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festival review: Iced Earth live at Bangalore Open Air, 2013

One of the biggest names in heavy metal, over 25 years of experience in ruling the metal business and with ten full-length albums to their name – Iced Earth from United States was welcomed by a meager crowd with visibly less enthusiasts than one would hope to see at their concert. But that is neither the fault of the organizers, nor the band’s.

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As the headlining act at Bangalore Open Air’s 2013 edition, Iced Earth fit the bill perfectly considering their legacy and their ardor on stage. Iced Earth have composed songs for your party, and for your happiest moments, at the same time they have tracks about grimness, they make a human connection with their lyrics, also belt out music about their personal experiences. They have it all.

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With the preparations on Ronnie James Dio stage in order, the professionalism shown by the organizers and the arrangements on the performing platform in place, Iced Earth clasped the opportunity to do what they do best – Play heavy fucking metal. John Schaffer and co. unshackled years of their love for music by performing for an audience that is over 8000 miles away from where they hail from.

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Expecting chaos in the pit (which I am not fond of) during a performance people would die to be a part of I could see enough space for a pregnant lady or a potbellied fat fuck to walk around freely. luke appleton iced earth live bangalore open air 2013 absurd history Anyways, I focused on the instruments, the vocals and the sound and everything culminated into a favorable situation with even the weather not playing a spoilsport. The set-list included a mix of old classics like I Died For You and Iced Earth, as well as their newer material Dystopia and Anthem. Quite a band that names their track Anthem. Moving on, Stu Block blew the roof with his high pitch and if there was anyone who could replace Matt Barlow it is Stu. What a singer!

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But without Troy Steele and John Schaffer (on guitars), Luke Appleton (on bass) and Raphael Saini (on drums) we couldn’t have imagined such a spectacular display of metal unison. Well, I can go on and on about how unfortunate the band was for being able to spot the last person in the crowd, but then for us fans it was nothing less than a success. The gig and the festival. Beer, heavy metal and a true fan need no company. So, I shall just say thank you, Iced Earth. Just keep going…

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[ Pictures – courtesy of Khushboo Sinha. Everybody head over to the link to check out more of her work here: Khushboo Sinha’s tumblr page ]

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festival review: Dark Tranquillity live at Bangalore Open Air, 2013

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Swedish melodic powerhouse Dark Tranquillity were also amongst one of the most anticipated bands to play at the 2013 edition of Bangalore Open Air. With their immense love for themes like memories, death and despair, for those of us who are actually into it couldn’t have come any closer in terms of matching our emotional frequencies with a metal artist. DT, as they are fondly known to their fans, amaze the listeners each time with their tracks, that enhance the blurry corridors of our mind thereby cleansing the world that’s present inside each person. And hence there is a massive connect.

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Having missed their Hyderabad performance in 2011, being there in front of Jeff Hanneman stage was mandatory for me. And boy did they splash the crowd with showers of dark melody! Everyone woke up from their drunken slumber and paid attention to Dark Tranquillity‘s roulette. We chose our ball, placed it on whichever compartment of our emotional wheel and there they had a song ready for you. Razor sharp death metal was acuminated even more by their earsplitting presence on stage. Everything remained benign during their performance, be it the weather, sound or vocalist Mikael Stanne‘s smile.

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Having successfully released their new record Construct earlier this year, India was a perfect stop for their album tour and the band made sure they did not leave anyone dissatisfied. dark tranquillity live bangalore open air 2013 absurd history 01 Heads were banged and fists were raised to their tracks that were chosen more from their new record, but old crowd favorites were also played. The lethal combination of Martin Henriksson (guitars), Anders Jivarp (drums), Niklas Sundin (guitars), Martin Brändström (synth) and our beloved Mikael Stanne (vocals) sent chills down the spine of everyone who was present during their set. Not that they were spooky or anything, but they achieved it through a barrage of intimidating cimmerian riffs and beats.

Huge grins on the faces of the members throughout the set placed us in their hearts, and I have no doubts about them returning again in the future. Tenth DT album is now out and they are still going strong. For never disappointing their fans, be it with their studio albums or a live performance, may the force always be with Dark Tranquillity.

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[ Pictures – courtesy of Khushboo Sinha. Everybody head over to the link to check out more of her work here: Khushboo Sinha’s tumblr page ]


festival review: Ihsahn live at Bangalore Open Air, 2013

And now the fanboy speaks…

The only reason I had decided to travel all the way to Bangalore, almost a month back, was to see one of my favorite black metal vocalists and musician extraordinaire Vegard Sverre Tveitan in flesh, also known as Ihsahn to the world. When Emperor had dis-banded it was like a personal loss to me because I knew I’d never see them play live or record an album again. But that was that.

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In 2005, Ihsahn formed a band under the same monicker to experiment with the various ideas that his creative and passionate mind kept coming up with. Not black metal by definition, Ihsahn made sure the underlying theme remains dark and picked up from where he left off on Prometheus – The Discipline of Fire & Demise, Emperor‘s 2005 release. Hence the progressive nature of the music on all of his solo works.

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When Ihsahn stepped on the stage with his guitar, I simply couldn’t believe that I was staring into his eyes. He was the same man who wasn’t into any kind of politics when the black metal scene erupted in Norway in the early-1990’s. Instead he made more and more music to make his point. It took me, personally, a good ten minutes to survive the fact that I’ve seen a person who encouraged me to get my first tattoo dedicated to him, who opened new avenues in my mind, who made black metal my lifestyle and was influential to me in so many more ways.

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This multi-instrumentalist performed tracks from Eremita, which released in 2012 as well as tracks from all of his previous releases After (2010), angL (2008) and The Adversary (2006). The years have been mentioned besides the album names in order to show his consistency as a musician. Although Ihsahn is a solo project the live members include Tobias Ørnes Andersen (drums), Tor Oddmund Suhrke (guitars, backing vocals), Øystein Landsverk (guitars, backing vocals), Einar Solberg (keyboards, additional vocals), Rein T. Blomquist (bass) – All of whom are members of Leprous from Norway. Leprous were also part of Bangalore Open Air and they performed just before Ihsahn on the Ronnie James Dio stage.

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A legend made an appearance in India, entertained us, even said he was very happy for being able to make it and left me and I’m sure many others speechless by his humility, stage presence and undying love for music. It is moments like these that remain stored in a shell inside our subconscious mind and it is moments like these that make life worth living. I know Emperor fans are still trying to get their head around the fact that they actually saw Ihsahn, and we all should thank the organizers of Bangalore Open Air for making an intelligent and worthy choice. All the way from Norway!

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[ Pictures – courtesy of Khushboo Sinha. Everybody head over to the link to check out more of her work here: Khushboo Sinha’s tumblr page ]


festival review: Leprous live at Bangalore Open Air, 2013

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Many might not have figured this out, but in Ihsahn‘s band there were only members of Leprous, apart from the main man of course. Hence Leprous got this big break of travelling all the way from Norway to not just perform with Ihsahn but to showcase their own slab of avant-garde progressive metal. Since I am a huge fan of Norwegian black metal I went there thinking they are just a band that’s there to fill a slot but they proved me wrong from the very first note.

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What’s so peculiar about Leprous you ask? It’s their flair. Grabbing eardrums by way of closely scrutinized progressiveness and attracting eyeballs by way of dressing up in a distinct fashion (think Akercocke, Ghost). Norwegians have these magnetic personalities and you end up bobbing your heads anyways.  Up on the Ronnie James Dio stage, Leprous made a major contribution to Bangalore Open Air, 2013. Downright progressive metal with characteristic riffs and consummate drumming crippled many in the crowd which directly earned Leprous many new fans.

Coal, Leprous‘s third full-length, was released this year and hence the set-list included most of the tracks from the new record. Each member brought in their own influences, and it looked like a large assembly on the platform with five members in the band. Vocalist Einar Solberg also doubled up as a synth player. Almost every other member, except drummer Tobias Andersen, boosted the band’s sound through backing vocals. Let’s not forget the elephantine addition by the other three significant members Tor Oddmund Suhrke (guitars), Øystein Landsverk (guitars) and Rein T. Blomquist (bass).

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Thumbs up from India to this progressive act, by not just me but the audience who took pleasure in their music and the people who are going to discover them bloody soon through word-of-mouth. The conglomerate that is Leprous is a force to reckon with in the years to come, and I’m going to keep track of the happenings in their garage. Cheers, guys!

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[ Pictures – courtesy of Khushboo Sinha. Everybody head over to the link to check out more of her work here: Khushboo Sinha’s tumblr page ]


festival review: Animals As Leaders live at Bangalore Open Air, 2013

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A major chunk of the population that was there to attend Bangalore Open Air this year was for Animals As Leaders, which could be easily seen from the excitement in the crowd. Now that excitement was because they were all fans of extreme progressive instrumental metal or because Animals As Leaders were the first international band to hit the stage after Demonic Resurrection‘s slot is something I’d like to leave for the readers to interpret. I’ll add this for some assistance – “Arey wo foreign wala band chalu ho gaya hai” was overheard while I was walking towards Jeff Hanneman stage with my beer in tow. For readers not versed with the language Hindi the statement translates to “That band from abroad has started performing”.

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Frankly, I wasn’t there at the festival for Animals As Leaders simply because I don’t understand them. Before everyone draws a conclusion about the writer here, I merely implied that their music is not supposed to be understood. Such level of progressiveness is a gift of Animals As Leaders‘s sensory abilities. Keeping up with the marvelously frequent change in the pace and shredding of the guitar, and neatly done so, watching the drummer communicate with the rest of the troupe at the same speed and watching the coordination between the trio from the United States is not anyone’s piece of cake. It is enjoyed because it is not something everyone can do.

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Toshin Abasi is a genius, and let me re-iterate, he is a genius. He doesn’t even look at his guitar strings while animatedly scribbling his fingers through them. Instead, he smiles at the audience and humbly gathers all the affection that everybody has to offer. Well, let me put it this way – You cannot not love someone who is so precociously talented, be it a musician or a writer for that matter. That knowledge of the unknown, that confidence of the unheard and that guitar playing unlike anyone cannot be ignored.

Javier Reyes is no less, folks. Going hand-in-hand with the complicated instrumentation, Javier aided in getting those fists high up in the air while drummer Matt Garstka fucking broke the bass drum by bashing the kit inhumanly. Matt does his shit with complete concentration, and that’s what happens when so much awesome intensity gathers at one place and all of it culminates into an explosion. New bass drum please…

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Animals As Leaders possibly got the best reception as it was during their set that we saw maximum mayhem. No, bodies weren’t flying but hell of a lot of metal love was bestowed upon the band. So, it would be safe to say that Animals As Leaders left the stage and the country with a lot of satisfaction, and we, the crowd are still trying to understand what happened during their majestic set with only one question on our minds – How the fuck do they play all that?

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[ Pictures – courtesy of Khushboo Sinha. Everybody head over to the link to check out more of her work here: Khushboo Sinha’s tumblr page ]


festival review: Demonic Resurrection live at Bangalore Open Air, 2013

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It was at Bloodstock Open Air last year that I saw India’s Demonic Resurrection play for a multiethnic crowd, and I wanted to see how accepting the audience is. And having seen them in our country for the last ten years I must say the response was as good as what I must’ve seen at one of their best gigs in India, if not better. This, when Paradise Lost were on the main stage.

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Welcome to the Ronnie James Dio stage where Demonic Resurrection – the oldest, one of the the biggest and darkest Indian band that kick started this year’s Bangalore Open Air festival, but in broad daylight. Nevermind. Unfortunately the only Indian band to have been invited to play at the Bangalore festival (as the rest couldn’t for various reasons), Demonic Resurrection braced the audiences with their brand of demonic metal. Demonic metal, which I would say is a concoction of symphony, progression, speed, death, black metal with a slice of technicality is today very mature than what we have heard from them over the years.

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The set list consisted of tracks from their previous two albums, A Darkness Descends (2005) and The Return to Darkness (2010), out of the three that Demonic Resurrection has released till now. Sadly, since they were the first band to open Bangalore Open Air post the Wacken Metal Battle the audience was only a handful who treated themselves to a cocktail of some complex extreme metal. A sound that is one of it’s kind in our sorry ass nation, and a band that made its way to the top through sheer fortitude. While many tried to bring them down, the band retaliated with more hard work, thereby setting an example in the minuscule history of metal that India has.

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Frontman Sahil Makhija, a friend and a good musician, shouldn’t have called out the name of some guy from the audience as that, for me, does not add to the stage act. Crowd interaction is a must for entertainers, and Demonic Resurrection being the torchbearers of metal itself in India does not do it any less. The audience would be a lot happier if there is more interaction in general, than pointing out names. We are at a festival and in the audience there could be anybody from any place on the planet. That being said, Demonic Resurrection is tight as a tick, musically. Thanks to the ensemble star cast that comprises of guitar prodigy Daniel Rego, bass-nailer Ashwin Shriyan, impossible-to-match drummer Virendra Kaith and synth-lover Mephisto.

All set to release another album this year, Demonic Resurrection made sure they do not give the listeners a sneak peek of their yet-to-be-titled fourth album. If you are a fan then you’ve got to wait and watch out for their new sound, which according to guitarist Daniel is, “much more evolved than what we’ve composed in our earlier albums, in every department that DR delves into“. With a live performance like that, and an album in the pipeline I wish DR all the very best for their future.

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[ Pictures – courtesy of Khushboo Sinha. Everybody head over to the link to check out more of her work here: Khushboo Sinha’s tumblr page ]


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