I am at peace with since it tends to accept a lot more. I'm enjoying bands like Tool, Animals As Leaders, Tesseract, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Periphery, August Burns Red, Northlane, Meshuggah, and many more. Lastly, since I am an Indian classical musician at the core, I always wanted to listen to a metal band that somehow combines the two properly. I could never find a band that properly existed just to bridge these two genres, so a few years down the road I formed the first one myself and that vision is now coming to life.

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Listen to "The Fall of Sirius," which previously premiered on Metal Injection below:

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THE COSMIC TRUTH

the cosmic truth indian metal

Based in Delhi, this progressive act mixes straight-up grooves beside soothing ambient portions. They’re currently working on their debut EP with Keshav Dhar (Skyharbor), which should be out soon. So far, the group has shared the stage with local and international acts such as Underside from Nepal. The Cosmic Truth was also the only band from the country selected to open for Insomnium in Dubai.

How would you describe the current Indian metal scene?

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The current Indian metal scene is going through a contemporary phase right now. The music is becoming extremely mature and bands are coming together to do things the right way. With international acts coming to the country, we’re starting to see things on a global level and the scene is evolving rapidly. Releasing a record was a huge step for bands and still is for some of us. It used to be an undoable task. This is changing. The music coming out is simply outstanding.

What are the pros and cons of being a metal band in India?

No matter how hard it gets, you always know that you’re part of something really valuable and bigger than the state of art your country has. Being a metal band in a country like India comes with a feeling of brotherhood. For one of the most populated countries in the world, the metal community is small and close. The familiar faces at gigs and all the amazing DIY bands that are friends is what keeps us going. Unfortunately, even after years and years of the scene existing and growing, we’re still a closed market. Metal musicians work within that particular circle. There are hardly any record labels and most of the shows and tours that take place are DIY. The target audience is increasing day by day but it’s not as fast as we’d like it to be.

Has the Western metal scene (US/Europe) affected or influenced your band?

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It has affected us in many ways. We drive the inspiration to go on from acts like Tesseract, Textures, Meshuggah, and many more. These guys have been working hard for years and are still making spectacular music. We were kids when we saw these acts in our country and we were blown away. That’s what inspires us to keep making more music every day.

Listen to the first single "False Love Pure Hate" from their album Stroboscopic Illusion below:

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In summary, I think there's a lot of fascinating information you can pull from these groups' answers. There seems to be a broad diversity of genres, yet also an interest in fusion of Indian classical music with metal, something I would compare to Western bands with classical and symphonic influence such as Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Apocalyptica, etc. As for performances, I wasn't aware of their access to venue's backlines as well as the consistent music festival presence over there, even if metal acts were simply a fraction of the lineup. The main issues with the Indian metal bands seemed to narrow down to touring, record labels, and overall exposure. Unfortunately, there's no easy solution for problems like distances between venues, visa hassles, and unequal currency conversion, but hopefully this article can act as a solution regarding awareness of the Indian metal scene. We may not be able to directly alter India's need for more record labels and touring promoters, but if we show support and bring exposure to these talented groups, there likely will be a greater push for changes to occur.

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If it isn't obvious enough in these responses, there is an immense amount of dedication in these groups. Even though they are fully knowledgable that recording and performing metal music is not a profitable or socially acceptable career in their country, they continue to release singles and play shows. When I began this article, I had no idea that there was such a strong and devoted metal community. Most of all, these answers show there is a demand, but not the resources for the supply. I hope that listening to the songs in this piece and what some of these bands had to say will inspire you to further check out the Indian metal scene and support these well deserving musicians.


We are looking for suggestions for the next Scene Report. Does your region have a great scene that people should know about? Email us at hatemail [at] metalinjection [dot] net with your pitch.

View previous Scene Reports here.

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