Mumbai’s metal music scene has got a shot in the arm, with new, regular gigs at various venues. But in the times of EDM, can it survive?
Last month, a high-on-energy gig took place at Cult Lounge in Belapur, Navi Mumbai. City-based bands like Primitiv and Abstruse performed at the third edition of Black Blood. Metalheads moshed like there was no tomorrow. Some bled, some fell down, some fell on the stage. All in all, a successful metal concert.
Black Blood 3 is one of a handful of new metal-only music properties in Mumbai. Hard Rock Café (the Worli outlet) now dedicates the last Sunday of each month to metal. Social, Khar, features the genre exclusively in its basement venue, Anti Social.
Jay Singh, co–founder and executive director, JSM Corporation (they run Hard Rock Café), reckons there’s demand: “It’s a genre with a lot of passionate fans. We wanted to give them a place. I see it filling a void in our local music space.” Evidently, they’re not the only ones.
In 2012, underground venue, B69, in Andheri, shut its doors. Metal fans mourned the loss of their favourite, most dedicated space for hard rock. Himanshu Vaswani, business head, Bajaao Entertainment (the events arm of online musical instruments retailer, Bajaoo.com), recalls, “There was literally just a stage and enough place for people to stand in there. People could walk in dressed however they wanted. B69 had hosted over a hundred shows.” It was a death blow for metal.
For most other genres of music, demand leads to supply, and venues are quick to adapt their programming to match whatever is the current trend. It’s hardly surprising then that every other restaurant, pub and live music space today has a heavy dose of EDM (Electronic Dance Music) in their line-up. The rise and rise of EDM was a big blow to all other genres.
Unlike rock, it makes for easy listening; it doesn’t require actual instruments; or lyrics. Besides, EDM is cheaper to produce, and more profitable for organisers. And as India emerged as a top global market for EDM festivals, city venues lost no time in catering to the masses.
It’s back. Really?
Despite stiff competition from the now-mammoth EDM scene, metal is slowly but surely resurfacing. In May, Anti Social and Bajaao Entertainment joined hands to launch Roots — a gig series that showcases metal bands once a month. June saw Mumbai’s original death metal festival, Domination — The Deathfest (first launched in 2000, revived in 2013) return to the city after having been in Hyderabad for a year.
Vaswani, of Bajaao, reckons the internet gave metal bands the platform they’d lost in the physical world. “It became easier to find an audience who still liked the same music you do. Getting the word out was simpler.”
As the fan base was revived, it was time to test waters. Last year, Bajaao revived B69 as BIG69, a two-day metal festival at Richardson & Cruddas, Byculla. Over 2,000 people showed up on each day. If proof was needed of whether metal could still sell tickets, this was it.
More gigs means more opportunities for new bands to cut their teeth. And more variety for music lovers.
More guns, less roses
But in the case of rock or metal, the impact of the music is in live performances, unlike pop or EDM, that you could still enjoy on headphones. That makes the availability of venues critical.
Plus, finances are a problem, as the demographic of metal fans is usually college students and professionals in their early twenties. Social’s culture manager, Sumit Vaswani, says, “We get a younger audience at Roots. We sold tickets for the first two editions at Rs 500, but then had to slash it to Rs 300.”
Venues seem to have realised that there’s an audience. It’s not mainstream, like it was a decade ago. But it’s there, and it might grow. Irrespective of how things pan out, we’re just glad there’s an alternative to the standard-issue, lyric-less EDM.
Upcoming city bands to watch out for:
The Minerva Conduct
When you talk of some of the best players in the Mumbai metal scene coming together, you think of The Minerva Conduct. The core group of the band, Ashwin Shriyan, Nishith Hegde and Pratheek Rajagopal, dish out some crazy experimental progressive metal. These guys give you serious envy with their skill levels as musicians and the complexity of their music.
A promising new band which has just released their debut album, Delirious Excursion, featuring a host of collaborations with international artists for their artwork, lyrics and even the mixing and mastering. I saw them live before the album came out, and they showed a lot of promise. Their album definitely has set them a high benchmark to match up to when they play live now. Check it out if death metal is your thing.
Their music is primal and raw death metal. It reminds me of Obituary, if I have to think of a reference point. They are a good live band, and are currently working on their EP, which I’m quite excited to listen to. They can definitely be a force to reckon with if they stick around.
The Calvin Cycle
Honestly, they aren’t the tightest live band, but they bring something new to the Mumbai scene with their brand of gothic metal. Think Evanescence and Lacuna Coil. If these guys can hone their chops, they can go a long way.
— By Sahil Makhija, Drummer, Reptilian Death, and Vocalist and Guitarist, Demonic Resurrection