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Stop and listen

These guys know how to chop and peel a song and serve it with a dip as the guitar and drums play a helluva sharp knife. Indrajit Hazra elaborates.

india Updated: Apr 02, 2010, 21:33 IST
Indrajit Hazra
Indrajit Hazra
Hindustan Times

One of the nicest things about good metal is that it doesn’t leave gaping holes in your system. You hear Ave Verdad’s frenetic debut album Selah and you realise that this Delhi hard ass quartet has taken pains to not leave things to chance. No frayed mosquito net gaps in the sound from the start to the end.

The band formerly known as Scarlet Ground, in its new nomenclature — Hail Truth in Spanish — is bristling with energy, so what if some of the chops sound like retreads from somewhere. ‘Addicted’, a straightforward chorus-verse-chorus mid-90s riffter starts the proceedings. Nothing to wag my tail at the moon yet.

Things get even more classical (read: early Metallica-ish) in the next track, ‘In peril’. The fretline-travelling by
guitarman Benjamin Samte is impressive and leads the imagination to wander into a nice, gritty bricklaid hall where the acoustics are nice and the sweat is being recycled. It’s on ‘Ease the pain’ that the jam-style playfulness of vocals and guitars playing tag with each other registers in my frontal lobe. Samte’s guitars remain the driving force of Ave Verdad’s repertoire till now. He knows what to do and when to do it.

The balls are out in the delicious hookline of ‘Wishes’. And this is also when I’m rewinding the track again to listen carefully to Leon Dawson not singing but teasing out the words, “I need your love to guide me/ I want your love to save me”. Hard Gospel, a new genre’s in town and if it’s a ‘Hallelujah’ song, well, the lord be praised. It’s one cool acid-trip of a church song.

In ‘Take a look inside’, Vivek Gordon’s thick rope of a bassline leads us to a R&B heavy, 60s West Coast-style jiver. I can see a leather-clad fake hippie blowing smoke rings to this number as he smacks hippies up to steal their dope. We’re back on the asphalt in ‘Alone’. Clearly, these guys know how to chop and peel a song and serve it with a dip as the guitar along with the drums play a helluva sharp knife. Oh, they also know how to use the mixie — sloshing things up with speed-breakers and furious word-packed accelerations. The guitar lines jump like a giant rabbit caught in the electric line. Yup, Samte’s machine is really the stand-out in this album.

‘Hallelujah’ plays around to bring a baroque-meets-funk sound even if we’re among the choirboys again. ‘Bring me back’ is directly inspired by the big boys of the Rock Church, Staind, but holds its own as an updated testament of sorts that mixes up the slow with the growl. Didn’t care much for Ave Verdad trying to play in the candlelight — as in coming full on with the gospels in a Stone Temple Pilots style. The title track ‘Selah’ thrashes the furniture around with nice modulated harmonies and great synchopated guitars. The end comes with ‘Breathe’ which is a bit of a dip.

But Selah (untranslatable Hebrew word suggesting ‘Stop and listen’ and thus the ‘pause button’ cover art) is an album that’s alive — with surprises as well as cliches, with some great stretches and definitely some fabulously no-bull, no-push-to-play guitar playing. The words that seem straight out of God TV, in any case, are drowned out by some secular, muscular music.

Fret over the fretboard
Talking about guitar-playing, Ajit Narayan’s debut album So Far So Good comes from the other end of the spectrum: lilting notes that’s jogging the sensitive, ‘free spirit’ circuit. Let’s just say tapping out sweet notes — with a pair of khanjanis playing in ‘Feeling blue’ — doth not an album make. Narayan aka A/J brings us the ambient sound of a downpour in ‘The journey begins’, something that sounds like a soundtrack to a Rituporno Ghosh movie. And what’s with the addiction with the reverb pedals and tremolo turns?

The title track’s like the guitars that lead in to a Pink Floyd show. It’s dreamy, but as in ‘Mady’s tune’ and ‘Jaisalmer’, a mariachi band would have helped. A/J is so in love with the notes he plays that he may have forgotten to place it in the middle of a bigger sound.

A/J is a fine guitarist with skills that match the number of notes he plays. The trouble is So Far So Good is music for a Goan shack, not a living room sound system, unless you still make a huge deal about rolling a joint and nodding your head.

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