The Bangalore underground has been fairly sprightly as of late. The past few months have seen a fair number of local club-gigs, each having been grand successes in their own right, and ultimately only further adding to the vibrance that is needed for a local music scene to thrive. I would go as far as saying that the South Asian underground, at the very least, is in an arguably healthy place right now. With a steady set of regulars who serve as patrons across various locations in turn creating medium-sized, tight-knit incipient scenes, in addition to the fact there have been a slew of releases coming out from the region in the recent past, that only seem to reinforce the growing emergence of this region’s more extreme musical musings. The inaugural edition of Echoes from Beneath once again took place at the No Limmits bar & restaurant, and as ever the central nature of its location, in addition to the fact that it had hosted a slew of club gigs prior to this made it the obvious choice for the venue of this club gig, and seems to have won its place as a venue staple for shows of this nature. While the show was originally scheduled to commence at around 4:30 PM, the bands’ sound check was prolonged until around 5.30, but one of the main organizers behind this endeavour, Vikram Bhat of local death/doom metal masters Dying Embrace mentioned that they had obtained permission from the authorities and the venue to extend the timings of the show, so that had me relieved, lest the bands didn’t get to do justice to their sets.
After the drawn-out sound check, the evening’s opener, doom metallers Djinn & Miskatonic began their set of droning, heavy compositions that channeled the realm of everything lurid and esoteric in a plodding yet heavy manner that crushed the listener with its minimalism and yet enthralled one due to the simplicity and groove that the music invoked. The Lovecraftian doomsters put on a stellar performance – the charm of Jayaprakash Satyamurthy’s enduring bass lines essentially lie in their candor, and Gautham Khandige is certainly a unique vocalist in his own right – there is a certain appeal in the restraint that his approach evokes, and yet the vocals are also sufficiently theatric, being sonorous, harsh or mild at appropriate segments. Their set closer, ‘7 Year Witch’ was certainly the stand out and had some interesting tempo changes – a bombastic, thrashing segment amidst an otherwise dismal and foreboding composition not only added to the dynamic of the song, but additionally served to showcase the versatility of the band. I do not expect overtly engaging crowd interaction from a band that dabbles in this type of music, but I do wish that the band tried incorporating the spoken word segments found on their latest album into a live setting, or perhaps even the imagery from the weird fiction and old school horror that they have previously used in other shows, which could well increase the theatrical aspect of their shows and in turn their intrigue and magnetism as a live force.
Djinn & Miskatonic’s setlist –
1. Weird Tales
2. Book of the Fallen
3. 7 Year Witch
A quick sound-check and set up session followed upon Djinn & Miskatonic ending their set, which also saw Nolan Lewis fribble away at one of the mikes effectively tickling the funny bone of the crowd – one just knew that the tongue-and-cheek maniacs of Witchgoat had arrived to spread the unholy doctrines of Baphomet upon the blood thirsty legions that eagerly awaited them. A bleak, repetitive riff engulfed the room and soon bled into the velocity-driven delirium that was the ‘Old Rugged Cross’, and this set the tone for their entire set, which didn’t have a hard time in getting the adrenaline flowing. The band put up a solid performance as usual, although sound issues showed its ugly face too often for my liking during the set – with Avinash Menon’s guitars and the left speakers conking off at random intervals. There is a certain flow that needs to be maintained for such high-energy bands, and unfortunately this flow was obstructed by the aforementioned sound issues. No fault of the band, of course, who graciously continued their set, staying true to their devil-may-care attitude; and presented the crowd a treat in the form of a live rendition of their cover from the Motorhead India Tribute – ‘Death or Glory’. As ever, Bharad Ravi’s vocals stood out courtesy of their distinctive, scratchy nature, and his take on the master growler Lemmy’s raspy chants and odes was nothing short of commendable. Their set ended on a good note with what can now be considered a crowd favorite, ‘Into The Black’.
Witchgoat’s setlist –
1. The Old Rugged Cross
2. Sacrifice (Bathory cover)
3. Apostles of Baphomet
4. Death or Glory (Motorhead cover)
5. Goatspawn Militia
6. Tormentor (Kreator cover)
7. Into the Black
Local sludgsters Shepherd were on next – devoid of a vocalist, their original compositions were instead presented as a series of jams this time around, with drummer Deepak Raghu occasionally taking to balancing both vocal and drum duties. While the band had to perform without a vocalist due to unforeseen circumstances, there was something painfully incongruous about their set on the day, relative to their past performances that certainly cemented them as one of the more formidable, tight live bands in the city. Axe-man Namit Chauhan’s guitar work stood out as ever, and was expressive and impassioned; but as a whole this just wasn’t the band’s day, although its commendable they didn’t back out of performing despite missing a member. Parts of their set also reflected on their hardcore punk influences, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to one familiar with sludge metal, although this didn’t go down well with the crowd. The covers, however, were fairly well executed with Ganesh Krishnaswamy of Bevar Sea/Witchgoat fame making a guest vocal appearance, with their cover of ‘10000 Years’ having especially stood out, and I do hope that the band sorts out their line-up issues.
Shepherd’s setlist –
3. 10000 Years (High on Fire cover)
4. Blank (Eyehategod cover)
5. Undergod Dog
7. Night Goat (Melvins cover)
8. Wretch Salad
Up next in the line-up was the first Lankan band of the night’s roster, Manifestator. The band played dirty, rock ‘n roll-driven blackened thrash/speed metal with an almost punk-like bearing that was immensely enjoyable. Chunky, tasty riffage was produced by the riff factory BlasphemousWarGoat, who also happens to be a multi-instrumentalist and has directed his creative forces into a variety of projects, including Funeral in Heaven, Plecto Aliquem Capite and Spleen Saint. Frontman/vocalist Wartek spewed forth gravelly chants that exuded an almost perverse capriciousness, and his crowd interaction had an endearingly brazen quality about it, and went onto comment about his positive impression of his stay in India thus far, and cited everything from the beautiful women, to the scrumptious grub and of course, the metal; and how all this had effectively enthralled his comrades and himself, which only reinforced the positive atmosphere of the evening. Their original compositions were excellently executed, and while one could ascribe a punkish veracity to their approach, their musicianship was by no means sloppy and was very tight and one could infer that the band knew exactly what they were doing amidst their dégagé and nonchalant on-stage attitude. While their rendition of ‘Terrorstorm’ and ‘Piece by Piece’ by San Francisco black-thrashers Witchaven and L.A thrash metal pioneers Slayer respectively demonstrated the band’s tenacity and technical capabilities, their cover of ‘I Got Erection’ by Norwegian punk rockers Turbonegro effectively show cased the humorous side of these Lankan black-thrashing lunatics and certainly at the very least invoked the chucklesome side of the crowd, if not having most of the attendees in an outburst of laughter.
Manifestator’s setlist –
3. Terrorstorm (Witchaven cover)
4. Piece By Piece (Slayer cover)
5. Killing Magnet
6. I Got Erection (Turbonegro cover)
After the barbaric assault that was Manifestator, things were slowed down in a groovy way, courtesy of the local stoner/doom sensations, Bevar Sea. These doomsters seldom fail to deliver a good show and this was only reinforced with their set at Echoes from Beneath, which I can safely say having seen them numerous times in the recent past. Crunchy, groove-laden riffs emanated as ever, with appropriately pace-adjusting drum work. I do have to commend the band for making things interesting by diversifying their set-list instead of sticking to the few numbers that I feel have been saturated, at least from a personal perspective as a gig regular, and I immensely enjoyed their compositions that lean on the more purely doom-driven side of things, such as ‘Sleeping Pool’ and ‘When There’s Smoke (There’s a Pyre)’. Of course, the more stoner-esque numbers such as ‘Universal Sleeper’ and ‘The Smiler’ are always welcome in good measure, although their opener, ‘Bearded and Bizarre’ was a new song by the band, and introduced a sense of allure that was compelling to the crowd, who mostly consisted of regulars who had likely seen the band at least a few times prior to this gig, and thus made their set interesting. Unfortunately, the anthemic crowd favorite ‘Abishtu’ couldn’t be played due to time constraints much to the crowd’s chagrin.
Bevar Sea’s setlist –
1. Bearded And Bizarre
2. The Smiler
3. Where There’s Smoke (There’s A Pyre)
4. Universal Sleeper
5. Sleeping Pool
The end of Bevar Sea’s set saw the advent of the most awaited segment of the night, the commencement of the desecration rituals of the mighty Lankan bestial black/death metal archons Genocide Shrines. Invoking the likes of Teitanblood, Witchrist and Archgoat, the band went straight for the kill with their opener ‘Devanation Monumentemples’, the title track of their EP of the same name which was released via Cyclopean Eye Productions, and the venue was forthwith enveloped in a sonically oppressive atmosphere driven by the dreary instrumentation of these Lankan war mongers. Numbers like ‘Apparitions of Spiritual Obliteration’ presented a more doomy indulgence that also showcased that the otherwise chaos-fuelled band can still manage to induce bleak atmospheres despite a more restrained pace. Additionally, two new songs – ‘Gasmaskgauthama (And Other Assorted Resurrections)’ and ‘Militant Thrishul (Eradication Pooja)’, both of which are slated to appear on the band’s forthcoming full-length, were debuted at the show. These songs had an audibly black metal disposition, at least in part, relative to the more death-metal leanings of the songs off of their EP. The set also had three covers, and were direct nods to the influences of the band. The first was a blistering rendition of ‘Lord of the Void’ by the Finnish masters of the black arts – Archgoat. A bootleg version of the cover can be streamed here. Second came a ferocity laden cover of Sarcófago’s immensely influential and iconic ‘I.N.R.I’, the title track from the album of the same name – which is not only a landmark in extreme metal history, practically declaring open season for the black and death metal genres to evolve at the time, but also one of my personal all time favorite albums. What perfect choices for covers, might I add, and certainly reflects on where the band’s musical ethos lies.
NarkotikPerversor quite effectively lived up to his pseudonym by continuously hurling out excessively distorted, bludgeoning riffs that invoked nothing less than lugubrious dread; almost clinically concordant with the sepulchral, blasphemous exaltations spewed forth by vocalist Tridenterrorcult, who would probably induce fear in even the most sinister rakshasas of yore. Khaoshiva, who was on double-duty that evening also taking on bass duties for Manifestator, presented an element of the band that was emphatically imperative to the dynamic of their mayhemic sound-scapes and used his weapon of choice to spawn baritonal riffs that were grinding in a hellishly arcane fashion. BlasphemousWarGoat was the unsung hero of the day, who not only provided axe-duties for Manifestator, but also was the percussive bridging gap for these bestial death overlords with his precision on the kit that ironically added to the pleasurable audile chaos that the band engulfed the attendees in. The band’s histrionics and crowd interaction were perfect, as was the on-stage attire of the band which added to the theatrical aspect of their credibility as a live act. Never have I witnessed such a punishingly gratifying intensity in a live setting since the time I saw legendary thrash metal veterans/extreme metal forefathers Slayer live almost a year ago, and it goes without saying that Genocide Shrines has raised the standards of extreme metal in the greater South Asian region, if not present day extreme metal as a whole. The crowd reaction as a whole was nothing less than uproarious, needless to say.
Genocide Shrine’s setlist –
1. Devanation Monumentemples
2. Apparitions Of Spiritual Obliteration
3. Shivatandaviolence (Cleansiege)
4. Nectars Of Tantric Murder
5. Gasmaskgauthama (And Other Assorted Resurrections)
6. I.N.R.I (Sarcófago cover)
7. Militant Thrishul (Eradiction Pooja)
8. Lord of the Void (Archgoat cover)
Lest I endlessly go on about this unforgettable live experience, the inaugural Echoes from Beneath was an excellently organized gig which was made more than worth attending due to the two immensely stellar Sri Lankan acts. The support Indian acts put up solid shows in their own right as well, and while one might argue about the congruence of the stylistic orientations between the bands of the line-up, one could also look at it in a positive light as plurality in the roster. Apart from a few sound hick-ups and delays, which in turn meant that the gig ended almost an hour after it was scheduled to end, the logistics seemed to have been taken care of efficiently. The sound/production was sufficiently satisfactory, especially so during towards the end of the evening, appropriately so during the sets of the Lankan bands. The merchandise stall was fairly satisfactory with various tapes, CDs, t-shirts and posters, although I was disappointed apropos the limited range of sizes available for the official t-shirts, and also the absence of the Djinn & Miskatonic debut full-length, which I later learnt was not delivered due to physical production issues. The turnout was according to official count around 160 people, although the venue seemed a little less crowded than usual, which could well be attributed to the slightly higher ticket pricing than is normative for gigs of this nature (₹700 early bird/₹900 at the gates). The ‘Bangalore Doom Syndicate’ should take a bow, and kudos to Sandesh Shenoy (alongside Vikram Bhat and Srikanth Panaman) for finally initiating and bringing down these Sri Lankan warlords despite having been under the roster of his label for quite some time now. Lastly, we are grateful to Danish R.D of Danz Photography for letting us use his stellar pictures and for collaborating with the webizine.
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