Storming ahead

Storming ahead

Metal street

Storming ahead

Considered the ‘Metal Capital’ of India, Bengaluru has always had a thriving metal music scene.

Over the years, the genre has transformed from classic metal sounds, into the various sub-genres like death metal and thrash metal, making space for everyone. But unlike mainstream, trending genres, metal caters to a niche audience who consider it a religion and a way of life. This is why it has stayed alive all these years, say metal enthusiasts.

Nolan Lewis, guitarist and vocalist of the old-school metal band ‘Kryptos’, says that metal music has always had its crests and troughs, but a steady stream of followers keep it alive, which is why profitable genres aren’t really competition. “Metal will always be there but it’ll have its ups and downs. Genres like grunge, alternative music and electronic music might become popular but they won’t last, they never do.”

But he admits that this time, metal is having a harder time than ever before. “It’s becoming harder for bands to get gigs as venues want more profitable performances. Most of our listeners are college students who can’t afford to pay Rs 500 for a cocktail. There is an older generation of listeners but they are only a hand full. On the other hand, electronic music pulls in people of all generations who are willing to spend,” explains Nolan. The musician goes on to compare the current musical trend — electronic music — to fast food. “These days, people prefer fast food over healthy meals. They would rather listen to a song that has no thought put in to it, which is meant for mass consumption, than meaningful ones. Most of these people can’t name more than one song by their ‘favourite’ artiste,” he says.

Metal has always been synonymous with underground music, and this, many musicians think, is the reason it manages to get past difficult times. Srikanth Panaman, a member of ‘Bevar Sea’, a heavy/stoner/doom metal band, stresses that metal has never been popular. “It has a couple of hundred fans, that’s about it. In fact, it’s doing much better now. But genres like rock, jazz and metal will never die,” he says.

However, not everyone is so optimistic. Rakeeb Javed, guitarist and backing vocalist of ‘Speed Trip’, says that no venue wants to host a metal band as it’s not a crowdpuller. “Even festivals like Bangalore Open Air are finding it hard to get funds. None of our listeners want to pay Rs 200 for a drink when they can have the same outside, for cheaper,” he says. And now that the music scene is evolving, playing music covers no longer works. “Audiences either want original renditions of a song or own compositions. And it takes a lot of money to record an album,” he adds.

In order to follow their passion, many metal bands are heading to Europe for performances. Nolan says that ‘Kryptos’ will soon do a Europe tour as the music scene is different there. “The infrastructure for metal bands is already set up there. In India, it’s more haphazard,” he adds. Srikanth of ‘Bevar Sea’ agrees: “Even bands from the US are heading for Europe as they have a better chance of getting paid.”

Metal musicians also mention that taking up music as a profession is not an option in this genre. “It takes a long time to become a commercial success. Most times, metal bands have to spend from their own pockets to produce an album,” says Srikanth.

The genre is also heavily misunderstood, and considered ‘violent’ and ‘provocative’. But musicians and listeners alike say that it is just a way to get across a message. Krishna Kumar, a listener, says that metal saved him. “When I was a teenager, I was the black sheep of the family. And at the time, I related to metal music more than anything else.” He also brings attention to the various sub-genres of metal.

“In the ‘80s, it was just metal. Now, it has made room for different tastes, and so many labels and compartments have come up,” he says. Sibarshis a member of ‘Antakrit’, adds that not every band wants to become a commercial success; they’d rather play for their passion, which is why they don’t participate in popularity contests.

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