I got to the concert venue just when Sycorax took the stage. There you had a dynamic lead singer teasing the audience to form a wall of death, to go wild & experience their music in the basest way. Onstage presence to reckon with and a sound that was downright heavy & coarse, these guys held up insanely well. However, if counts as any evidence that the standard of competition was surely cut throat, these power packed fellows didn’t place.
Jekyll & Hyde scooped up the 3rd place, 83MPH from Chennai rung in 2nd (with solo prizes for synths & bass) and it was Bangalore based college band Verses that won NLS Strawberry Fields 2011.
This gave me some time to take in my surroundings. Stage setup was stellar with two screens, brilliant lighting gear, great sound – the works. It made clear sense why this fest is held up in esteem by any fledgling music act. That said, the numbers in the audience weren’t huge but neither was it an embarrassment for the on stage acts.
Students of NLS and hardcore fans of the headlining act filled up the arena mostly. Possibly because of the location, all those at the venue were motivated very much by the same goal – to rock out. To come all the way far away from civilization to check out a few acts was a big gamble for the few others.
OFF THE HOOK? Not exactly
After the last heavy metal act (Sycorax), Captains Of Hook were surely a tamer proposition. Funky sounds with chorus friendly tracks (especially the last one that went Hoo! Ha!), they catered more to an audience that would lap up a commercial sound. Which was good for all the happy 1st years and non-metal fans in the house (which was a very small percentage).
They seemed a misfit because the gathering here was ready to take on something as hardcore as Rudra – an indicator of complete openness for the underground and total disregard for commercial.
I’m always skeptical about alternative acts that hail from India because as a genre itself, it’s so easy to get into a rut. In time, every Good Charlotte, Sum 41, Simple Plan song gets formulaic and way too similar even within their own discographies let alone in comparison with other acts. And to try something like that in homeground is a challenge for most Indian bands primarily, according to me atleast, due to a complete lack of originality with vocals. Everyone wants to sound like the quintessential husky, rugged male lead.
That was my only issue with Captains. Not only was alternative/funk unexpected in a purely metal setting but the vocals, the entire sound really didn’t get me excited. I’ve heard things like this before and I’m sorry but if there were witty lyrics, it swooped right above my head. And there was random mentioning of ‘Why This Kolavari Di’ every now and then. Raised eyebrow.
WAY ABOVE C(SEA) LEVEL!
But the befuddlement abated with Bevar Sea surging on with a killer half hour line-up. First thing, these guys got onstage and did no sound check or anything but got to the task at hand – warming up the crowd for the finale. And well, they stole the show; delivering from the minute they stepped on stage. They awoke us and how with Universal Sleeper & treated the audience to staples Smiler, Into The Void & Abishtu – speedily raising audience levels to a frenzy. The lead singer had us all cling on to every word that roared through his microphone. The ‘Oye’s!’ echoed through the cold air and adrenaline levels were sufficiently pumped for the star act, Rudra.
Credits to chandeshtk
RUDRA RIPS NLS APART
Now, I had only heard one song of Rudra’s (Pathless Path) and my first glimpse at the band was at the press conference a couple of hours ago where they were at their poised best. I was personally an unsuspecting victim to the brutal onslaught brought on by Rudra. And I mean all that in the best way possible.
Just like Vedic philosophy, Vedic Death Metal (Rudra’s forte) is hard to grasp. The band hails from Singapore & this stopover was to mark an end to their Brahmavidya Tour. An interesting observation was cited by the band earlier; about how fans elsewhere took in their philosophies as much as the music whereas for their Indian fans, it was mostly the latter that held the appeal. It’s a different thing that I couldn’t make out much of all that either while they were performed but I’m sure for a lot of people, just the concept of chants and power metal is intriguing enough to delve deeper when in quieter surroundings.
VIEW FROM THE MOSHPIT
It was like being in a neon boxing match. The loud chants, the constant bombardment with positively delirious lighting and the thunderous sound of Rudra. I understood why it’s called EXTREME metal alright; it was a little hard to keep up with at first!
At the start, the drums pounded a little too prominent, making the guitars seem distant. However, the sound got better and it reached its pinnacle, both sound wise and crowd-wise, with the last two tracks – Pathless Path To The Knowable Unknown & the encore, Rudrapatni. The chants of ‘Om Greem Kaliye Namaha’ resonated long after; yet another reaffirmation that this really was an experience like no other. Vedic metal at the end of it all made very good sense. If someone in that crowd was remotely spiritual, I imagine it would have been even more exhilarating.
The band was a visual treat; they all donned matching black with power stances and THE WORKS! The urgency in Kathir (the lead singer’s) voice as he jolted the audience from one track to the next, the phenomenal rush that the drums packed in, the mammoth riffs – I’m saying it again, Rudra was a revelation.
The staunch fan around me helped me gather this list. In that span, in all that happened, these were the actual tracks that we heard:
Hymns Of The Immortal Self
Vultures of Slavery
I don’t know if I should try looking for these tracks online. For some reason, I think an act like Rudra is to be savoured live. It is going to be hard for my earphones/comp speakers to match up to that impact.
NLS came to an end on a feverish high. But the hangover would only include Bevar Sea and Rudra. It’s a hard to ignore fact that this time’s NLS roped in not-so-great numbers. Yes, it had its fair share of killer shows but popular bands (Amethysts, Tails On Fire among others) did pull out last minute and to an extent the rains played spoilsport too.
But we shall still hope for the next edition of Strawberry Fields to have better numbers, bigger bands and brighter weather!
VIDEO CREDITS (RUDRA): Madhav Ravindranath
SPECIAL THANKS: Mihir from NLS